The Best Places to See Fall Foliage
Bundling up, starting school, shorter days: Some people anticipate fall's start and the quaint normality that accompanies it, while others dread the end of summer's carefree months. But most can agree on the beauty of leaves rapidly changing colors. Check out some of our favorite locations for fall foliage, before the trees are bare and surrounded by snow.
The Adirondack Mountains, New York
If you're trying to escape the Big Apple's hustle bustle, the Catskill Mountains are a great place to start. But the Adirondack Mountains are even further removed from New York City. They're often portrayed as a northern cousin to the Catskills, but the Adirondacks are actually pretty different: The mountains reside on the southernmost part of the Canadian Shield, a billion-year old geologic mass that comprises much of Canada and the northern United States. Because the Adirondacks only recently became exposed (geologically speaking) by uplift, their mountains are fairly dome shaped. Covered by boreal forests filled with unique wildlife, a hike through the Adirondacks could be just what the doctor ordered for a weary city dweller.
Turns out there's a whole lot more to Michigan than Detroit. The Upper Peninsula — you know, that confusing part of Michigan that always looks like it should be a separate state — features some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the country. More than 7 million acres of forest with over 100 species of trees cover the UP, which is surrounded by three Great Lakes. Despite making up for 29 percent of Michigan's area, only 3 percent of the state's population resides there, making the region as remote as it is beautiful. If you're looking for an excursion, try hiking through the Porcupine Mountains State Park, located on the shores of Lake Superior.
You've probably heard country songs about the Blue Ridge Mountains, which include the Great Smoky Mountains and are themselves a part of the Appalachian Mountains. Americans revere the Appalachians, and with good reason: The area is gorgeous and rich with natural and U.S. history. The National Park Service says that "ridge after ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee" in the Great Smoky Mountains, America's most visited national park. More than 10,000 species of plants and animals inhabit the park, which boasts sixteen mountains that are higher than 6,000 feet. Add a southern flavor to your fall leaves survey by trekking through the Great Smoky Mountains.
Many of America's premier fall destinations are located on the East Coast, but that doesn't mean the West Coast has nothing to offer. In fact, few places as awe-inspiring as the Columbia River Gorge exist. The gorge weaves through the Cascade mountain range for about 80 miles, separating Oregon and Washington and sometimes reaching 4,000 feet deep. Slow erosion from the Columbia River helped create the gorge, but so did the Missoula Floods — cataclysmic torrents of melted glacier ice that tore through the region after the last ice age. One must-see part of the gorge is Multnomah Falls, a two-tiered waterfall that tops 600 feet.
--images by iStockphoto/wasmahar, istockphoto/alptraum, iStockphoto/putmanphoto, and iStockphoto/SnehitdesignEric Brown is an editorial intern at Sierra. An Eagle Scout who has hiked in Denali National Park and kayaked down the Snake River, Eric thinks the world is worth saving, even if it has given him his fair share of sunburns. In the fall, he will be a senior at Northwestern University's Medill School, where he enjoys writing about music and editing for North by Northwestern.