AAA Travel Tips / 4 Unexpected Places to See Fall Colors

4 Unexpected Places to See Fall Colors
By Samantha Brown, Host of “Samantha Brown's Places to Love”
September 23, 2019
As a born-and-bred New Englander, my fall color focus tends to be a bit skewed. However, there are so many other places to see the fall season showing off. What’s especially great is that places peak at different times, from September through November! If you’re looking to get a little leafpeeping in, here are some fabulous places to do so.
Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina

The North Carolina Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is a wildly popular fall foliage destination. However, there are other nearby places to view the leaves without the crowds. Chimney Rock State Park, located near Lake Lure, offers trails, beautiful waterfalls, and one of the most gorgeous views in the state from atop its famed “chimney rock.”
Farther north, you’ll find Linville Gorge. Dubbed “The Grand Canyon of North Carolina,” this wilderness area sprawls over 11,786 acres. The Linville River, nestled 1,400-feet below the upper ridge, stretches on for 12 miles. For a show-stopping view that will take your breath away, head to Wiseman’s View, a rock out-cropping overlooking the gorge. The North Carolina mountains’ peak colors typically run through the month of October, but these two areas in particular tend to blow up the last week of October, or even the first week of November.
Tallulah Gorge in Tallulah Falls State Park in Georgia

Northern Georgia

The Peach State is known for all sorts of thing (peanuts, pecans, and Coca-Cola), but I didn’t realize fall colors was one of them!About an hour and a half north of Atlanta, you’ll find Tallulah Gorge, a spectacular canyon. It’s a great place to hike, with trails ranging from easy-peasy to advanced. You will need a permit to trek to the bottom, but there are plenty paths along the rim that allow for beautiful views. Colors peak here in late October, early November, and the latter is the perfect time to visit as it coincides with the area’s whitewater releases, drawing experienced kayakers looking to battle the raging waters.
South of Atlanta, you’ll find F.D. Roosevelt State Park. Named after the president who regularly swam in the region’s natural springs to relieve his polio, it’s no wonder Roosevelt fell in love with this place. It’s beautiful, especially so in fall. Filled with rolling mountains and hardwood forests, this park boasts gold and yellow leaves come late October and Early November. Enjoy the views hiking or biking along the park’s 40-miles of trails. If you’re in the area, be sure to visit Roosevelt’s Little White House State Historic Park, the modest place he called home during his time in the area.
Custer State Park in Custer South Dakota
flickr / CC BY/Rick Derevan

Black Hills, South Dakota

This summertime road trip destination might be known for Mount Rushmore, Deadwood and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, but the locals will tell you fall is the time to come. Lines dwindle at tourist attractions, hotels and campsites are more readily available (and the former costs much less), and cooler temperatures and less traffic mean wildlife becomes more active (also, it’s the rut—the breeding season for the larger animals, like elk, deer and bison).
And then, there’s the fall colors. The Black Hills turn gold and yellow, stretching for thousands of acres. One of the best places to catch a glimpse is at Custer State Park, where brilliant leaves dazzle against a backdrop of granite spires, rolling mountains and 1,500 grazing bison. Voyage to the top of Mount Coolidge for an incredible vantage point, towering 6,023 feet in elevation. On a clear day, you can see the Badlands nearly 90 miles in the distance. Even with the naked eye, visitors can see Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, and Crazy Horse Memorial. September marks the annual Buffalo Roundup & Arts Festival, so go in October if you’re not into crowds.
waterfall, forest, trees, Yosemite Valley, cliffs, Yosemite Point, morning mist
AAA/Frank Swanson

Mono County, Calif.

Yosemite, Yosemite, Yosemite. Have you heard of Yosemite? Everyone has. Everyone goes. Sure, it’s beautiful, but sometimes you want to experience the great outdoors without the masses. For your leaf viewing pleasure, head to Eastern Sierras where you’ll find golden-orange-crimson set against mountains, blue skies and rushing streams. Rock Creek Canyon, which extends 20 miles between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, offers some of the best views. Visit Little Lakes Basin, a collection of high-elevation lakes, to see the trees reflected in a still lake, surrounded by 13,000 foot peaks. It’s some serious Bob Ross “happy tree” inspiration!
For more inspiration, check out these 5 Ideas for Seeing Fall Colors from AAA.
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About AAA Travel and Samantha Brown

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