- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

Nothing is prettier than the canopies and carpets of the colored leaves of autumn in New England. Connoisseurs of the season fill the region’s bed-and-breakfasts; lines form at roadside stands promising hot cider; and crowds jostle at pick-your-own pumpkin fields and apple orchards.

Don’t ask people from the Midwest, South or Southwest if they’re headed to the Northeast this time of year. Regional pride aside, many states outside New England — from New Mexico to Michigan, from Georgia to West Virginia, from Arkansas to North Carolina — have legitimate bragging rights on local foliage.

“If you think the only place you’re going to see pretty colors is in New Hampshire, that’s just not true,” says Dan Kaercher, editor of Midwest Living magazine.

Here are recommendations for places to experience the colors of fall all over the map.

SOUTH AND MID-ATLANTIC

The South is filled with spectacular autumn scenery, but you will have plenty of company.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway is bumper to bumper,” says Karen Lingo, senior writer for Southern Living magazine. “People head to the mountains for fall color.”

Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge in Virginia aren’t the only busy spots. Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets 1 million visitors each October.

Slightly less crowded but just as beautiful, Miss Lingo says, are the Gratz Park neighborhood in Lexington, Ky., and Asheville, N.C. Also popular are the Cherokee National Forest, which stretches from Chattanooga, Tenn., along the North Carolina border and north to Bristol on the Virginia-Tennessee border. For metropolitan Atlanta residents, there’s Chattahoochee Oconee Forests’ Brasstown Bald, which is Georgia’s highest peak at 4,784 feet.

In the mid-Atlantic region, Miss Lingo recommends Wilmington, Del. “I remember walking down a lane at the Hegley Museum there, a lane of gingko trees,” she says, “and it was just paved in butter.”

West Virginia’s byways and bed-and-breakfast accommodations typically fill with leaf-peepers from Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Last year, the area along West Virginia Route 39 in Pocahontas County blazed early in the season, while Interstate 77 from Parkersburg to Charleston was still colorful in late October. The overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest in Monongalia County is breathtaking, and many localities have festivals throughout the fall.

MIDWEST

Autumn hot spots on Mr. Kaercher’s list: Missouri from Hannibal to St. Louis; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, including the rugged woods of Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the Porcupine Mountains, and the Keweenaw Peninsula, jutting into Lake Superior; and the Root River Valley in Lanesboro, Minn., where wonderful hiking and biking are available.

In Minnesota, just east of St. Paul, is the St. Croix River Valley, near Stillwater. “The most pristine river you’ll ever see is there, and the banks are just covered with trees,” Mr. Kaercher says.

In Indiana, “I’ve never seen such beautiful hardwood trees as in Brown County State Park and Hoosier National Forest,” Mr. Kaercher says.

In Ohio’s Holmes County, look for picturesque scenes of the harvest. “They have a large Amish population; it’s a mix of trees and fields,” he says. “You might see a farmer with a big team of horses.” The state’s southeast quadrant is more ruggedly beautiful, including portions of Appalachia.

Popular drives in Ohio include state Route 303 from Hinckley Township in Medina County to Shalersville Township in Portage County; Interstate 77 from Canton south to Marietta; and state Route 39 from Loudonville east to Sugarcreek.

Scotty Johnston, who has been organizing fall foliage tours for 40 years for Tauck World Discovery, is also a fan of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; he recommends Mackinac Island with its famed Grand Hotel.

WEST AND SOUTHWEST

Think autumn, and you might not think New Mexico — but maybe you should, Mr. Johnston says.

“New Mexico is misunderstood. It’s more than desert and cactus,” he says. “There is gorgeous fall foliage between Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos.”

The Sandia Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains offer opportunities for leaf-peepers, as do the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Just don’t expect to find the red and apricot hues of the Northeast’s maples and oaks. “It’s more of a homogenous type of foliage color being golds, yellows and a light beige,” Mr. Johnston says.

The golden aspen, sometimes referred to as the quaking or trembling aspen, and cottonwoods are responsible for the region’s lemony landscapes.

The Ozarks in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma and also Arkansas’ Ouachita Mountains are renowned backdrops for the season’s palette.

Miss Lingo of Southern Living magazine has two specific recommendations for the area: Beavers Bend Resort Park, on a lake near Broken Bow, Okla., provides “some of the best fall color I’ve seen,” and Eureka Springs, Ark., with its famed Crescent Hotel.

NORTHEAST

Maine’s coast is picture-perfect in autumn — sparkling blue water, rocky cliffs and colorful foliage punctuated by evergreens. Western Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York’s Hudson Valley offer gorgeous leaves against a backdrop of funky college towns, historic villages and pick-your-own orchards. New York’s Adirondacks are more rustic, while the Finger Lakes are known for wineries as well as natural beauty.

In New Hampshire, a half-million people jam the White Mountains and other parts of the state during Columbus Day weekend. Many still head to Franconia Notch even though its granite icon, the Old Man of the Mountain, is gone.

In Connecticut, popular trips include Litchfield County; state Route 169 in the eastern part of the state; Mystic Seaport; Stonington Village; Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, where a tower provides a 360-degree panorama; and the Connecticut River Valley, where foliage cruises are offered.

Yankee Magazine’s Web site, packed with information on autumn in New England, offers ready-made itineraries for driving tours in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, western Massachusetts, northeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island. Among them: U.S. Route 302, from Wells River on the Vermont-New Hampshire border, heading toward Barre, Vt. Try the maple cream pie at the P&H; Truck Stop in Wells River; spend the night at the Historic Smugglers Notch Inn on state Route 108 in Jeffersonville, Vt.

TIMING

The higher the altitude, the sooner the leaves turn. “When you see foliage turning in the Adirondacks or Lake Placid, N.Y., or Stowe, Vt., it’s usually early in the season — late September, early October,” Mr. Johnston says.

“Nothing has happened in Boston yet, but by another two weeks, the highlights have moved to a lower altitude and places like Deerfield (in western Massachusetts) are a blaze of color, while Lake Placid and Stowe are now muted. The coast, meanwhile, is yet to come.”

Some attractions in the Northeast — historic homes, small museums, lake lodges — close for the season by mid-October, so visit early. Many parts of the South and Southwest will be brightly colored until the end of October and into early November. Make hotel reservations before you go; even cheap motels in obscure towns fill up in popular destinations like New York’s Hudson Valley.

TRANSPORTATION

A leisurely autumn drive is always appealing, but biking is especially pleasant in autumn’s cooler weather. The 1,187-mile Lake Champlain Bikeway, from New York through Vermont to Quebec, goes through the heart of Burlington. Loops range from 10 to 47 miles; ferries take bikers across the water where there’s no bridge.

Check with local bus companies for foliage tours, suggests Nancy Dunnan, editor of the TravelSmart newsletter. Maupintours runs leaf-peeping expeditions on the Blue Ridge Parkway; Collette Tours has Great Lakes and Mackinac Island excursions; and Tauck has been offering the Classic New England tour from Boston since 1927.

Some Amtrak routes, such as those connecting upstate New York with the city, are also perfect leaf-peeping venues, and some commuter railroads promote fall excursions for city folk to visit leafy suburbs.

You won’t be sunbathing on deck, but cruises from New York and Boston up to Maine and Nova Scotia are a season staple, Miss Dunnan says. River cruises also make good day trips or short getaways.

Mr. Kaercher suggests renting a houseboat in late September in Lansing, Iowa, and traveling south on the Mississippi to McGregor or Marquette. The bluffs along the river, are “covered with these gorgeous hardwoods, covered with foliage,” he says.

• • •

Tauck World Discovery Tours: Fall foliage forecasts at www.tauck.com/foliology or 800/214-8209; Classic New England and other tours, 800/788-7885.

Maupintours: www.maupintour.com or 800/255-4266.

Collette Tours: www.collettetour.com or 800/942-3301.

Fall Cruises:

Delta Queen, www.deltaqueen.com or 800/543-1949.

Mississippi houseboat rentals, www.ssboatrentals.com or 800/728-0131.

Radisson Seven Seas, www.rssc.com or 877/505-5370.

Cunard, www.cunard.com or 800/728-6273.

Princess, www.princess.com or 800/774-6237.

Celebrity, www.celebrity.com or 800/722-5941.

Holland America, www.hollandamerica.com or 877/724-5425.

Norwegian, www.ncl.com or 800/327-7030.

Southern Living magazine: www.southernliving.com.

Midwest Living magazine: www.midwestliving.com.

TravelSmart Newsletter: www.TravelSmartNewsletter.com or 800/327-3633.

Yankee Magazine: www.yankeemagazine.com; for foliage forecasts and trip ideas, visit www.YankeeFoliage.com.

Foliage nationwide: For information by state, visit www.stormfax.com/foliage.htm or contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, 800/354-4595 or www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors.

Visit state Web sites; call about fall

ARKANSAS: www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark or 800/NATURAL

COLORADO: www.colorado.com/fallfoliage or 800/COLORADO

CONNECTICUT: www.ctbound.org or 800/CT-BOUND

DELAWARE: www.visitdelaware.com or 800/441-8846

GEORGIA: www.georgia.org/tourism or 800/864-7275

ILLINOIS: www.enjoyillinois.com or 800/2CONNECT

INDIANA: www.in.gov/enjoyindiana or 800/289-6646

IOWA: www.traveliowa.com or 515/233-4110

KENTUCKY: www.kentuckytourism.com or 800/225-8747

MAINE: www.mainefoliage.com or 888/MAINE-45

MARYLAND: www.mdisfun.org or 800/532-8371

MASSACHUSETTS: www.massvacation.com or 800/227-MASS

MICHIGAN: www.ring.com/travel/color.htm or 800/644-3255

MINNESOTA: www.exploreminnesota.com or 800/657-3700

MISSOURI: www.conservation.state.mo.us/nathis/seasons/fall or 800/810-5500

NEW HAMPSHIRE: www.newhampshire.com/foliage/index.cfm or 800/258-3608

NEW JERSEY: www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests or 800/VISIT-NJ

NEW MEXICO: www.thesantafesite.com/Articles/ScenicFoliageTripsinNewMexico.html or 800/733-6396

NEW YORK: www.empire.state.ny.us/tourism/foliage/main.htm or 800/CALL-NYS

NORTH CAROLINA: www.exploreasheville.com/leafreports.asp or 800/847-4862

OHIO: www.dnr.state.oh.us/fallcolor or 800/282-5393

OKLAHOMA: www.travelok.com or 800/652-6552

PENNSYLVANIA: www.fallinpa.com or 800/VISIT-INPA

RHODE ISLAND: www.visitri.com or 800/556-2484

TENNESSEE: www.state.tn.us/tourdev or 800/697-4200

VERMONT: www.vtweb.com/foliage/peak.shtml or 800/VERMONT

VIRGINIA: climate.virginia.edu/Climate/foliage.htm or 800/434-LEAF

WEST VIRGINIA: www.wvtourism.com or 800/CALL-WVA

WISCONSIN: www.travelwisconsin.com or 800/432-TRIP

ASSOCIATED PRESS


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