Happy Fall! Fall is my favorite season. Each year, I try to take in as much of nature’s autumn display as I can. I’m fortunate to live in an area that has beautiful changes of seasons, including numerous close-by opportunities to view breathtaking fall foliage. But there are many places around the country and around the world where the crisp air and colors of fall can be experienced in exciting new ways. Below are just a few suggestions of how to find the best viewing and unique experiences to enjoy the autumn splendor.
No matter where you’re headed for leaf-peeping, the timing of peak season varies each year depending on factors such as precipitation levels, seasonal temperatures, and natural disasters (like forest fires). In general, climate change has affected the overall fall foliage display, causing the season to begin later and last for a shorter period of time.
In the Northeast, this year’s autumn display has been shorter-lived and more muted, mainly due to severe drought conditions. To find more vibrant displays that may last later into October and November, try to get to these areas where more rain in the spring and early summer have created opportunities for prime foliage viewing:
If you want to track foliage status more closely to plan your fall foray, you can use this fall foliage prediction map produced by Smoky Mountains National Park. It lets users check color projections on a weekly basis between Sept. 5 and Nov. 21, across the entire country.
Both at home and abroad, traveling by train can be a unique way to experience the splendor of fall foliage. Combine these leaf-peeping excursions with a longer trip, and you will have a destination experience that in many cases will have the added benefit of avoiding the crowds and inflated prices of traveling in high season.
Kyoto, Japan – Sagano Scenic Railway
While most people associate Kyoto with the springtime splendor of cherry blossom season, the city is equally magnificent in late fall. A unique way to view the Japanese maples and other colorful foliage is on the “Sagano Romantic Train,” which takes you on a 1-hour ride through the Hozukyo Ravine. In the city itself, Kyoto’s temples and shrines provide an extraordinary background from which to see the fall foliage and the city’s top spots at the same time.
Scotland – The Jacobite
Take a ride on the Hogwarts, train? Yes, please! The Jacobite vintage steam locomotive is the train that crossed over the Glennfinnan Viaduct in the Harry Potter films on the way to Hogwarts. Magical fall scenery can be viewed along the 4-hour, 84-mile train ride from Fort William to Mallaig, which usually runs through late October.
Swiss and Italian Alps – Bernina Express
This 9-hour trip on the Rhaetian Railway runs through the Albula and Bernina Passes in the Alps. A fall trip on the iconic “Red Train” of the Bernina Express is particularly beautiful in this region, with the opportunity to view vibrant foliage from hundreds of viaducts and bridges running through high mountain passes.
Canada – Agawa Canyon Tour Train
Departing from the lakeside city of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, this scenic train takes you on a daylong, 114-mile trip north to the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park. The train makes a 90-minute stop at the park for a quick hike or a picnic near the Agawa River before bringing you back to Sault St. Marie. The Canadian foliage season tends to be earlier in the fall, so make plans to visit in September or early October.
North Carolina – Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Tuckasegee Steam Train
You can take The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s 4-hour Tuckasegee River Excursion on a vintage steam train for some breathtaking fall foliage scenery. You’ll get to take in the river valley views from the train’s panoramic windows and have a chance to explore shops and restaurants in the small town of Dillsboro during a 90-minute layover. For a longer trip, you can book a nine-day rail adventure from Nashville Ashville that includes the Tukasegee River Excursion as well as the Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Summerville Steam Special and the Incline Railway on Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain.
In April and May, when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are shaking off the cold of winter and looking toward the blooms of spring, our neighbors south of the equator are enjoying prime leaf peeping season! Here are a few prime areas to enjoy fall foliage “down under”:
Bariloche is best known as a summer and winter destination, with warm-weather hiking and boating on Nahuel Huapi Lake, and skiers flocking to the Cerro Catedral. But in the shoulder season, before the snow falls, the area shines in a blaze of colors. The mountains in San Martín de los Andes, just north of Bariloche, show off crimson and purple foliage as the seasons change.
Chile’s mountainous terrain in the country’s interior, ranging from open hill country to secluded coves, provides the perfect opportunity for viewing a variety of fall colors. Further south, in Torres del Paine, the glacier-etched peaks contrast with the vibrant foliage on the lower mountain slopes.
South Island, New Zealand
In and around Arrowtown, just north of Queenstown on the South Island, mountainous terrain fed by the Arrow River creates a top spot for viewing fall foliage. Also on the South Island, Purakaunui Falls, near the southeast coast, is another location that puts on quite an autumn display.
Which of these destinations is your favorite? Do you see a country or region that’s on your Wanderlist? Drop us a line, comment on this blog post, and schedule a call with us so that we can get started planning the fall foliage trip of your dreams!
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