Leaf Plus Heart Equals Autumn

Author: Alecia Pirulis

It’s finally September! I’m already daydreaming about trips to the apple orchards up in Ellijay, Georgia … and our annual trip to the corn maze and pumpkin farm. Crisp, cool mornings by a campfire with an explosion of fall color all around me. It’s my favorite time of year, and even though it is still in the mid- to upper nineties, I’m ready to break out my autumn décor and fall sweaters.

In anticipation of the north Georgia mountains being painted with reds, oranges, and golds, I decided to find the most spectacular places for fall color across the country. If you’ve never spent the weekend in the mountains during autumn, try it this year. No matter what stressful situation I may find myself in the rest of the year, I can close my eyes and imagine a crisp, quiet morning with no sound except the faraway call of a bird, the multi-colored mountains wrapped by thin, wispy clouds, and the muted reds and pinks in the background as the sun begins its ascent.

Since it is closest to my heart, we’ll start in the south. The Chattahoochee National Forest is my go-to fall location. It covers nearly 750,000 acres and has hundreds of waterfalls. The Chattahoochee National Forest has about 450 miles of hiking trails. The autumn colors in this vast, natural area are usually best in late October and early November. Take it from me, though – campgrounds fill up fast, so book your dates far in advance. Small mountain communities, such as Helen and Dahlonega, have plenty of hotels while state parks offer cabins and resorts for those who prefer a bed to a sleeping bag.

New England is synonymous with gorgeous fall colors. Vibrant, fiery color practically dances off the trees when autumn puts on its fall show in New England. Get the best seat in the house by visiting the White Mountains in New Hampshire. In addition to amazing foliage, there’s a multitude of attractions. Take the aerial tramway and see fall color from a bird’s eye view. Or, take the Conway Scenic Railroad and see the amazing landscape in a fun, new way. Pan for fossils and gemstones or go caving at Lost River Gorge. Explore fifty-thousand-year-old caves at Polar Caves Park. The best time for your New England trip is September and October.

In the Midwest, Boise National Forest in Idaho will deliver a brilliant show – and not just its spectacular fall foliage. This mountain range contains all types of wildlife, including elk, bear, and mule deer. Trout fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and camping are all great activities in this park.

South Dakota’s Black Hills is home to the famous Mount Rushmore. The Black Hills at first glance seem stark and unapproachable, but this area is absolutely beautiful in the fall – in fact, it made Forbes magazine’s top 15 list of the best Fall Foliage Drives in 2009. And while you are there, you may come face-to-face with bison or elk.

From the Poconos in Pennsylvania to the Plumas-Eureka State Park in Northern California, there are many places across the country to enjoy the amazing beauty on display from late September to early November. So stop and smell the hot apple cider – you’ll be glad you did.