"Delicious autumn!" wrote famed Victorian author George Eliot, "My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
That's a familiar feeling for many of us. For a fleeting few weeks, the temperatures hit that perfect temperature between pouring sweat and bundling layers against the cold. The entire landscape is transformed, as Mother Nature wildly wields her paintbrush, splashing rich, warm colors-flashing golds, crimson reds, blazing oranges and deep purples-across the nation's ample hardwood forests. And then, almost as quickly as it came in, the leaves drop and fall is gone, replaced by a much longer, much colder winter. But what if you could make autumn last from now until Thanksgiving?
While most people associate leaf-peeping with New England, colors change across the country, from Alaska to Georgia. Generally, color appears earliest in northern regions and higher elevations then creeps southward and toward valleys and the coast. It's a three-month-long season, nature's spectacular, traveling road show. You just have to be in the right place at the right time.
We've put together a list of 12 leaf-peeping adventures that will fill your calendar from now until Bird Day. From fly-fishing Colorado's gold medal trout waters to drinking in Napa's harvest on a week-long bike tour to hiking southern Utah's red-rock slot canyons, we've got a blueprint to help you follow the bright fall colors that would turn poor Eliot green with envy. Join us for an unforgettable endless autumn.
Camp in Canyon Country, Utah
When to Go: Third Week October
Fall is the best time to visit-and sleep out under the stars in-the national parks of southern Utah's canyon country. By then, scorching summer temps have cleared out (and so have tourists), leaving pleasant daytime highs in the 60s and low 70s. More importantly, though, the cottonwood stands that grow along creeks and rivers shine a bright, contrasting gold against deep red canyon walls. Zion has one of the latest occurring and most spectacular displays of foliage among the group, not to mention epic slot hikes in the Narrows and the Subway, and über-starry night skies.
"Crush" a Bike Tour in California Wine Country
When to Go: Fourth Week October
Fall is "crush" time in California's legendary Napa Valley, when local vintners harvest grapes and celebrate the bounty of the recent growing season (even as the crush of tourists has cleared up). Join Backroads on a late-season, six-day cycling tour to see world-famous wineries in action. This challenging tour leaves from the relatively undiscovered Pope Valley and winds through Napa, Sonoma, Alexander and Dry Creek valleys, climbing steep grades between them and taking in views of the Pacific at Bodega Bay. Each night ends at a luxurious hotel or spa, and copious wine will surely help ease your sore muscles.
Ogle Columbia Gorge Waterfalls, Oregon and Washington
When to Go: Fifth Week October
The low-lying Columbia River Highway gets a late burst of color from big-leaf maples and cottonwoods, providing a stunning contrast along the moss-covered forest trails that lead to the area's dozens of gushing waterfalls. While some-like the famed, 620-foot, two-tiered Multnomah Falls-are visible from the road, others require miles-long hikes to see. At day's end, swing by local bars to sample the fruits of local harvests, including local wines, craft beers and ciders.
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