Though we might not be seeing much a cooling in the weather yet here in the Middle East, around the world, the seasons are changing with dramatic effect. Now’s the time to hop on a plane and witness some of the most gorgeous autumn scenery across North America.
New England is famed for its fall foliage (please excuse the Americanism but fall and leaves just go together). And Stowe is known as the ‘Fall Colour Capital’. This charming alpine town is sandwiched between Mount Mansfield State Forest and Putnam State Forest and, though it’s a year-round destination that’s particularly known for its great skiing, it’s also one of the most popular places for leaf peepers – those who make special journeys to witness the splendour of the autumn leaves changing colour. Head there in mid-October to witness the spectacle while hiking at Smugglers Notch or on the Mansfield Mountain – Sunset Ridge trail loop or during a boat trip on the Waterbury Reservoir.
There are plenty of things to do in the town, many of them foliage related, such as forest zip-lining and guided tours. And, thanks to its outstanding surroundings, the area is a big hit with artists – local, national and international – with gostowe.com noting: “While fall will paint the outdoor landscapes in vibrant colours and winter will drape hillsides with pristine snow, you can find unique works of art at a local gallery anytime of the year.”
Having been named by Fodor’s Travel as the number one ski town for foodies in the US, it’s no great surprise that Stowe has plenty to offer in the way of great restaurants. You won’t go wrong with a trip to Spruce Peak ski resort where you’ll find two great eateries. Both relatively new and much anticipated, Alpine Hall and Tipsy Trout fall under the watchful eye of Chef Sean Blomgren and offer thoughtful dishes with a very specific flavour thanks to partnerships with a range of local producers.
Or check the breakfast-only restaurant Butler’s Pantry where you’ll find crowd-drawing pancakes. Book early and you could even stay in one of the cute rooms and suites upstairs – the Butler House was built around 1830 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The namesake of perhaps one of America’s most recognisable folk songs, the Shenandoah National Park extends across 792sq/km along the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Skyline Drive runs its length. The best time to see the changing foliage is from mid-September to mid-November and, this month, there’s the chance to do something a little different during your leaf peeping journey. The Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival runs from October 20 to 22. The event attracts up to 750 cyclists from across the country and there is a range of rides – from 10 miles up to 100 – to take part in for everyone from seasoned riders to novices and kids. You’ll cycle through breathtakingly beautiful countryside and, new for this year, there’s a big after-ride meal and live music to enjoy. Sounds perfect.
The national park is just 75 miles from Washington DC and is doable in a (long) daytrip but, if you’re a nature lover, plan a longer stay to take in the stunning scenery of a land bursting with waterfalls, wildflowers and quiet wooded hollows and wildlife from deer to black bears and a multitude of songbirds.
There are several campsites within the park but, if you don’t fancy roughing it under canvas, there are also cabins, yurts – with your own hot tub – and hotels such as the sweetly named, four-star Sugar Hill Inn with its heritage-themed accommodation and on-site massage treatments – perfect after a long day of hiking.
Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Perhaps one of our favourite options because there’s just so much going on in this area, which spans 7,770sq/km made up of Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties. There’s something for everyone in terms of recreation with trail, river and mountain activities sure to please any outdoor enthusiast. Conquer the rapids in a whitewater raft. Soar across the treetops via zip line. Bike the famous Great Allegheny Passage through the highlands from Pittsburgh to D.C. or hike the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
Or, if you want to take things a bit easier, you can still enjoy the amazing foliage and surroundings at a slower pace while visiting numerous theatres and galleries. And make sure to stop by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, where you’ll discover grounds littered with sculptures by the likes of Anthony Caro and Claes Oldenburg.
October 7, 8, 14 and 15 see the Bedford Fall Foliage Festival when more than 400 artists and craftspeople line the streets and Square in Bedford and Fort Bedford Park. There’s live musical entertainment, parades, including an antique car show, the Fall Foliage Queen contest and much more. And, of course, no street festival would be complete without an array of traditional foods from apple dumplings to hot sausage sandwiches. And October 7 and 8 also boasts the Delmont Apple ‘N Arts Festival which promises fun for all ages and raises money for non-profit organisations.
Since the area is so huge, there are multiple accommodation options available from cosy cabins and cottages to friendly B&Bs where you can sit on the porch and enjoy the scenery and stunning sunsets. We like the look of the Nemacolin resort which offers golf and a field club as well as a huge array of wildlife and, later in the year, skiing, snowboarding and tubing at Mystic Mountain. The resort is home to the Falling Rock boutique hotel and The Grand Lodge which has been completely refurbished and is due to open this autumn.
Wherever you choose to witness the changing seasons, you’ll find lots of pumpkin-based Halloween activities towards the end of the month and, if you stay a bit longer, you’ll be running into snow season, something that’s really special for us desert dwellers.
If you decide to go leaf peeping this autumn, we’d love to see your pics on our social media pages. ✤