Here’s our list of the top 10 fall travel destinations in America. Beautiful fall foliage is a given, but these locations deliver so much more on top of that.
#1. Charlottesville, Virginia
Off the beaten path, Charlottesville has myriad oaks that turn brilliant shades of red when the summer is over, making it an ideal spot for fall travel. Located in west central Virginia, this rural hideaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the home of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate and offers great antique hunting and shopping. Recognized by A&E, Money magazine and others as one of America’s best places to live, it’s also where you’ll find the University of Virginia.
Best Dates: Leaves generally peak between October 15 and 25.
State Parks/RV Parks: George Washington National Forest is comprised of nearly a million acres and offers RVers both boondocking and full-amenity camping.
#2. Peters Valley/Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey
Widely known as an artisan colony, Peters Valley hosts woodworkers, sculptors, weavers, metal workers and more. It’s also one of the best places in New Jersey to witness the glory of autumn leaves. Part of the Skylands area, Peters Valley is nestled in Walpack Valley, where the Delaware River splits Sussex County, N.J. and Pike County, Pa. Rent a canoe in nearby Dingmans Ferry, Pa., to view the colorful foliage from the water. Plan to spend at least at day to experience what Peters Valley and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area have to offer in the way of fall travel.
Best Dates: Peak season comes earlier here than in New England because of the abundance of shallow-rooted trees like swamp maple and ash.
State Parks/RV Parks: Worthington State Forest is comprised of 6,000 acres that extend nearly seven miles along the Kittatinny Mountain ridge. There are 69 tent and trailer camping sites in the park, and hunting, fishing and boating are permitted.
#3. Wellsboro, Pennsylvania
Located adjacent to Pine Creek Gorge (also known as the “Pennsylvania Grand Canyon”), Wellsboro has classic small-town charm and is nestled in the wilderness of northern Pennsylvania. Antiques and restaurants satisfy those who want to explore the town, while the 47-foot gorge is the focal point of the area’s outdoor life, including hiking, biking, birdwatching, horseback-riding and fishing. Plan a couple of days for your fall travel here and get a taste of both.
State Parks/RV Parks: Leonard Harrison State Park has 585 acres offering hiking, fishing and hunting, as well as campsites to accommodate RVs.
#4. Asheville, North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway
The elevation changes 5,000 feet between Asheville and the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, creating a glorious color display that lasts almost two months. Asheville, located in northwestern North Carolina, is a medium-sized city with plentiful art, theater, music and restaurant choices, while the surrounding small towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway offer charm, peace and quiet. This is an area you could spend weeks exploring and still not experience all it has to offer, but any amount fall travel here will provide years of scenic memories.
Best Dates: Asheville explodes with color starting around the beginning of October.
State Parks/RV Parks: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park accommodates RV camping. It also offers hiking, biking, horseback-riding and fishing, as well as early-settler historic structures like houses, churches and farms.
Things to Do: Each weekend in October and early November is packed with festivals and events. Art in the Park, Oktoberfest and the Craft Fair of Southern Highlands are just a few. See the Asheville Event and Festival Calendar for a complete list of autumn activities.
#5. Bowling Green, Kentucky
Located in southern Kentucky, the focal point of Bowling Green is the maze of caves that comprise Mammoth Cave National Park, where outdoor enthusiasts can canoe on 31 miles of river or go spelunking. But this scenic area has much more, including tours of local farms and distilleries, along with an aviation memorial and a downtown area offering historical tours, unique restaurants and shops. Arts enthusiasts will enjoy the theaters and museums, and of course, a bounty of bluegrass and blues music.
Best Dates: For the best color in this area, plan your fall travel for mid- to late October.
State Parks/RV Parks: Mammoth Cave National Park is known for its caves — all 367 miles of them. The Green and Nolin rivers offer canoeing, kayaking and fishing that afford views of the surrounding foliage from ground level. Horseback-riding, hiking and bike trails offer plenty of opportunities to learn more about this unique area. Looking for campsites? RVs are welcome at the Maple Springs campground.
Things to Do: Visit Jackson’s Orchard for the Pumpkin Festival, which takes place every weekend in October. The festival features hayrides, a pumpkin patch to pick your own, a straw castle, face-painting, a petting farm and much more. Sample caramel apples, apple cider slushes, fried pies and many other fall favorites.
#6. Harrisville/Cairo, West Virginia
Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains in northern West Virginia, Harrisville and Cairo in Ritchie County offer spectacular views of the fall foliage. While many tourists choose Weirton or Ogelbay for leaf-peeping, these two off-the-beaten-path fall travel destinations offer tranquility and a taste of West Virginia charm. With plenty of hiking and biking trails, quaint shops and home-style restaurants, this is a spot for those who prefer to keep things simple.
Best Dates: Expect a full range of color from mid- to late October.
State Parks/RV Parks: North Bend State Park is in close proximity to Harrisville and accommodates RVs in both its River Run and Cokeley campgrounds. Nature programs and boat rentals end in September, but there is still hiking, biking and horseback-riding on the 72-mile rail trail that runs throughout the park. Part of the 6,800-mile American Discovery Trail, it follows unused railway tracks from a CSX corridor.
Things to Do: The annual Pioneer Days event takes place in the Cairo town square in mid-October. Filled with fun activities including a staged bank robbery, blacksmith demonstrations, apple cider pressing, delicious food and plenty of bluegrass, this event draws tourists and residents from all over the state.
#7. Finger Lakes, New York
Spread across northwestern New York state, the Finger Lakes region contains seven lakes and provides amazing locations to view the autumn leaves. Rochester, Ithaca and Syracuse form the triangle in which the lakes sit, but there are plenty of small towns that offer activities ranging from hot-air ballooning to apple-picking. Wine aficionados may already know that this area is New York’s largest wine-producing region, and fall travel affords a perfect opportunity to tour the vineyards and sample the wares. There also are plenty of museums and historical sites, including Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement.
State Parks/RV Parks: Among the New York state parks in the region, there are 11 that front lakes and six more that feature gorges. Visitors can see waterfalls, spectacular foliage and stunning rock formations while hiking, biking and boating. Choose from nearly 70 campgrounds within the state park system in the Finger Lakes region, many of which accommodate RVs.
Things to Do: The Naples Grape Festival celebrates all things grape, including a grape-pie-eating contest and grape-stomping, and also features arts and crafts and plenty of food.
#8. White Mountains, New Hampshire
Famous for its spectacular autumn colors, the White Mountains region in northern New Hampshire is a popular fall travel destination with sugar maples that display brilliant hues of red and orange. The area is home to a number of small towns known for their hospitality, including Franconia, North Conway and Woodstock. Here you can take the Cannon Aerial Tramway across the valley to the top of a 4,200-foot summit or ride the Attitash Nor’Easter Mountain Coaster, an open, flume-like ride that plummets down a 2,600-foot mountain slope. More sedate activities include a scenic walk along the famous Flume Gorge or hopping aboard an antique train.
State Parks/RV Parks: There are three New Hampshire state parks that can accommodate RVs in the area: Crawford Notch, Franconia Notch and Moose Brook. All offer scenic vistas and an array of outdoor activities. Because of the high elevation, winter comes early here — so it’s best to plan your fall travel as early as possible.
Things to Do: The Leaf Peepers craft show takes place at the North Conway Community Center in mid-October and features handcrafted jewelry, wearable art, paintings, scroll saw creations, tapestry bags, gourmet food items and more. See the White Mountains Events page for other autumn activities.
#9. Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Georgia
Numerous tiny towns surround and are embedded in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, which are located at the northern Georgia border. Dahlonega is the heart of wine country with a half dozen wineries, while Suches is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering exhilarating views while hiking, biking and boating. Towns are located in close proximity to each other so you can shop, hike and enjoy a great meal during your fall travel adventure without having to drive far. If you’re a fan of Cabbage Patch Kids®, be sure to stop in Cleveland, the home of BabyLand General® Hospital, where you can actually see the dolls being “born.”
Best Dates: Best viewing dates will depend on your elevation here, and range from mid- to late October into the beginning of November.
State Parks/RV Parks: The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest camping options include the Desoto Falls Recreation Area, which provides a great base camp from which to enjoy the scenery of the falls as well as the nearby Appalachian Trail and Raven Cliffs Wilderness. Surrounded by dense forest, camping here is almost like being on your own private island — though be aware there are no hookups or dump stations. If you prefer to camp with hookups, try the Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area or Lake Sinclair Recreation Area.
Things to Do: Refer to the listings of Northeast Georgia Mountains Events and Chattahoochee-Oconee Events for fall travel activities.
#10. Catskills, New York
Sometimes referred to as the “other” mountains, the Catskills region may not be as famous as its sister Adirondacks, but the area has just as much to offer those who love scenic fall travel and outdoor activities. Comprised of four counties in the southwestern pocket of New York state, the area is home to Woodstock and Belleayre Mountain, as well as numerous small towns. The region is known for its artisans and antiques, along with fine restaurants serving everything from modern fare to traditional home-style cooking.
Best Dates: See the best color here are around the third week of October.
State Parks/RV Parks: There are dozens of Catskills campgrounds to choose from throughout the region.
Things to Do: Check the Catskills Events listings for happenings during the fall travel season.
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These are just 10 of our favorite fall travel destinations along the East Coast. Where are your favorite leaf-peeping spots?
Source: Staci Backauskas, RV Adventurer