9 Alternative Destinations for Autumn Leaf-peeping

The dog days of summer are over, but despite the chill in the air there are plenty of reasons to keep your spirits up. Autumn is a spectacular season, when foliage across the world offers kaleidoscopic patchworks of fiery red, orange and yellow hues. Pull on your walking boots and discover nine glorious autumn colour destinations from the coast of Japan to the mountains of California.

Mammoth Lakes, California

Mammoth Lakes’ other-worldly backdrop takes a magical turn in autumn when the rugged canyons of the Eastern Sierra are painted gold, bronze and copper as the season changes. Golden foliage typically begins in the highest elevation by the end of September and finishes at lower elevations by early November, making October the best time to visit the region. Hiking, fishing, canoeing and paddling are some of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the autumn colours. (visitmammoth.com)

Hiroshima, Japan

Kyoto is the go-to when it comes to cherry blossoms and autumnal foliage sighting. Escape this typically popular tourist destination and head to Hiroshima for equally stunning views of the changing season. Whilst here, be sure to tick off an array of bucket-list experiences. The Peace Memorial Park is located on a river bank lined with trees that boast a sober beauty throughout the autumnal season. Although the park tells a sombre story, it is exquisite with red, orange and yellow leaves blooming from mid-November. Located ten minutes from the park, Hiroshima Castle is also laden with trees, making it an incredible place to visit during the fall. Built on a plain, the castle stands out starkly against the rich reds and oranges, creating a striking reflection in the waters.  (visithiroshima.net)

Ouray, Colorado

The state of Colorado offers unparalleled natural beauty that becomes even more apparent during the autumn season, when the scenery is transformed with shades of red and orange against a backdrop of blue skies and snow-capped mountains. For incredible views, drive along the Million Dollar Highway in Ouray, where the surrounding mountains and countryside are a sea of rich hues. (colorado.com)

Tri-Valley, California

Vineyards in autumn are especially beautiful, with leaves turning from green to gold to red. Grapes are at the peak of ripeness, so what better way to enjoy autumnal eye candy than strolling through a sunny vineyard with a glass of wine in hand? Visit the family-run award-winning Wente Vineyards for a tour of over 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed wine estate. Blending traditional and innovative winemaking practices, the winery was among the first to receive Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing designation and has been named American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. (visittrivalley.com)

Yosemite Tuolumne County

Located just 2.5 hours east of the San Francisco Bay area, Tuolumne County is the quieter and less crowded entrance to Yosemite National Park. Taking the lion’s share of the valley floor, Tuolumne is an easily accessible, year-round destination for all-season adventure and fall is one of the most picturesque times to visit the destination, complemented by an abundance of autumnal smells and sounds. For a spectacular autumn foliage display, visit the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park – one of three groves where visitors can see the giants over 3000 years old. (visittuolumne.com)

Yosemite Mariposa County, California

Head further south to Yosemite’s main entrance for the views that have inspired legions of artists, naturists and authors for centuries. America’s favourite national park is famed for many things – but autumn foliage is one of its lesser-known secrets. While most trees in the park are evergreen, big-lead maples, black oaks and Pacific Dogwoods transform into bronze works of art. Surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains and wildlife, the county is home to Mariposa Grove – home to 500 giant sequoias, some of the oldest and largest living organisms in the world. (yosemite.com)  

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is known as the ‘Emerald City’ because of its lush green landscape but come the autumn months, the city and surrounding areas bathe in a sea of warming gold colours. Whether you’re wandering tree-lined streets, exploring the city’s many parks and gardens, or embarking on an adventure in nearby Olympic National Park or Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, there are leaf-peeping opportunities aplenty. (visitseattle.org)

Sonoma County, California

Fall, from early September through mid-November, is harvest season in Sonoma County, and farmers are picking more than just grapes. Squash, pumpkins, apples, chestnuts, potatoes, and more are ready to be harvested. Visit during the autumn months and discover the farm and vineyard foliage that turns from green to gold to red. Enjoy the turning leaves with a glass of wine in your hand, whilst taking in the autumn rays. For unparalleled views, take a hot air balloon ride and experience wine country from the air. (sonomacounty.com)

Lake Tahoe, California

Lake Tahoe is beautiful all year round, but for leaf peepers or those just seeking peace and quiet, autumn is the best time to visit. The summer crowds have retreated, towns are quieter, winds are calm, and it’s often warm and sunny as well. Cooler evenings turn the sky ultra-blue, and the leaves provide brilliant displays of gold and crimson. Walking and hiking during September or October bring a nice sense of tranquillity, and Quaking Aspen and Cottonwood trees show fall colours for a few weeks, so timing is everything to catch peak fall foliage. (tahoesouth.com)

Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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