Leaf Peeping The Parks

As the fall colors deepen, so do the number of people who seek them. These autumnal enthusiasts are called “leaf peepers,” and they can make a vacation out of viewing and photographing the fall foliage.

Of course, what better way to view fall’s changing colors than a road trip to a national or state park, preserve, or national forest? Protected areas—such as Shenandoah National Park and Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, and Adirondack Park in New York—provide the perfect setting for a colorful excursion.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park’s fall foliage peaks around mid-October. This Virginia park hosts a large variety of deciduous trees, including maples, birches, oaks, poplars, and gums.

The best way to experience the changing leaves in Shenandoah National Park is by driving the entire length of the park via the 105-mile Skyline Drive. About 2 million people traverse this winding National Scenic Byway every year.

There are 75 spectacular overlooks of the valley below throughout the breathtaking drive, granting the perfect opportunity to snap photos of the reds, oranges, and yellows.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Great Smoky Mountains, a subrange of the Appalachian mountains located in Tennessee and North Carolina, is the most visited national park in the U.S.—and for good reason.

What makes this gorgeous national park fascinating is that fall colors arrive in traveling downward waves. Trees in the higher elevations of the mountains (4,000 feet and above) begin to sport orange, red, and yellow foliage in early to mid October, while the lower and middle elevations stay relatively green until the end of October into early November.

The park features a variety of activities for visitors, including hiking, auto touring, camping, fishing, guided tours, and horseback riding. In the fall, the changing of the leaves tops all other activities and attracts a great number of leaf peepers to the park.

Adirondack Park

Adirondack Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adirondack Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beautiful Lake George is at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Covering 6.1 million acres in upstate New York, Adirondack Park is the largest protected area in the contiguous U. S. With 3,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of waterways, and over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, there is a lot of outdoor adventure and fun to be found in the Adirondack Mountains.

The Lake Placid Region is ideal for hikers of all abilities, offering the highest peaks and most beautiful vistas in the Adirondack Mountains. Or if spending the day on a pristine lake is more your speed, enjoy the glittering water bodies in the Adirondack Lakes Region.

Because of its chillier, elevated climate, fall colors come early in Adirondack Park. Be there in time to see the leaves peak in the last two weeks of September.

Shenandoah River State Park

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park is a quintessential autumn foliage destination. Often overlooked during leap peeping season is the less crowded Shenandoah River State Park.

As the crisp air of autumn settles over the Shenandoah Valley, the hillsides take on the brilliant fiery tones for which the valley is famous.

Named for the river it boarders, Shenandoah River State Park is a peaceful and serene park. Picture perfect scenery abounds here in the mountains and rolling hills of Northern Virginia.

With over five miles of river front and nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River State Park is truly a gem as nature dons its coat of many colors. The rolling, mountainous land features steep slopes and is mostly wooded. In addition to meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic vistas overlooking Massanutten Mountain to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
―Albert Camus

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