Leaf peepers prepare! The time for taking in Mother Nature’s annual Technicolor extravaganza throughout the United States is here.
Some people, in places too many, will head for the highways and try to enjoy their fall foliage watching as they navigate bumper-to-bumper traffic. Others will choose from a long list of imaginative, and often surprising, alternatives around the country. Wherever you live, there are places to see the changing leaves not far away, and ways to see them that you might not have thought of before.
Take to the Sky
The Kinzua Sky Walk, located in a state park of the same name in Pennsylvania, was included on a list of the most beautiful structures of its kind in the world. It extends 624 feet over a deep gorge, and a vertigo-inducing section of glass floor offers panoramic views of the vibrant changing colors of trees. (For more information log onto visitpa.com)
Taking flight in a hot air balloon is another way to view the spectacular transition of seasons, and opportunities to do so abound. Who would have thought that a mountain range rising from the Great Plains, named the Black Hills, provides a breathtaking display of changing color?
The name, which is translated from Native American, referred to the fact that viewed from a distance the hills, which are blanketed by trees, appear dark. Come fall, the foliage bursts into brilliant colors, and free-roaming wildlife that makes the area home adds to the spectacle. (www.blackhillsballoons.com)
An even more adventurous way to view fall foliage is to paraglide above it, riding thermals to soar over Colorado’s high mountain peaks and deep valleys. After a briefing, installation of a comfortable harness and a few running steps, pilot and passenger – who sits in front to enjoy the best views — soar off a hillside like birds taking flight.(aspenparagliding.com)
Equally adrenaline-boosting is a ride on the Runaway Mountain Coaster at the Mountain Adventure Park in Branson, Missouri, just one of a number of thrilling experiences at that entertainment and amusement Mecca. The track dips, turns and corkscrews through the Ozark woods, and riders may choose to pass by the fall foliage at speeds over 30 miles an hour, or to use the brake to slow the descent. (bransonalpinemountaincoaster.com)
Some Prefer to Take it Low and Slow
There’s also something to be said for enjoying the leaves at a more casual pace, and those who opt for life in the slower lane also have an array of innovative choices. The forest-surrounded Mountain Bike Park is but one recreational alternative available at the Massanutten Resort in Virginia. It offers paths that wind through foliage and challenge veteran riders, as well as a beginner-friendly introduction to downhill biking for neophytes. (massresort.com)
Those who would rather let someone else do the work may enjoy the view from the back of a horse in a state that people don’t usually associate with colorful fall foliage. Visitors to the family-owned Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming have a choice of beginner lessons, trail rides, cattle round-ups and other horse-related activities.
In fall, leaves of aspen trees provide a stunning orange and gold backdrop, while early summer brings a carpet of pink bitterroot flowers accentuated by vivid splashes of yellow arrowleaf balsamroot. (bitterrootranch.com)
Dog Sledding Without Snow
If you think dog sledding takes places only when the ground is covered by snow, think again. The Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel operates rides from spring to winter, including when the New Hampshire countryside is at its most spectacular. After meeting and greeting their new furry friends, guests help the musher prepare the dogs for their sojourn, then clamber into a wheeled cart to enjoy the ride. (dogslednh.com)
And the List Goes On
Even this list of new and different ways to view fall foliage doesn’t come close to including all of the possibilities. Among other alternatives are river trips in the Pacific Northwest by the American Queen Steamboat Company (aqsc.com), cruises in a paddle wheeler through a remote area of Kentucky (shakervillageky.org) and lake sailings through pristine South Carolina wilderness that’s home to a diversity of wildlife and rushing waterfalls (jocasseelaketours.com)
Then there’s riding the rails behind a vintage steam locomotive through countryside surrounding Wilmington, Delaware (wwrr.com), a jaunt through vineyard-covered terrain in California (napavalleywinetrolley.com) and holing up in a comfortable tree house perched right in the colorful foliage (glampinghub.com).
Whatever your preference for enjoying fall colors, there may well be opportunities to do it your way.
Authors: Fyllis Hockman and Victor Block are a husband-wife team of experienced travel journalists who have gallivanted throughout the United States, and to nearly 80 countries around the world, and written about what they have seen, done and learned. Their articles have appeared in newspapers across the country and on websites across the Internet, and they each have won numerous writing awards. They love to explore new destinations and cultures and uncover off-the-beaten-path attractions. Read more of their work at The Rambling Writers