Fall Leaf-Peeping for Lazy People
When the trees take on fall colors, leaf peepers jam the roads. That's when a drive to see the leaves turn scarlet, gold and pumpkin-orange becomes as stressful as your daily commute. Your outing can be a lot more peaceful and fun when you opt for a lazy way to see fall foliage.
Hop in a Helicopter
You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the changing landscape when you climb aboard a helicopter. FlyNYON offers “photo flights” in door-less helicopters, and on Nov. 5 of this year, a special “Focus Flight: Fall Foliage” will give you a chance to shoot stunning pictures. It’s a 40-minute escape into the skies over New York, as you soar through Midtown and around Central Park. The flight continues north along the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee bridge, where the autumn colors are often at their best.
Want a shorter trip? FlyNYON also offers 15-minute rides over New York (you’ll have plenty of time for aerial shots). This flight covers the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, the World Trade Center and the city’s Financial District. Other choices include a customizable 30-minute flight over Manhattan and a 15-minute flight departing from E34th St.
Sit Back in a Balloon
Sit back and relax while someone else does the “driving.” Thanks to its calm winds and mild weather, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is known as the hot air ballooning capital of the world. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held each October; this year, it’s scheduled for Oct. 6-14. Local companies offer daily rides almost year-round, conditions permitting. Some of the state’s most colorful leaves are along the Rio Grande, where the cottonwoods turn yellow against the clear, blue skies.
Cast a Line
If you like to fish, why not do it when the scenery is spectacular? In fall, the leaves in Pennsylvania turn bright shades of red, purple, yellow and orange. Along the Delaware River, in Bucks County, smallmouth river bass feed in the fall on younger fish migrating downstream. Stripers usually start biting in October, when you may also land some walleyes.
Take a Stroll
Park the car and avoid the traffic jams. Strolling along a backroad or mountain path lets you stop for a picnic, take a few pictures or just breathe fresh air instead of highway fumes. Although autumn leaf color depends on many factors, including rainfall and temperatures, just a few great places to go this year should be the Catskills, in New York; Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge; and Vermont’s Green Mountain Byway. This image shows the walkers on the Delaware Canal Towpath.
Catch a Train
Tourist train rides to see the fall foliage are so popular, they sell out months in advance—so if you haven’t booked yet, do it soon. Glorious vistas are seen in the eastern U.S., when the mountains, slopes and valleys are covered in jewel-like colors. When you’re making reservations, remember that colors in high elevations may peak earlier in the season than those at lower levels. The Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire takes passengers through the White Mountains to the highest peak in the Northeast, where they can view New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and look north toward Canada and east to the Atlantic Ocean.
Watch for aspen trees, with their whitish bark and yellow-gold foliage, when you ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which runs between Colorado and New Mexico. The views are breathtaking, whether you ride in an enclosed or open-air car. When there’s abundant rainfall, the mountains look gilded with gold. In 2016, USA Today’s readers voted the Cumbres & Toltec "The Best Train Ride in America.”
Catch the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad at the historic depot in Bryson City, North Carolina, to see the leaves change in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Open-air gondolas let you feel the rush of wind on your face as the train rumbles along the tracks. If you’re feeling more adventurous, book a package to ride the train through the Smoky Mountains and into the Nantahala Gorge. From there, you can take a guided zip line tour through the colorful canopy. The Zip & Rail combo is offered from April into October. Other combinations are available, too, including a Rail & Trail that includes a train ride with an adventure in a customized jeep; you’ll pass waterfalls and lakes on your way to the Appalachian Trail.
Want a different perspective on the fall colors? Take a horseback ride through a forest or along a mountain trail. Asheville, North Carolina, known for its beautiful autumnal foliage, offers horseback rides as well as tours in wagons and ATVs for visitors who don’t care to jump into a saddle. You’ll find lots of outfitters in the area if you’d rather see the sights from a rented bike, electric bike, or raft. At the Smith Fork Ranch in Crawford, Colorado, guests ride into West Elk Wilderness, in Gunnison National Forest, to see fall color on horses, ponies and pack mules.