4 National Forests with Breathtaking Fall Foliage
Immerse yourself in the autumn beauty of national forests, from the White Mountains in New Hampshire to the rugged peaks of Colorado.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
Let nature take your breath away around each highway bend in the White Mountain National Forest. Take a scenic drive through a sea of hardwoods in autumn as colors change from yellow to orange to red and back again. Think about the conservation that went into this forest—more than a century ago it was being ravaged by unregulated logging and forest fires. Now it’s a diverse mosaic of spruce, pines, beech, birch and maples. Explore those restored forests from within or from above. There are seven wilderness areas that have hundreds of miles of hiking trails, wind-scoured peaks and expansive vistas.
When to go: Visit in the fall for colorful folige.
Must-see: Drive the 34-mile Kancamagus Scenic Byway
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San Juan National Forest, Colorado
Rich history and jaw-dropping nature combine in the San Juan National Forest at nearly every turn. Within its boundaries are snow-covered peaks reaching more than 14,000 feet into the sky, wildflower-lined river bottoms at 5,000 feet and just about every conceivable western landscape in between.
And if nature isn’t enough, visitors can amble through mining ghost towns and Puebloan cliff dwellings to better understand some of the earliest humans to inhabit the region. With 1.8 million acres supporting outdoor sports (horseback riding, hunting, fishing, mountain biking and hiking) you and your family will be enchanted.
When to go: Set out in the summer when wildflowers are in bloom or in fall when the aspen trees glow.
Must-see: Chimney Rock National Monument, a Pueblo community dated between A.D. 900 and 1150
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Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina
Walk 2 miles or 150 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail through forests and high-mountain, grassy meadows replete with more than 20,000 species of plants and animals. The trail weaves through four mountain ranges, each offering unique beauty. But even more notable in the forest are the highlands covered in rhododendrons that will dazzle anyone. While adventure awaits in the Cherokee National Forest in the form of whitewater rafting, mountain biking and backpacking, the area isn’t just for thrill-seekers. Watauga Lake offers fishing, swimming and boating. A series of rivers and streams delivers seven lovely waterfalls.
When to go: March and April through summer for wildflowers
Must-see: The rhododendron bloom
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Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
Stunning lighthouses, expansive lakeshore vistas and wild weather are fixtures at the Hiawatha National Forest. Strung along the shores of lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan, the forest includes not only dense stands of trees but rocky and sandy beaches, islands, streams and rivers. Journey down a river by canoe while fishing or bird-watching. Tour restored lighthouses that were critical to keeping boats safe on the Great Lakes. Visit for cross-country skiing or snowmobiling in the winter. More than 200 inches of snow falls! In the summer, camp along the shores of a lake. Listen for the call of a common loon or howl of a timber wolf.
When to go: Summer and fall
Must-see: Point Iroquois Lighthouse, a 165-year-old structure with views of Canada and Lake Superior
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