Most would agree: you haven’t fully immersed yourself in the fall season until you’ve taken a moment to truly appreciate all of the spectacular colors that begin to blossom as summer winds down.
As the seasons transition, leaf-peeping naturally becomes a go-to activity for outdoor enthusiasts of all different types. Many hike or drive to snag stellar views of some of the most vibrant fall landscapes, but we couldn’t help but wonder: are there more exhilarating ways to experience fall and its many spectacular shades?
As it turns out, there are plenty of adventurous fall excursions geared towards adding a unique twist to the traditional leaf-peeping experience. From whitewater rafting in Oregon to ziplining through the Great Smoky Mountains, here’s a look at some of the most thrilling ways to see fall foliage across the U.S.
Thanks to the stunning golden colors that contrast against the glistening blue waters, New York’s Finger Lakes region is considered one of the country’s best spots for leaf-peeping. There are many exciting ways to see the fall foliage here, including whitewater rafting, hiking and biking, and even wine tours by boat. But perhaps one of the most thrilling ways to obtain an unbeatable view is by soaring high above the breathtaking landscape in a cozy hot air balloon. We can’t think of a better way to soak in the striking scenery.
An experience unlike any other, every October adventure-lovers flock to Estes Park to enjoy a golden leaf landscape while listening to one of Mother Nature’s most unique soundtracks — the elk bugle. Each year nearly 3,000 elk converge in the park to join in on this fall tradition known as “the rut.”
Obtain a true bird’s eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains as you zig-zag through a nine-line, three-bridge canopy zipline course. The folks at CLIMB Works say your feet won’t touch the ground for 2.5 hours after you take your first step onto their uniquely-constructed course.
With more than 50 miles of expansive trails, Breckenridge serves as a perfectly picturesque destination for exploring Colorado’s rugged mountain landscape as it’s highlighted with a wide array of changing fall colors. Of particular interest is Breckenridge’s portion of the famed Colorado trail, which sprawls nearly 500 miles from Denver to Durango. Whether you’re after an easy three-mile ride or ready to tackle a 20- or 50-mile trek, Breckinridge offers accessible trails for cyclist of all levels and abilities.
Take a trip back in time by hopping aboard a World War II era plane and snagging an unbeatable vantage of West Virginia’s fluctuating fall colors. Flyers can choose between shorter 20- or 40-minute flights that glide above the New River Gorge National River, Summersville Lake or Kanawha Falls, or longer one-hour tours that cover each of the three areas in one trip. Oh yeah, and real thrill-seekers can opt of the “aerobatics” package which guarantees Barrel Rolls, S-turns and “Hammerheads” as part of your ride.
A relaxing yet still exciting and unique way to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s utterly gorgeous backcountry, a ride on The Alaska Railroad’s Hurricane Turn Train covers a 55-mile route from Talkeetna to Hurricane Gulch. The area is known for its spectacular riverside fall foliage and passengers are welcome to hop off the train at any point along the route. The Hurricane Gulch Bridge, one of the most adored vantage points along the ride, is 918 feet long and sits 296 feet above the creek.
Explore the hidden roads and trails of northern Vermont by motorcycle and gain access to vantage points that few others will ever have the chance to observe. A truly thrilling way to experience Vermont’s fabulous fall colors, many of the best spots along the Moto Vermont tour can only be accessed by motorbike or a several day hike.
California’s Sonoma County boasts brilliant fall colors not only by trees like Crepe Myrtle, live Oak and maples, but also by its many expansive vineyards. Set your sights on amazing shades of red, orange, yellow and brown as your tour the area by bike. Visitors can choose from different types of all-inclusive ride packages that range from mellow meanders through wine country to more “epic” tours that cover major mileage and elevation geared towards more serious cyclists.
Missouri may not be the first place that comes to mind when conjuring images of gorgeous fall foliage, but that doesn’t mean the state is lacking in stunning seasonal scenery. A ride by horseback through the trails of Castlewood State Park is an exciting and memorable way to take in the area’s beautiful fall colors. Popular equestrian routes include the Castlewood Loop, Chubb Trail and Grotpeter Trail.
In the fall, Oregon’s Rogue River is dotted with breathtakingly bright reds, oranges and yellows. One of the more exciting ways to catch a glimpse of these stunning fall colors is by raft. With Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge you can opt for a three- or four-day whitewater rafting and camping trip, a half-day or full-day raft tour, or, one of their more luxurious but still adventurous options, a specialty “Whitewater, Wine Cheese and Chocolate Trip.”