1. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO:
There's leaf peeping, and then there's leaf peeping in the Rockies. Motor over from Denver and you'll be upping the ante on your autumnal ogling. Full of dramatic aspen trees, the park
's changing colors are complemented by snow-capped peaks in the backdrop. Once you reach the park, it's best to head out by foot; with over 300 miles of trails, it's easy (and totally worth it) to see everything up close.
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2. Niagara Parkway, ON:
Though it's only 34 miles long, pretty Niagara Parkway – accessible from Toronto, and just a hop, skip, and a jump from the U.S. border – has won itself some A-list fans. Winston Churchill supposedly named it his favorite Sunday afternoon drive of, well, ever. Pick a Sunday in the autumn, then, and take in all the foliage, B&Bs, and historic buildings that you could shake a cigar at.
Photo courtesy of Loozrboy/Flickr
3. The Brandywine Valley, PA: Once the home and favorite subject of landscape painter Andrew Wyeth, the Brandywine Valley, on the Pennsylvania-Delaware border, is an autumnal haven not far from Philly. Rest assured that, while his favored color palette was full of grays and beiges, the hues here are totally Instagram-worthy.
Photo courtesy of Sreedhar Yedlapati/iStock/Thinkstock
4. Skyline Drive, VA:
New England isn't the only place where you can catch the hot autumnal action. Proof? Virginia's stunning Shenandoah National Park
, where the famous Skyline Drive offers what is arguably one of the country's best natural tableaus. Up close you'll find all the fiery shades you'd expect, while, in the distance, the Blue Ridge Mountains add an azure hue.
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5. Starved Rock State Park, IL:
You don't have to drive all the way to Arizona to get your fill of canyons: Starved Rock State Park
, ranked among the top natural sights in Illinois, has 'em aplenty. Instead of scrubby deserts, though, these are complemented by waterfalls and forests that turn golden in the fall. Plop in a big leaf pile and take in the sights. Preferably with a thermos of hot apple cider.
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6. Old Kings Highway, MA: Cape Cod isn't just a beach retreat (though it's good at that, too). A languorous trip along the historic Old Kings Highway reveals that this pretty promontory is also prime leaf peeping turf. After all, where else can you find ocean views, colorful boughs, and historic towns that are among the oldest in the entire country?
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7. Newport, RI: The U.S.'s smallest state is home to some big, bold fall colors. For proof, embark on a quick drive outside of Providence along the coast and down to historic Newport. Alternate between glimpses of crashing waves and vermillion branches. Then, you'd do well to cap off your journey with a restorative bowl of chowder.
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8. Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, PA: See the best of old timey Pennsylvania (plus plenty of vibrant flora, obviously) with a jaunty journey down the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. Not far from Pittsburgh, this trip traipses down one of the country's first highways. When your gaze isn't turning to the trees, keep an eye out for state parks, covered bridges, and local Amish towns.
Photo courtesy of LarryKnupp/iStock/Thinkstock
9. Columbia River Gorge, OR:
No wonder the Columbia River Gorge was recently chosen
as one of the best places to go leaf peeping west of the Mississippi: Comprising the churning river, soaring mountains, and Mount Hood National Forest, it's a real beaut. It's also perfectly convenient if you're traveling by car, as the Columbia River Highway traces the river and provides one of the best vantage points of the scenery.
Photo courtesy of William Perry/iStock/Thinkstock
10. Mt. Rainier National Park, WA: Motor out to the local branch of the rolling Cascade Mountains for some prime, pretty-enough-to-be-a-screensaver views of the autumn landscape. Against the mountain's snowy peak, trails wind their way through the changing scenery. Just make sure to keep one eye on the trail. Because bears.
Photo courtesy of Yulia Kamenskikh/iStock/Thinkstock