Top Fall Foliage Trips in the U.S.

It’s been in the air — and in your Facebook timeline with all the posts about pumpkin spice — for weeks. But with the equinox coming Saturday, it will be official: It’s autumn. Soon, fall foliage will abound. Here are some of the best places in the country to go leafing.

New England & Canada

This is a classic, from Maine’s Acadia National Park to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Instead of sharing the highways with the thousands of others who had the same idea, consider a fall foliage cruise. You’ll visit ports such as Bar Harbor, Halifax, and Quebec City without having to fight traffic every step of the way and repacking every day, all the while being delivered into the heart of colorful, charming, picture-perfect towns.

The Ozarks

The colors come in toward the end of September and beginning of October, starting with blackgum and sweetgum trees, casting reds, yellows, purples and oranges. The peak of the season occurs about a month later, and in between, there are hickories projecting brilliant yellow leaves, sassafras in every color and more than 50 varieties of oak ranging from orange to deep red. On the drive through the rolling Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, you’re surrounded by color as far as the eye can see.

The Rockies

The aspens of Colorado have already begun to turn a striking golden yellow in higher elevations and will be peaking in a couple of weeks. Working their way down, the leaves will start to drop off the trees on higher slopes while they begin changing color at lower elevations, lasting until early November. Farther north in the Tetons and Yellowstone, orange, yellow and red will swarm the forests, making for a stark contrast against snowcapped slate-colored peaks. Aspens, cottonwoods, and maples combine for a dazzling array that’s hard to beat.

The Pacific Northwest

The length of the season depends on how much rain falls, but as long as they last, the fall colors are spectacular. Trails throughout Washington and Oregon erupt in beautiful, deep reds, oranges and yellows, including the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, where bushes and shrubs shine in front of tall evergreens and the backdrop of the 14,410-foot Rainier. Silver Falls State Park in Oregon’s Willamette Valley sports colorful trees along a river teeming with spawning salmon and waterfalls galore.

The South

Though the summer lasts a little longer down south, there are plenty of places to spot brilliant leaves in perfect weather during the autumn. From the Natchez Parkway spanning Mississippi and Tennessee all the way down to Florida’s Three Rivers State Park near the Georgia border, there is brilliance on display. The Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina light up with dogwood, birch and many other trees changing color across a variety of elevations. Not to be missed is Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley National Park.

All autumn long, there are spectacular foliage trips right in your backyard.

Virtuoso Travel Week Highlights

It might not be that big, tucked on the side of Spain on the western edge of Europe, but Portugal is the hottest destination going this year. Combine the capital of Lisbon — think a European San Francisco — with second city Porto and the beach-laden Algarve region with the diverse islands of Madeira and the Azores, and Portugal becomes a lot bigger than you might have previously imagined. That was one takeaway from Virtuoso Travel Week this month in Las Vegas, where more than 6,000 attendees from 100 countries shared the latest and greatest in the travel industry.

Another important trend is the rise of sustainability. From resorts such as The Brando in French Polynesia, where 95 percent of the energy used is renewable. Buildings made from local, renewable and recycled material blend with their natural surroundings and even waste is turned into compost that is used in organic gardens. The resort’s conservation program focuses on fish and sea turtle replenishment as well as atoll conservation. Seawater air conditioning and coconut oil biofuel help power the resort while getting it closer to carbon neutrality.

Kevin Molony, president of New Orleans-based Royal Insider is working to preserve the culture in and around the city his family first came to in the 1720s by showing clients the authenticities of life for those who call the Big Easy home, far from the tourist haze of Bourbon Street. That could mean hanging behind the scenes with a Mardi Gras crew to see how much blood, sweat, and tears go into preparing not just afloat but a celebration of heritage or dining in a historic home with a meal prepared by the city’s top chefs.

With the launch of www.galapagos.com, www.safaritours.com and www.visibleasia.com, Big Five Tours & Expeditions, ranks countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia based on the sustainability of tourism there, and works in the destinations it services to improve those scores. As Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions succinctly put it in her acceptance speech for Virtuoso’s Sustainable Tourism Leadership award, “Sustainability rocks!”

All told, more than 40,000 meetings took place over the course of a week between travel advisors and suppliers, resulting in an exchange of information that will benefit our travelers. Looking for a great meal? Meadowood Napa Valley’s The Restaurant, winner of Best Dining Experience, has you covered. A nice drink? The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in London was voted Best Bar. As for any other experience you can imagine, drop us a line at info@dmctraveltailor.com.