As the days grow shorter and a subtle chill fills the air, one of nature's most fascinating transformation begins across the varied landscapes of the United States. From the magnificent soaring mountain ranges in the West to the more serine undulating hills and mountains of the East, fall in America is simply stunning—and a big money maker.
They say money doesn’t grow on trees but in communities near national forests in fall the locals might have another take on that adage. Because, when tens of thousands of leaf peeping tourists come to be delighted at the sight that autumn paints on the leaves of many a tree, they want to stay awhile and soak it all in. The sightseers might stay overnight or just for a day’s drive. And perhaps these leafy-eyed visitors might buy a trinket to remember the beauty they’ve seen or have meal in a local restaurant overlooking the colorful landscape. But whatever these leaf-loving acolytes do, they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year heading out to see the colors of fall.
And why not?
The arrival of autumn paints the landscapes of national forests in places like Oregon’s Cascade Range, where the visitor is treated to a feast of vibrant colors. The forests in the Pacific Northwest are often dominated by Douglas fir, Western hemlock, and Ponderosa pine, which act like a deep green filler in a landscape of trees that burst into hues of orange, red, and deep gold. If you’re the more adventurous type, a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, with Mt. Hood National Forest providing a dramatic backdrop to the kaleidoscope of colors below, is something not easily forgotten.
Eastward in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains offer another type of breathtaking autumnal glory. Aspen trees, with their brilliant yellow leaves, steal the show in these high altitudes. The Maroon Bells Scenic Area, in the White River National Forest near Aspen, is world-renowned for its picturesque autumn scenery, with mirror-like lakes reflecting the golden aspens and the towering Maroon Bells peaks.
In October, deep in the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia's Shenandoah Valley transforms into a mosaic of brilliant orange, yellow, red, and gold as oak, maple, and hickory trees co-mingle to create a fantastic autumn display. The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest has many vantage points to soak in the breathtaking scenery.
The northeastern United States is synonymous with fall foliage, and nowhere is this more evident than in New England. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine become a symphony of color as sugar maples, birch trees, and oaks put on a dazzling display. The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, which runs through the White Mountain National Forest, is a legendary route for leaf-peeping enthusiasts, with quaint villages and covered bridges adding to the charm.
As the leaves change and the air turns crisp, national forests in these diverse regions of America beckon travelers to immerse themselves in the magic of fall. But beyond the stunning visuals, there's a deeper connection to nature that occurs during this season. It's a time for reflection, for hikes among the rustling leaves, and for savoring moments of tranquility amidst the grandeur of these forests.
Fall color tourism is a significant contributor to the economies of the above-mentioned regions and the many not mentioned. Predictably, tourists flock to these areas during the autumn season to witness the stunning foliage transformations, leading to a financial boost in various sectors and creating an economy where money does indeed grow on trees.
So, whether you find yourself wandering through the rugged terrain of Oregon's Cascade Range, gazing in awe at the golden aspens of Colorado's Rockies, savoring the peaceful beauty of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, or exploring the quintessential fall scenes of New England, one thing is certain: the autumnal splendor of America's national forests is a treasure worth experiencing, one leaf at a time.