Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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Fall is such a beautiful time of the year. Changing leaves, cooler weather, and a general slowing down are welcome after an often busy summer season. It’s also a great time for weekend road trips where you can take your time and enjoy the scenery.
You can see fall foliage throughout the country at different times of the year, often lasting several weeks. But blink, and you’ll miss it.
Here are 10 places to see stunning fall foliage during a weekend getaway throughout the U.S., broken down by region.
When the temperature starts to get cooler, it’s time to pull out your cozy sweaters, fuzzy socks, and boots. But when you’re packing for a trip, even just a weekend, you don’t want to overdo it. Weekend trips are meant to be fairly quick and easy, so don’t overwhelm yourself with too much stuff.
Luckily, it’s not cold enough in the fall to need a cumbersome jacket or other bulky outerwear to be warm. It’s an ideal season for packing light.
Look for warm clothing items you can layer and remove as the day progresses. Mornings may be cool and crisp, but you can probably expect warmer temperatures in the afternoon. Evenings will likely be cool or even cold in some areas.
In addition to obviously packing clothes and toiletries for yourself, you might want to pack binoculars for bird watching or animal gazing. A great point-and-shoot or otherwise professional camera will also be great for memorializing the scenery and your trip.
You’ll also want to think about GPS or a good map if you plan on renting a car. Sure, you could use your phone for GPS, but make sure that you have an idea of where you’re going with screenshots or written directions in case you lose cell service while on the road.Hot Tip:
Fall foliage arrives at different times in the U.S. and depends on elevation and seasonal fluctuations. For more information on fall foliage, be sure to check out our guide on where to see fall foliage throughout the U.S.
The Berkshires, which refers to the mountains of western Massachusetts, is a great place to visit in September and October thanks to tons of events and mild temperatures. More than 30 towns within the area are about 4 hours from New York City and 3 hours from Boston by car.
The fall is one of the best times to visit The Berkshires, especially by car. Among several scenic drives, you can follow the 70-mile Mohawk Trail starting in Williamstown to Westminster on Route 2.
Or, if you don’t want to drive that long, try Jacob’s Ladder Scenic Byway. At just 35 miles long, this drive takes you through the towns of Russell, Huntington, Chester, Becket, and Lee. You can also segue into a 2.5-mile hike to see the Keystone Arches up close along the way.
Regarding accommodations, Miraval Berkshires is a celebrated wellness retreat that’s perfect in any season. It’s also a World of Hyatt hotel where you can redeem points for your hotel stay starting at 40,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
Fall travel often revolves around leaf peeping and other fall activities, so you may not expect a coastal town like Portland, Maine, to make this list. But visitors to Portland during the fall season can still expect to bask in lovely fall foliage in addition to touring the area’s historic lighthouses.
The leaves change colors early in this northern part of the U.S. — late September into early October — so this is a great trip to take early in the season.
The Harvest on the Harbor Festival is the only fall festival that Portland puts on. The 4-day event brings chefs and foodies from all over the state for a packed schedule of food and spirit tastings.Hot Tip:
This year’s featured events at the Harvest on the Harbor Festival include the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition and Gourmet Graze, a showcase of Maine’s finest cheeses, chocolates, wine, and locally-roasted coffee.
There are a lot of hotel accommodation options in Portland, Maine, and several of them are redeemable with hotel points.
For more luxurious accommodations, try The Press Hotel, Autograph Collection, with free nights starting at 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. The Hilton Garden Inn Portland Downtown Waterfront is a great mid-level option for Hilton loyalists from just 55,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
The Great Smoky Mountains run from Tennessee to the North Carolina border. They are a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which make up a part of the Appalachian Mountains located across 13 states.
In the Great Smoky Mountains, you can see the leaves change colors over a longer time frame thanks to varying levels of elevation throughout the range. According to the National Park Service, you can see fall colors at elevations above 4,000 feet starting in early October. Lower elevations can expect to see the leaves change between mid-October and early November.
Elk viewing and hiking are popular activities during this time, as well as Cades Cove Loop, a scenic drive starting in Townsend, Tennessee.
Home and cabin rentals are the most popular accommodation type in the Great Smoky Mountains. However, there are plenty of points hotel options in Tennessee. Courtyard by Marriott Pigeon Forge is an option — and great if you plan to visit Dollywood — as is the Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg. Free nights start at 31,000 points and 41,000 points, respectively.
Asheville, North Carolina, is about a 2-hour drive from Charlotte, North Carolina, and a 3.5-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia. Also located within the Blue Ridge Mountain Range of the Appalachians, the views are worth the drive, especially in the fall.
In addition to hikes and scenic drives to take in Asheville, there are over 2 dozen festivals from September through November. Heritage Day, a celebration of Southern Appalachian culture, is in mid-September and features blacksmithing, chairmaking, and stone carving presentations, among other attractions.
Families might especially enjoy the Eliada Fall Festival and Corn Maze, taking place from September 29 to October 29 this year.
The Biltmore Estate, the largest home in America at 175,000 square feet, is in Asheville, and you can stay the night. There are 3 accommodation options, including Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, and Cottages on Biltmore Estate. Even if you’re not electing to stay here, there are lots of activities to participate in during a visit, such as wine tasting.
There are hotels from every major brand in Asheville and the surrounding area. One worth checking out for IHG fans is Kimpton Hotel Arras in downtown Asheville, with redemption rates starting at 50,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is conveniently located just 20 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The 33,000-acre national park features the historic 20-mile Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. There’s also a scenic train ride that takes you through the park if you’re not up for a hike or bike ride.
For a scenic drive, check out Riverview Road. It’s just 20 miles long but is considered the most scenic route in Ohio.
The Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade is a points hotel option near Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can redeem World of Hyatt points at this hotel starting at 9,000 points per night.
Wisconsin’s Great River Road National Scenic Byway is part of the All-American Great River Road National Scenic Byway. The major byway begins in Minnesota and follows the Mississippi River for 10 states before ending in New Orleans, Louisiana.
If attempting to complete the whole road, you’d be looking at driving nearly 3,000 miles. The Wisconsin portion of the road is only 250 miles long and goes through 30 towns. You’ll follow U.S. Highway 35 from Prescott, Wisconsin, to Kieler, Wisconsin.
The entire 250-mile drive would take you less than 5 hours one-way, but you may want to break up the drive overnight. La Crosse, Wisconsin, or Madison, Wisconsin, are worth checking out and resting in before commencing or resuming the day’s drive.
Hotel Indigo Madison Downtown is an IHG hotel located in downtown Madison. You can redeem a free night there starting at 34,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.Hot Tip:
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place every fall over 9 days and features more than 500 hotel air balloons.
Balloons take off all day, starting in the early morning. There’s a fireworks show on most nights as well. Balloon competitions include Fly in Task, where competitors choose their own launch site within certain distances and then drop a marker as close to a target as they can. The target varies and could be as simple as a circle or an unusual geometric shape.
Local entertainment includes music and dance performances, as well as a chainsaw carving exhibition.
When you’re not enjoying the festival, the Paseo del Bosque Trail is 16 miles of paved pathway along the Rio Grande River. This trail passes through the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park and is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the city.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta offers discounted room rates at hotels in the area, but you may luck out and find award space, too. For example, the Courtyard Albuquerque has rooms starting at 27,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Rocky Mountain National Park is 450 square miles and located in Northern Colorado. The best time to see fall foliage here is between late September and early October. The area is great for experienced and adventurous travelers.
For a scenic drive, check out Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park, Colorado, through Grand Lake, Colorado, for leaf peeping just before the road is closed in late October. Though scenic, with beautiful views of the mountains, the road also has steep mountain passes and steep drops. Poor visibility during foggy times of the year and snow make it difficult to drive as the weather gets colder.
The hike around Bear Lake inside of the park is considered moderately accessible with some steeper parts that might be challenging.
There aren’t any options for points hotels in or near Rocky Mountain National Park, but there is a famously haunted hotel that’s perfect for the Halloween season. The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the hotel featured in Stephen King’s “The Shining,” is located in Estes, Colorado.
Yellowstone National Park spans across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho in the northwest region of the U.S.
Hiking and biking in Yellowstone are popular fall activities, as well as fall fishing. Particularly, brown trout can be found in Montana.
Fall is a fantastic time to spot elk in Yellowstone, as it’s breeding season. You’re also likely to see bears foraging for food before their winter hibernation and bison migrating for winter.
A lot of campgrounds and hotels close for the season as early as Labor Day Weekend in Yellowstone, so plan accordingly. There aren’t any points hotel options within the park, but there are several accommodation types to consider when visiting Yellowstone National Park, including camping.
You’ve likely heard of Napa for its world-renowned wines and wine-tasting experiences. But there is another less-known and far less crowded alternative in Sonoma County, less than 2 hours from San Francisco.
In Sonoma County, you can enjoy wineries, spas, and wellness retreats, often without the major price tag. In the fall, the temperatures can still reach an average high of 77 degrees, but that doesn’t stop fall colors from gracing the leaves.
Fall walks to take in Sonoma County — when you aren’t enjoying the wine region — include Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Overlook Trail in Sonoma. You could even head over to Bodega Bay on the coast where you could dip your toes into the chilly Pacific Ocean.
There are plenty of comfortable and luxurious accommodations to choose from in Sonoma County. Two points hotel options include the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country and The Lodge at Sonoma Resort, Autograph Collection. Redemption rates start at 12,000 World of Hyatt points and 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, respectively.
Now’s the perfect time to book your fall weekend getaway.
Depending on where you’re going, you may have accommodation options that allow you to redeem hotel points for a free night. Even if you don’t have a hotel credit card, cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earn points that you can transfer to hotel brands like World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to have the points you need.
If you plan to rent a car for your trip, be sure to do so with a credit card that offers car rental insurance.
And for dining out, you can’t go wrong with a card that earns you bonus points for dining out. Some great options include the American Express® Gold Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card. Each of these cards earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S. The Amex Gold card also comes with an annual dining credit of up to $120 at select restaurants (enrollment required). Cardholders will also enjoy an annual Uber Cash credit of up to $120 when you add your Amex Gold card to your Uber account, and each month you’ll automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S.
Fall is a beautiful time of the year for so many reasons. Why not plan a weekend getaway during this gone-too-soon season to see fall foliage up close and personal?
Read our guide on the Best Hotels To Book With Points for Fall Travel for ideas on places to stay.
Fall colors in the U.S. appear throughout the fall season and depend on elevation. In general, you can expect to see fall foliage in the U.S. from mid-September through early November.
When you can see fall foliage depends on where you are, however, it’s safe to say that October and November are the best months for fall foliage.
Vermont has the longest fall foliage season in the U.S. It starts in early September and ends in late October.
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