This unique fall activity brightens your mood and lowers stress

Fall foliage fall colors brighten mood and lower stress

While some sigh a breath of relief for the end of summer and its unrelenting heat, for others it’s a disaster as it signals the end of bright, sunny days and the start of brisk, more overcast weather. However, for both the fall enthusiasts and fall detractors there are benefits to the autumn season as both groups can suffer from elevated fatigue and higher stress levels due to the colder weather. One of the best ways to lift up your spirits, improve mood and lower your stress levels is to take up fall foliage viewing or as it’s known by its less popular moniker, fall leaf peeping.

What is fall foliage viewing and how can it help your mood?

Fall foliage viewing is simply the act of observing or viewing plants and leaves change their colors from deep greens to vibrant fall colors like yellow, orange and red during the autumn season. Viewing fall colors while immersing yourself in this seasonal practice can significantly uplift mood and reduce stress levels, offering a low-cost alternative to wellness and mindfulness through nature.

Where to see the best fall colors and fall foliage to uplift mood and improve relaxation?

Curious where to find the most picturesque fall landscapes for elevating your mood during the autumn season? From hidden gems in cozy, small towns to the expansive beauty of American and Canadian national parks, we’ll guide you to the best spots to witness the magic of fall foliage and fall colors. The below list explores these stunning vistas, where trees transform into a canvas of burnt oranges, sage yellows, and rustic reds.

The best places in the US for the colorful world of fall foliage and fall colors:

Stowe, Vermont

Also known as Fall’s Color Capital, the picturesque New England village of Stowe in Vermont transforms into a fall wonderland with sugar maple and hickory trees ablaze with vibrant rustic colors during autumn months. Take a scenic drive along Stowe Mountain and Smugglers Notch Scenic Highway for stunningly breath stopping vistas. Click here for Stowe’s foliage finder scenic route guides for more.

Asheville, North Carolina

Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the mountain city of Asheville, NC boasts a vast array of vivid fall hues. For a fully immersive experience, book a multi day drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway or hike through Pisgah National Forest for some truly awe-inspiring scenic autumn views. Best times to visit Asherville and Blue Ridge to see fall foliage and fall colors start in late September to early November.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Coastal splendor meets autumn beauty in Acadia National park. From Sand Beach in Bar Harbor to the park’s bike carriage roads there’s something for everyone. Take a day hike in Cadillac Mountain for panoramic views of fall foliage against the Atlantic Ocean backdrop.

Now, when is the best time to see fall colors and fall foliage in Acadia National Park? According to the official Acadia National Park’s website, that time is generally in mid October. For more places, hikes and tours for seeing fall foliage in Acadia National park visit Acadia’s trip suggestions page.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina:

Also known as The Smokies, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular US national parks, offering a vibrant tapestry of fall colors and of course, fall foliage.

The Smokies’ fall colors are particularly spectacular due to the park having about 100 different species – sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and hickories are just some examples – of native trees within. The best time to visit depends on the elevation of the park. However, it seems like fall colors and fall foliage typically peak between mid-October and early November at mid and lower elevations of the park.

For breathtaking views, take a trek up Clingmans Dome, the Foothills Parkway, or a drive down Newfound Gap Road. Plan your visit here.

The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

A hidden gem in the Southwest, this scenic Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway takes you through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, providing a different kind of fall beauty with golden aspens against the high desert landscape. The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway drive begins in the town of Taos and is one of the best places to see fall colors and fall foliage along your Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway trip. Must see towns and attractions include: The Taos Pueblo (located in Taos) Questa, Red River, Eagle Nest Lake State Park and more.

The best time to visit seems up for debate, but many sources report mid-October although some argue that late September to early to mid-October is peak fall foliage time in this region. Whatever you decide, plan your trip in advance and enjoy!

Find more spots for fall colors and fall foliage in New Mexico state here.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Experience autumn along the Columbia River as the Gorge transforms into a canvas of red, gold, and green hues. Two of the most popular spots include Multnomah Falls (highest waterfall in the Gorge at 620 feet) and the Rowena Crest Viewpoint which offers sweeping vistas of the Columbia River Gorge.

Typically, late September to mid-October is the best time to see the Columbia River Gorge’s fall leaf foliage. For more info click here.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is renowned for its breathtaking fall foliage and fall hues of reds, oranges, and yellows. Hike the Stony Man trail to Stony Man Mountain’s prominent peak as it’s known for its stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley. Hiking the Hawksbill Mountain provides a more expansive experience, since it takes you up to Hawksbill Summit which is the highest point in Shenandoah at 4,050 feet.

Due to the expansive size of the park and the weather, it makes it impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when fall color will peak.

However, Shenandoah National Park’s fall season typically lasts from late September through October and November months, making it one of the most versatile for longer fall color viewing places on this list.

Door County, Wisconsin

Stunning autumn scenery can be found in Door County, Wisconsin, a peninsula encircled by Green Bay and Lake Michigan. A scenic drive along Highway 42 will reveal vibrant fall colors and fall foliage set against the watery backdrop of Lake Michigan, including Green Bay – this is one of the most beautiful drives through Wisconsin. The area’s highlight, Peninsula State Park, offers a picturesque experience with hiking trails and recreational options that let guests fully appreciate Door County’s natural beauty in the fall.

Best time to visit Door County is from late September to mid-October, but the area has amazing autumn color throughout the entire fall season.

The Berkshires, Massachusetts

The Berkshires are a delightful New England substitute for more popular fall color viewing in states like New Hampshire. Renowned for their charming towns and sloping hills, the Berkshires in Massachusetts turn into an idyllic autumnal landscape in the fall. Navigate the Mohawk Trail for scenic views or go into Mount Greylock State Reservation to hike to the highest point in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock.

Best times to visit: Usually, the best time to schedule a fall trip to the Berkshires is between late September and mid-October.

The Ozarks, Arkansas/Missouri

The Ozarks, spanning Arkansas and Missouri, stand out as a lesser-explored gem, featuring rugged landscapes adorned in fall hues during autumn. Discover the natural splendor of The Ozark – St. Francis National Forest – a combo of Ozark National Forest and St. Francis National Forest – and take a charming drive down the Pig Trail Scenic Byway to see some brilliant and vibrant fall foliage.

With diverse wildlife, Manitou limestone bluffs and an array of outdoor activities, the Ozarks provide an immersive experience for nature enthusiasts and pretty much anyone seeking the charm of fall in this captivating region.

Best time to visit the Ozarks? The most noticeable fall color change happens in late September or early October, reaching its peak in late October.

Discovering Canada’s fall foliage and fall colors:

From the breathtaking wilderness of Algonquin Provincial Park to the majestic peaks of Jasper National Park, we’ve curated a list that will immerse you in the vibrant colors of fall foliage for stress relief and relaxation.

Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario:

Tucked away in the middle of Ontario’s wilderness, Algonquin Provincial Park is a fall foliage enthusiast’s paradise. Travel the well-known Highway 60 Corridor, where the serene lakes of the park like Kingscote and Scorch Lake reflect the park’s rich tapestry of reds, yellows, and oranges. Take a canoe trip to experience the colors of fall in a way that is truly immersive.

Best times to visit? The best time to visit Algonquin Provincial Park is typically from mid September to early October for the peak maple canopy flaming red color, early to mid-October for peak the Aspen (Poplar) color or yellow-orange hue, and mid to late October is Peak Tamarack color or yellow golden time.

For more info on the changing fall colors of Algonquin Provincial Park click here.

Banff National Park, Alberta:

Set out for the Canadian Rockies, where Banff National Park transforms into autumnal paradise and fall foliage. Take your bicycle through the Lake Minnewanka Loop. If biking isn’t your thing, you also have the option of driving the Loop for a Lake Minnewanka scenic drive, which winds through valleys brimming with fall color. Hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain summit for expansive views of the brilliant fall colors that stretch as far as the eye can see. You can take the Banff Gondola to Sulphur Mountain instead if hiking isn’t your thing.

Best times to visit? Most visitors agree that the best time to witness fall colors and fall foliage in Banff is from mid September to early October.

Charlevoix, Quebec:

Experience the charm of the St. Lawrence River region of Charlevoix in the Canadian province of Quebec! This area is known for its rolling hills and picturesque villages such as Pointe au pic. See the countryside ablaze with fall colors by driving along Route du Fleuve, one of the official tourist routes and most popular scenic routes that runs along the St. Lawrence River by taking Route 362. Alternatively, opt for a unique experience aboard the Train de Charlevoix, which runs between Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie providing exceptional fall views of landscapes that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Best times to visit? The best time to visit Charlevoix for fall foliage seems to be late September to early October with peak fall colors being around Canadian Thanksgiving which falls on the second Monday every October.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia:

Experience the maritime beauty of fall along the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Marvel at the coastal cliffs and vibrant foliage as you explore this Atlantic gem.
Best time to visit? The best time to witness the fall colors and fall foliage in Cape Breton National Park seems to be around mid-October.

Jasper National Park, Alberta:

Encircled by alpine towering peaks, Jasper National Park offers a pristine fall experience. Drive the iconic Icefields Parkway, where autumnal fall colors frame the rugged landscapes. Alternatively, visit Maligne Lake for reflections of fall colors on the water – for best photos, visit in the morning.

Best times to visit? The best time to visit Jasper National Park for fall foliage is from late September to end of September, early October.

Gatineau Park, Quebec:

Just outside of Ottawa, Gatineau Park is a fall foliage enthusiast’s paradise with vibrant deciduous trees, green conifers and rugged hills. Hike the Champlain Lookout trail for breathtaking views of the Ottawa Valley and Gatineau Hills adorned in fall hues, or take a scenic drive along the Gatineau Parkway popular for its fall foliage and rolling hills.

Best times to visit? The best time to witness fall colors in Gatineau Park seems to be from late September to mid-October.

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick:

A different kind of fall beauty can be found in Fundy National Park, which is well-known for its low and high tides. The highest tides in the world can be found at Fundy National Park’s Point Wolfe Beach. Drive along Point Wolfe Road for breathtaking vistas, or explore the Fundy Footpath where the bold fall colors meet a rugged coastline.

Best times to visit? Late September to mid-October is the ideal time of year to see the fall foliage in Fundy National Park.

Whistler, British Columbia:

Famous for its winter sports, Whistler also boasts captivating fall scenery. Discover the trails surrounding Lost Lake, and Lost Lake Park has a network of bike and hiking paths that wind through the colorful fall foliage, providing a beautiful and serene fall environment. The combination of the lake, surrounding forest, and mountain views creates a stunning backdrop for autumn colors.

Also, consider hiking the High Note Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park for the best views of Cheakamus Lake for even more breathtaking views.

Best time to visit? The best time to experience fall colors and foliage in Whistler is from late September to November making it one of the longest times to see fall colors.

Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island:

Prince Edward Island’s rolling landscapes become a kaleidoscope of yellow, orange and fiery red colors in the fall. Take a stroll through Tlaqatik and Sanderson Farm Trails in Greenwich (and visit the Greenwich Dunes while you’re at it!) for striking autumn hues, cycle or take a drive through the Gulf Shore Parkway, where the island’s stunning coastline and beaches meets vivid foliage.

Best times to visit? The best time to visit Prince Edward Island for peak fall foliage is approx. in the second week in October.

Yoho National Park, British Columbia:

A 40 minute drive from Banff lies Yoho National park, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, providing an ideal fall retreat for intense fall colors. For a truly immersive autumnal experience, drive the picturesque Yoho Valley Road, which is surrounded by towering mountain peaks covered in fall foliage, or take a hike to the famous Lake O’Hara or visit the wonders of Takakkaw Falls (also can be seen from driving the Yoho Valley Road), Burgess Shale fossils and much more.

Best time to visit? Similar to Banff, Yoho National Park’s fall foliage is most beautiful from late September to early October

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