All across the United States, from Oregon in the Pacific Northwest to the ancient mountains of Appalachia, deciduous trees greet the coming winter with a jaw-dropping display of color. Though the opportunities to photograph fall foliage are plentiful, as a photographer, it’s all about timing.
Below is your itinerary for a fall photography road trip that will let you to see some of the most beautiful parks and forests in the country just as they reach their crescendo of fall color.
The largest river in the Pacific Northwest region, the Columbia River winds through some of the most majestic and rugged scenery in the country. In mid-October, you can see Oregon ash, cottonwoods, and big-leaf maples turn from brilliant yellow to orange.
Though many trees in this 1,583-sq.-mi. wilderness area turn colors in early autumn, from mid-September to early October, you can still catch the larch trees in bloom as they turn a blinding lightning yellow from mid to late-October.
The best nature opportunities in the Midwest can be found in the 4 million acres of state forests in Michigan – the largest state forest system in Eastern US. Perhaps the most beautiful and wild region is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which sits between the Great Lakes and the Canadian border. Densely forested, the “UP” (as they call it) explodes with color as hardwood forests of tamarack, sycamore, maple, birch and ash ready for winter. Also of note is Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, which is on the north coast of Michigan proper.
The other natural spectacle of the Midwest, Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. Dominated by white oak, these forests give off a brilliant burst of scarlet and mahogany during the last two weeks of October.
One of the most beautiful regions along the historic Appalachian Trail, and one of the best fall photography locations, is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For one thing, it gives photographers plenty of time to take in the fall colors. Peak season is early October through early November. The forest’s hickories, sweetgums, and scarlet oaks give off a gorgeous mixture of purple, crimson, orange and gold.
New York’s maple-dominated Catskill Mountains offer photographers a stunning spectacle in mid- to late-October. The forest’s maple trees turn a rich crimson-orange at lower elevations, while at higher elevations, spindly birch trees turn from yellow to bright red and squat beech trees turn a rich orange.
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