You have to see Fall Colors to know what they are

September 21, 2012 · 0 comments

in Excursions and Day Triips

September is the time to decide where to see fall colors for the year.

Greetings again friends, this is Bill Taylor writing about a road trip we enjoyed. The time of year to see beautiful fall colors is basically from mid-September through October. Generally speaking, after the first hard freeze, the leaves lose their brilliant colors and begin to fall from the trees.

Winter enthusiasts look eagerly for bare hardwood trees, because the snow is usually close behind and skiing will soon be in full swing. Some of the best ski areas in the dead of winter, are great locations for fall colors. You have to get there while it’s too early to ski, but the sights are worth the effort.

If you are having difficulty planning a road trip to view the fall colors, September is the time to begin planning in earnest. The season for viewing fall colors in the eastern side of the US begins in mid or late September and continues through October and sometimes into November in the deeper south, but it doesn’t all happen at once.

Fall colors in Vermont Hogback Mountain in Vermont

As a general rule the colors appear first in Maine, then Vermont and northern New York. I have a friend who drives from Florida to Maine every year to see the fall colors. He tries to tell me that he only does it for his wife and her friends, but his eyes get a peculiar glow when he talks about this trip.

Cold weather brings on the changing colors and as the cold air slides further south, the leaves blaze with unearthly colors as the cold air arrives.

From Pennsylvania eastward the peak most commonly arrives during the first two weeks of October. If you travel to any of these areas to see fall colors, you might want to choose a general region then contact the visitor information bureaus in larger towns and see if any fall festivals are planned.

We have attended the Autumn Leaf Festival in Clarion, PA. It is lots of fun. The 2012 ALF begins September 21 and continues for 9 days. This event draws over 300,000 people to the Clarion, PA area. They have a parade with bands, floats and an impressive group of dignitaries. Floats throw candy, wave.

Crowds come to see fall colors in Pennsylvania Crowds at Autumn Leaf Festival in Clarion, PA

Motorcyclist and ‘funny cars’ also entertain the spectators. Contests and similar venues are held throughout the nine days. There are so many events scheduled that there isn’t room to list all of them in this post.

Some towns have vendors or kiosks giving away free hot chocolate or other hot drinks. Fruits and produce of the season are used widely as decorative items. Carved pumpkins, straw men and corn-stalk scare crows, add decorative seasonal flairs to the occasion. It is a true festive affair. In some parts of the country these events are called fall festivals, or harvest festivals.

Crowds are usually large at all these festivals. Local people come out in large numbers, but the volume of tourists coming to see the changing leaf colors swells the numbers to gaudy proportions. Little towns are able to put on big parades and other activities.

Some towns bring in carnival rides to add spice to the festival atmosphere. Most of these festivals do not feel highly commercialized. The idea seems to be … just let folks enjoy the cool temperatures, changing season and a chance to get out among a crowd of happy fun loving folks.

Fall colors in Tennessee and North Carolina Fall colors on bypass near Gatlinburg, TN

Further south, in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee the colors all come in mid October. If you missed the fun further north, you are still in the game. The main ingredient of beautiful fall colors is an abundance of large, native hardwood trees. The southern states have fewer of these trees, but down south there is an added texture to the color.

The presence of evergreens in southern forests, such as spruce, cedar and pine blends in a dark green color as a background to the reds, golds, purples and browns of the hardwoods. This gives a lushness to the color which reminds one of spring and summer while you are being dazzled by the radiant colors of fall.  At times, I have felt as if I was driving through a picture postcard.

My favorite fall color viewing area in North Carolina is the Pisgah National Forest. This amazing piece of wild country stretches north from around Brevard, NC. It goes in a general direction toward Ashville, NC. This is not the Smoky Mountain forest. It is in fact more difficult to drive, because of the narrow winding roadways. But you see natural waterfalls right next to the roadway.

The first time I saw a Black Bear in North Carolina, it was on the highway in the Pisgah National forest. There are two choices for the north to south route. Take both of them and enjoy to vastly different views.

From northern Arkansas across Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina … the season runs sometimes as late as early November. The mountains are not as impressive, but the sights are still spectacular in these areas.

Beautiful Fall Colors in North MS

Put them all together and you have roughly three months in which you can schedule your road trips to some absolutely unforgettable sights.

Add the fantastic brisk temperatures which naturally abound at this time of year and you have a road trip which doesn’t get crowded even if you have one too many in your car. So get out there and enjoy some scenery that you will wish you had a vocabulary adequate to describe.

I’d like to hear your comments about favorite road trips to see fall colors. I’m sure our readers would also enjoy it.

Don’t worry about how long the trip will be. If you take this road trip … you won’t count the miles you’ll count the smiles.

See you on the road,

Bill Taylor – senior road trip enthusiast.



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