Time to plan fall leaf-peeping excursions
In case you haven’t already started, it’s time to plan for any fall foliage trips you might want to take. Although New England has pushed the idea that it is fall foliage central, you can find good fall foliage viewing throughout much of the U.S. and Canada — maples, oaks and such east of the Mississippi; aspens in the Rockies.
Peak times typically move from north to south between mid-September and mid-November. And you can view foliage displays as a road trip, bus tour or train ride. You can make it an extended week-long tour or a day trip.
Where to go
If you aren’t sure where and when you want to go, a good place to start is TripSavvy’s “Complete Guide.” Individual pages summarize “state-by-state guide,” “best places,” and “best National Parks” lists.
Although the current posting dates from 2020, the basic “best place” information doesn’t change much from year to year.
When to go
Most of the usual fall foliage “best times” maps haven’t yet posted 2022 data and cover only 2021. The best nationwide current-year source I’ve found is seeker.io/places-to-see-fall-foliage, which provides dates and places for 14 top centers from New England to the Ozarks to Glacier Park.
A date-limited search for “2022 fall foliage” returns a bunch of local current-year summaries — especially for New England — but so far, the nationwide stuff is still outdated.
Road trip or tour package
Most people think of fall foliage as a road trip. Local-area fall foliage websites typically include driving directions, many with links to local visitor activities, tours and accommodations.
Lock in your accommodations as early as you can, and take care to avoid football weekends at big-time college towns.
Day trips out of your hometown or some other center are easy to find, and if you want to visit, say, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you can fly to Knoxville and rent a car. If you plan a longer trip, your main challenge will be to lock in hotels at popular spots.
Tour operators great and small operate foliage tours in the most popular spots, ranging from day excursions to week-long regional trips.
A quick search of “Fall foliage tours,” including a base city, will return a bewildering variety of options, ranging from budget to luxury. Almost all will be entirely or mostly by tour bus; the few that advertise “rail” trips usually include only a day or two of rail travel, with the rest by bus. And most extended tours include a lot of non-foliage stops.
A big advantage of a package is that operators normally secure accommodations in destination areas that can sell out early to the general public.
I’m a big fan of rail travel, so I spent some time looking for Amtrak options.
This year, one itinerary looked promising: the newly extended Ethan Allen Express between Burlington, Vermont and New York via the Green Mountains and the Hudson Valley, coupled in a loop with the Vermonter between Essex Junction (just six miles from Burlington) and New York via the Berkshires and western Connecticut. Unfortunately, schedules for both full-day trips favor southbound travel. Both trains require reservations.
Equally unfortunately, Amtrak still hasn’t resumed its pre-Covid consensus favorite foliage trip — the Adirondack from New York to Montreal — that used to carry a dome car on alternate days. For an out-and-back day trip, consider a Downeaster round-trip from Boston to Brunswick, Maine.
Local tourist trains
Most of the country’s popular tourist trains have reopened, and many of those feature local fall color trips. Among those recommended pre-Covid: Mount Washington Cog Railway (thecog.com); Durango & Silverton, (durangotrain.com); Adirondack Scenic Railroad, (adirondackrr.com); Blue Ridge Scenic Railway (brscenic.com); Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (cvsr.com); and Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (gsmr.com).
But dozens of others also feature fall foliage packages, many behind vintage steam locomotives. In almost all cases, these are short, one-day out-and-back excursions.
Whatever your preference, start planning. But be warned: Some sources say that the unusually hot weather in much of the country this year means that leaf displays will be less colorful than usual.
Send email to Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out Ed’s website at rail-guru.com.
© 2022 Ed Perkins. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.