It’s that time of year when nature puts on a spectacular display of autumn colors around the country. “Today” travel editor Peter Greenberg shares some interesting, unusual and perhaps surprising ways to take in the show.
When most people think of fall foliage, the South doesn’t necessarily come to mind. Few people realize that the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi are in the Asheville area in Western North Carolina. What that means is that Asheville is able to boast one of the most extended fall leaf viewing seasons in the country. Leaves start changing at the highest elevations (6,684 feet) in late September and creep down the mountain with places like Lake Lure not reaching peak color until late October or early November. There are updated weekly fall foliage reports on exploreasheville.com. The train trips are extraordinarily popular and run through the Nantahala River Gorge not too far from Asheville. The more intrepid, can combine the train ride with a whitewater trip on the Raft & Rail excursion. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Fall Foliage Excursions, otherwise known as rat and roll — $66 per adult and $51 per child. This is perfect for first-timers or seasoned paddlers, Travel 22 miles by rail along the foothills of the Smokey Mountain range. At the top-of-the-line join the professional team of Wildwater LTD. Rafting for a two hour whitewater trip down the 8 miles of the Nantahala River. A picnic lunch, changing rooms with hot showers and transportation back the depot are all included.
What could more thrilling for leaf peepers than a 2-4 hour ballooning experience of a lifetime. You will be approximately one hour in the air. Digital pictures of your flight will be provided so that you can concentrate on the view. You will receive an Aeronaut flight certificate suitable for framing, a collectible ballooning pin topped off with a post-flight champagne celebration. A licensed professional pilot and crew are at your disposal. New Hampshire is easy to crisscross in a day. If someone in the family wants to mountain climb, while another wants to hunt for ocean shells, it’s possible to do both. A mountain, a lake, a city, a forested wilderness, an ocean-they’re all within easy reach. Families can select a home base from the state’s many all-inclusive family resorts, campgrounds, or private rental lake or mountain homes, and plan daytrips to other locations within an hour’s drive. Hot Air Ballooning & What’s Up Ballooning — Henniker, N.H., whatsupballooning.com.
With 57 riding stables offering guided trail rides, there are ample opportunities for Wisconsin visitors to experience fall’s splendor on horseback. Boat touring opportunities are also plentiful here, with 42 different tour boat operators spread throughout the state, almost all of whom stay in operation during autumn. There are the Original Wisconsin Ducks and Dells Boat Tours, both in Wisconsin Dells, as well as the LaCrosse-based Mississippi River steamboat, Julia Belle Swain.
People generally don’t recognize that Alabama has fall color, but it does! Particularly pretty parts are Little River Canyon in the northeast corner of the state (near Fort Payne), and the highest point in the state(2,407 feet), Mount Cheaha, near Anniston. DeSoto State Park in Little River Canyon and Cheaha State Park are great ways to enjoy the fall color if you like hiking, or if you just want to sit and enjoy. Both parks have a variety of accommodations: resort hotels, chalets, CCC rustic cabins (built by the Civilian Conservation Corps), and campgrounds. Rates depend on the type of accommodation and the season, but run $58-$72 for a double hotel room; $87-$100 for a chalet; $42-$125 for a rustic cabin (the more expensive ones are the honeymoon cabins with a whirlpool tub); The reservation number is 1-800-ALA-PARK. Websites are: Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resource www.dcnr.state.al.us, DeSoto State Park: desotostatepark.com.