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It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Fall Foliage Tour!
 

By Suzanne McMinn

’Tis the season for leaf peeping—and the colorful pastime has never been more hi-tech, fun and interactive. Today you can find peak foliage times and locations electronically via online foliage reports and hotlines, not to mention maps, apps and web cams. And you can do it all within seconds right from your car with your smartphone or tablet and driving directions from OnStar.

Start with The Weather Channel’s detailed fall color maps to watch peak foliage progress. At LeafPeepers.com, you’ll find foliage cams from all over the nation. At the U.S. Forest Service, there’s a list of fall-foliage hotlines you can call for updates on states and regions. If all this isn’t enough, there’s an app for that, as they say: Yankee magazine offers a free app for iPhone and Android called Leaf Peepr that calculates peak foliage across the country, based on user ratings.

When planning a fall getaway, expect northern locales to see their best colors early in the season while leaves in

southern areas are just starting to turn. Yahoo Travel offers a list of “Prettiest Fall Foliage Drives” that will help put you on some of the best roads. And whether you’re headed for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Ozarks, the Black Hills of South Dakota or Vermont’s Green Mountains, don’t forget to get out of the car—most great drives include scenic overlooks, often with parking areas. Enjoy the fresh, crisp air and stunning autumn views.

Of course, leaf peeping adventures abound. You can ride a train through the New River Gorge in West Virginia, take an aerial tour via helicopter of New York’s Palisades when leaves are in full fall array or cruise the Tennessee River on a paddlewheel riverboat. Fall is popular for many crowd-pleasing reasons—pumpkins, apple butter and football games, to name a few—but it’s those dramatic, vivid colors that make up the backdrop to the season.

Fall also reminds us that trees have a life of their own, which only happens to intersect with our viewing pleasure. Leaves are green in the growing season as trees use them to inhale as much of the sun’s rays as they can process. But as the days shorten and the temperatures cool, trees shut down for the winter, like Icee stands on the beach. Trees stop feeding their leaves in order to focus energy on their trunks and roots. In survival mode, leaves are disposable and drop off. Their job for the year is done. While most of us bemoan their fluttering disappearance, they do hold a fantastic parade on their way out. Ready to be dazzled by fall’s big show? Just hit the road. (And don’t forget to fire up your OnStar.)

 
Apple Orchards, Cider Mill Tours and a Festival

Apple Hill Orchard
Morganton, North Carolina
Educational tours, wagon rides, U-pick and cider mill

Cold Hollow Cider Mill Tour
Waterbury Center, Vermont
Pure cider made the old-fashioned way—with a rack and cloth press

Mountain View Orchards
Hood River Valley, Oregon
Picnics, hikes, hayrides and U-pick

PickYourOwn.org
From Maine to California
A state-by-state listing of U-pick orchards near you

Peddler’s Village 2012 Apple Festival
New Hope, Pennsylvania, Nov. 3-4
Caramel apples, apple butter, apple zeppoles, apple fritters, apple cider, apple pie-eating contests, live entertainment and artisan wares for sale (in addition to good old-fashioned apple picking)

Suzanne McMinn lives with her three children on a farm in West Virginia, where she writes the blog Chickens in the Road, about finding “the true meaning of home—and life—beyond the noise of suburban sprawl and suburban convenience.”