Editor’s Note: NEA Member Benefits understands how much you love to travel and how much you’ve missed it. As states begin to relax their regulations with regard to COVID-19 and more Americans become vaccinated, travel is opening up more and more. Before planning a trip, read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before booking and again before traveling.
As the season turns and temperatures begin to drop, leaf-peeping lovers can look forward to colorful foliage dotting the trees—not only in New England, which is renowned for its Technicolor autumn display, but also in several regions across the country. Rather than simply driving to observe the leaves’ changing colors, why not turn leaf peeping into a more active pursuit? These places throughout the United States offer stunning fall colors along with immersive and active experiences, such as boating, ziplining and fly fishing, for the ultimate colorful encounter this season.
1. ATV rides in Killington, Vermont
New England is still king of fall foliage, and the peaks of Vermont provide unparalleled adventure and color simultaneously. Go beyond hiking by booking an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tour that lets you scale mountains and go on an off-road adventure to out-of-the-way viewpoints and hard-to-reach vistas in a matter of minutes. Hello, adrenaline! Ski destinations (before they get covered in snow), such as Killington, are perfect for a rugged ride filled with foliage in September or October. ATV Vermont near Killington has brand-new Polaris vehicles (from $144 for one or $184 for two), and their guides will take you to the top of Killington Mountain for sweeping views with incredible hues.
Plan your trip: Killington | Vermont Vacation
Driving distances: 2 hours from Concord, New Hampshire and Burlington, Vermont | 2 hours 30 minutes from Albany, New York and Springfield, Massachusetts | 3 hours from Boston, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut | 3 hours 30 minutes from Portland, Maine | 5 hours from New York, New York
Where to stay: Summit Lodge & Resort | Birch Ridge Inn | Killington Motel
2. Fly fishing in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
While fishing is usually a quiet, peaceful activity, fly fishing requires a bit more action and will take you to some show-stopping locales. Fly fishing is the most fun—and a great workout—when you wade up a creek or river against strong currents, casting as you go. Shenandoah National Park is a stunning parkland that has more than 70 trout-filled streams, plus the beloved Rapidan River, known for its abundance of brook trout. It’s ideal for fishing while being surrounded by vibrant fall colors, and being in the river provides a whole new perspective to experience nature from, offering views you may not be able to get on land. Never gone fly fishing before? Take a lesson and rent or buy equipment from Murray’s Fly Shop.
Plan your trip: Visit Shenandoah | Virginia is for Lovers
Driving distances: 1 hour 30 minutes from Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia | 2 hours from Baltimore, Maryland | 3 hours from Norfolk, Virginia | 3 hours 30 minutes from Durham, North Carolina and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 4 hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Charleston, West Virginia
Where to stay: Red Roof Inn Charlottesville | Holiday Inn Express & Suites Charlottesville-Ruckersville | Montfair Resort Farm
3. Boating on Geneva Lake, Wisconsin
A serene lake that reflects the surrounding nature can be extra beautiful in autumn as it mirrors the vibrant colors above for a 360-degree experience. Geneva Lake is a crystal-clear freshwater lake that covers more than 5,000 acres in Southeast Wisconsin. Rent a speedboat, WaveRunner or Jet Ski from Elmer’s Lake Geneva Boat Line, or charter a 30-foot catamaran. The Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers various tours around the lake with extras, such as an ice cream social, lunch or Champagne brunch on board. Or, enjoy views of the lake from Big Foot Beach State Park, which is perfect for swimming, picnicking, camping and fishing. The park is open daily during limited hours; most campgrounds are open but beaches and picnic areas remain closed.
Plan your trip: Visit Lake Geneva | Travel Wisconsin
Driving distances: 1 hour from Milwaukee, Wisconsin | 1 hour 30 minutes from Madison, Wisconsin | 2 hours from Chicago, Illinois | 4 hours 30 minutes from Rochester, Minnesota
Where to stay: Comfort Suites Lake Geneva East | The Geneva Inn | Grand Geneva Resort & Spa
4. Ziplining in the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
The striking Ozark Mountains turn shades of orange and gold in late September, creating a spectacular landscape … that you can fly across at high speeds. Ozark Mountain Ziplines in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, will take you on a two-hour highlands tour using 10 ziplines ranging from 120 to 1,800 feet long that will take you as high as 200 feet into the tree canopy. The tour also includes suspended tree platforms, a suspended sky bridge and two short hikes.
Plan your trip: Ozark Mountain Region | Arkansas: The Natural State
Driving distances: 1 hour from Springfield, Missouri | 2 hours from Fayetteville, Arkansas| 3 hours 30 minutes from Little Rock, Arkansas | 4 hours from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Kansas City, Missouri | 4 hours 30 minutes from St. Louis, Missouri | 5 hours from Wichita, Kansas
Where to stay: The Trails Inn | Edelweiss Inn | Best Western Eureka Inn
5. Mountain Biking in Snowmass, Colorado
Seeing the glorious aspen trees in their autumn splendor is lovely. Watching them as you whiz by on a mountain bike is exhilarating. Before the snow sets in, Snowmass Mountain’s Elk Camp Gondola can be used to access six downhill biking trails and five cross-country paths, which combined, are more than 60 miles long. A favorite is the Government Trail, which takes you across Snowmass Mountain before descending into the Maroon Creek Valley. Bike rentals are available from Four Mountain Sports, which have several locations in the area, and there’s also a daily three-hour downhill bike clinic.
Plan your trip: Go Snowmass | Colorado Tourism
Driving distances: 2 hours from Grand Junction, Colorado | 3 hours 30 minutes from Denver, Colorado and Moab, Utah | 4 hours from Telluride, Colorado | 5 hours from Cheyenne, Wyoming
Where to stay: The Pokolodi Lodge | Snowmass Mountain Chalet | Comfort Inn & Suites Carbondale