While neighboring New England is overrun by leaf spotters—tiny 625,000-person Vermont, for one, expects 3.5 million visitors this fall—this charming cluster of towns gets closer to 1 million tourists during the same period. Outside North Hatley, visit the Jacques Robidas Equestrian Center to ride through groves of maples and birch on horseback ($61). Nearby ski area Mont Sutton opens its lifts on fall weekends; soar over colorful canopies, then take a free guided hike.
Replenish yourself with freshly made cider at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac abbey, says Jake Beers of the Sherbrooke Record. Bed down at Le Pleasant Hôtel & Café, where rooms start at $128. Game for something more rustic? Try the cabins and yurts on the 70-acre La Vallée Heureuse du Mont Élan ($73 for two).
Skip popular Asheville, N.C., and head to low-profile Chattanooga, nestled in the Appalachians. In October the typical hotel rate in Chattanooga is just $81, vs. $149 in Asheville. Hike the Cherokee Trail in Stringer’s Ridge Park for a scenic overlook of the city. Or relax on a cruise along the Tennessee River Gorge aboard the Southern Belle riverboat ($36, with lunch). Mark McKnight of outdoor outfitter Rock/Creek suggests renting a kayak (from $25) to paddle around the 19-acre Maclellan Sanctuary on Audubon Island.
Like hip, modern design? Book a private room ($75) at “boutique hostel” the Crash Pad. For a more traditional stay, choose the historic Sheraton Read House Hotel (starting at $119).
This stunning section of Highway 62 packs a scenic punch. You’ll see red aspens, scrub oak, and flowered rabbitbrush, plus the snowcapped peaks of Mount Sneffels. Ditch the car for a bit and stroll along the Uncompahgre River in nearby Ridgway State Park, says park manager Kirstin Copeland.
Fall is peak season in many foliage destinations, but ski-centric Telluride is actually cheaper in autumn. Save 30% over winter rates when you book at the New Sheridan Hotel in September (starting at $175).
No matter where you’re headed, use these strategies for the best peeping:
Get the download. Use the Audubon Trees app ($4) to identify leaves. RootsRated (free) lists foliage hikes and other outdoor activities.
Find the best route. Many state tourism websites suggest local foliage drives. In New England, YankeeFoliage.com offers a curated selection.
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