Late in fall afternoons, for a few moments, the world turns to gold. The low angle of the sun illuminates everything it touches with fiery rays. Leaves crackle beneath feet and the crisp air stings nostrils with every breath. Musty smells of rain, mud, and mushrooms mix with the homey scent of wood smoke. Hearts ache as they bid farewell to glorious, sunny summer and prepare for the long cold months to come. Smiley-yellow, joyful-orange, and smoldering-red leaves are nature's last eccentric statement before it bunkers down for pure, sparkling, freezing winter. Colorful leaves adorn forests around the U.S., and here are some spectacular places where visitors can take in a truly luxurious fall view.

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The Berkshire Mountains, Massachusetts (Late September - Mid-October)

The Berkshires in western Massachusetts will delight couples looking for a romantic getaway. A long weekend here in autumn will reveal colorful views during hikes and drives. Visitors love the region for its first-class dining and cultural scene. That means that there's plenty to do even after the sun sets.

  • Nearby: About 3 hours from New York City and Boston

Scenic Drives

  • Mount Greylock Scenic Byway, paved, 16 miles
  • Mohawk Trail Byway, paved, 69 miles
  • Jacob's Ladder Trail Byway, 35 miles

Scenic Hikes

  • Bash Bish State Forest, 1.5 miles
  • The Cobbles, 4 miles
  • Hoosac Range Trailhead, 3 miles
  • Olivia's Overlook Trailhead, 3.2 miles
  • Barry Pond Trail in Pittsfield State Forest, 2 miles

related: Book The Berkshires: Best Places To Stay In This Luxe Mountain Region

Olympic National Park, Washington (October)

Olympic National Park is so exceptionally beautiful and unique that the United Nations named it a World Heritage Site. The area awed Presidents Grover Cleveland and Franklin Roosevelt, and they advocated for its protection. Visitors today will feel no less amazed at the park's landscapes. The old-growth, temperate rainforests display some stunning fall foliage.

  • Nearby: About 4 hours from Seattle

Scenic Drives

  • Hoh River Road, 35.5 miles
  • Hurricane Ridge Road, 17 miles
  • Quinault Valley Rainforest Loop, 25 miles

Scenic Hikes

  • Morse Creek area of the Olympic Discovery Trail, 4 miles
  • Marymere Falls Trail at Lake Crescent, 1.7 miles
  • Hurricane Hill Trail, 3.4 miles
  • Hoh River Trail, 35.3 miles

Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota (Late September - Mid-October)

Lake Mille Lac's name literally means "lake of a thousand lakes." Native Americans such as the Ojibwe and Dakota called this region "the land of a thousand lakes." They underestimated since Minnesota is actually home to more than 14,000 lakes. That makes for incredible forests and thus fantastic fall foliage. The road around Lake Mille Lacs only recently became an official scenic byway so travelers should visit to see why.

  • Nearby: About 2 hours from St. Paul and Minneapolis

Scenic Drives

  • Lake Mille Lacs Scenic Byway, 69 miles
  • MN 18 between Garrison and Malmo, 18 miles (part of the scenic byway)
  • Vista Road Spur off Highway 47 near Isle

Scenic Hikes

  • Landmark Trail in Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, 4 miles
  • Tower Trail in Mille Lacs Kathio State Park, 1.5 miles

The Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, And North Carolina (Mid-October - November)

The Smoky Mountains have a rich history. These peaks, covered in natural fog, were first home to the Cherokee, and, later, European settlers who lived from subsistence farming. Fall is apple season and this fruit was one of the most important crops for families in the Smoky Mountains. People looking for beautiful fall foliage may also enjoy seeing the historic apple orchard with heirloom varieties at the park's agricultural museum.

  • Nearby: About 4 hours from Nashville

Scenic Drives

  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, 5.5 miles
  • Cades Cove Loop Road, 11 miles
  • Newfound Gap Road, 31 miles
  • Little River Road, 18 miles
  • Wears Valley Road, 1 mile

Scenic Hikes

  • Hike to Grotto Falls, 2.6 miles
  • Hike to Laurel Falls, 2.5 miles
  • Gregory Ridge Trail to Gregory Bald, 11.6 miles
  • Andrews Bald Trail, 3.5 miles

related: Harvest Time In Napa Valley: The Best Time To Visit Isn’t Only During The Summer

Acadia National Park, Maine (Mid-September - October)

Thomas Cole's stunning paintings of Acadia from the first half of the 19th century inspired politicians to conserve this natural area by making it a park. Visitors today can understand this since almost anywhere they stand in the park looks picture perfect and more so when leaves turn gold and red. September is a great time to enjoy the park since there are fewer tourists than in the summer and the weather is divine. Later in the autumn, leaf peepers may find the temperatures crisper.

  • Nearby: About 5 minutes from Portland

Scenic Drives

  • Schoodic National Scenic Byway, 29 miles
  • Acadia Byway, 40 miles
  • Million Dollar View Byway, 25 miles

Scenic Hikes

  • Precipice Trail, 2.5 miles
  • Beehive Trail, 1.4 miles
  • Cadillac Summit Loop Trail, .3 miles

Kalispell, Montana (Mid-September - Mid-October)

Kalispell is the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake is just to the south. It's no surprise that this city, known for grizzly bears and bighorn sheep, offers some amazing views of autumn leaves. Travelers will find themselves enjoying the city's famous western hospitality as well as the savage wilderness nearby.

  • Nearby: About 2 hours from Missoula

Scenic Drives

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road, 50 miles
  • Loop tour around Flathead Lake on Highway 35 and U.S. Highway 93, 150 miles

Scenic Hikes

  • Hike to Strawberry Lake in Jewel Basin, 2.8 miles
  • Western Larch and Cliff Trail Loop, 3 miles
  • Morrel Falls National Recreation Trail, 7 miles

next: This Is Why Sonoma County Is Best Visited In The Fall