Beat the crowds this fall with these (hidden) spots for leaf-watching

There’s nothing quite like seeing the leaves at their perfect autumnal peak and these hidden spots are some of the best places to take in their scenic beauty.

When the air turns crisp and the warmer, longer days of September give way to October, there’s nothing better than taking a hike to see some of the vivid hues of fall in their beauty at Breathtaking. However, embarking on a leaf-watching tour often means dealing with the inevitable crowds that often flock to some of the best-known spots to catch fall’s best foliage.

And while the following sites are on the radar for best leaf lists, they are certainly one-of-a-kind destinations for colorful leaf viewing that aren’t necessarily famous for their foliage – and, therefore, are often a little less crowded during peak season.


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A (hidden) gem in the Hudson Valley

Everyone knows that New York’s Hudson Valley is one of the most epic places to view the best fall leaves; virtually every city and town in the region is a fall-friendly destination just waiting for visitors to experience the most vivid hues. However, what distinguishes the village from New Paltz apart from its HV counterparts is that it’s often overlooked as a haven for leaf-ogling, despite its proximity to the sprawling and scenic landscape. Mohonk Reserve to nearby Gardiner and a variety of local hikes. And don’t forget the stunning backdrop of fall colors that accompanies its historic, bohemian main street – the perfect fall photo opportunity.

  • When should we go: In the Hudson Valley, it’s hard to predict when fall foliage will be at its best, but visitors can stay informed by checking out the Fall Foliage Report from September 14.
  • Where to stay: Minnewaska Pavilion (Gardiner); Moondance Ridge B&B; Audrey’s Farm (Walkill); Mohonk Mountain House
  • Where to eat and drink: A Tavola Trattoria; Garvan’s Gastro Pub; the Robibero family vineyards; Schatzi’s Pub and Beer Garden; Lingonberry
  • Things to do: Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary; River Ridge Trail; Mohonk Preserve Testimonial Walkway; Water Street Market; Walkill View Farmer’s Market; Walkill Valley Rail Trail

A Wonderful Minnesota State Park

A river, bridge, lake, and some of the Midwest’s most beautiful fall colors await visitors in the rugged landscape of Jay Cooke State Park. A bastion for summer and winter activities, this MN gem is arguably one of the best places to view fall’s wealth of brilliant colors – and from one of the most exciting vistas around. Visitors to the suspended suspension bridge that spans the area dramatically will be treated to one of the most spectacular scenes of the season: a beautiful rocky shoreline and a crystal-clear river that perfectly reflects the most vivid hues of autumn.

  • When should we go: Find out when to visit Jay Cooke State Park in peak fall season here.
  • Where to stay: House of Oldenburg; Black Bear Casino Resort; Voyage Cloquet/Duluth KOA; Fond du Lac campsite
  • Where to eat and drink: Tramway kitchen and pub; Third Base Sports Bar; Bar & Restaurant Carmen (Cloquet); Pedro’s Grill & Cantina (Cloquet); Red Dog Drive-Thru
  • Things to do: Walk and cycle the trails; Oldenberg Viewpoint; Moose Lake State Park; Willard Munger State Trail; Ru-Ridge Corn Maze

RELATED: A 3-Day Vermont Fall Foliage Itinerary

There’s no doubt that the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding landscape are home to some of the most breathtaking fall scenery in the entire Southeast. However, those who want to beat the crowds while still keeping some of the season’s best colors will find their ultimate fall paradise in Greenville, South Carolina. Set in the foothills of majestic mountains, this SC gem is home to a quaint (but bustling) downtown that also has the best fall colors as its bucolic backdrop.

  • When should we go: Typically, the colors peak around mid-October, depending on elevation.
  • Where to stay: Bohemian Grand Lodge; Modal; Swamp Rabbit Inn and properties; Hilton Greenville
  • Where to eat and drink: Sassafras Southern Bistro; Honey from Tupelo; Jianna; Gateway Bistro; by Larkin
  • Things to do: Fall For Greenville Festival (October 14-16); Table Rock State Park; Paris Mountain State Park; Swamp Rabbit Trail; Falls Park on the Reedy

Pretty Pine Creek Gorge in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is known for its breathtakingly beautiful fall foliage; from the Pocono Mountains region to its top sights like Almost Isle State Park and Allegheny State Forest, let’s face it, Keystone State has no shortage of full fall bounties. But there’s something particularly dramatic about looking at the season’s best foliage from a somewhat dramatic perspective: and that’s where Pine Creek Gorge Also called “the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”, this awe-inspiring place cuts through steep forested hills that are bursting with bright, bold colors throughout the fall. Full of incredibly scenic and breathtaking views all year round, this spectacular park really shines when fall touches the multicolored leaves.

  • When should we go: Peaks generally early to mid-October.
  • Where to stay: Penn Wells Hotel & Lodge; The Old Wellsboro Inn; Canyon Motel; motel
  • Where to eat and drink: The Roost restaurant/pub; Duncan’s Tavern; Timeless destination; Harland Family Style Restaurant
  • Things to do: Tioga State Forest; Leonard Harrison State Park; Colton Point State Park; Pine Creek Rail Trail; PA Grand Canyon Wagon Ride

RELATED: 10 National Parks With Stunning Fall Foliage

The fantastical fall foliage is one of the best parts of fall – watching the leaves reach their vibrant heights during the best vibes of sweater season. But spotting the season’s most scintillating colors doesn’t have to mean battling the crowds. Some of the best places to get a leafy look often fall under the radar when it comes to perennial voyeur lists — and they’re definitely some of the best (somewhat secret) stunners of the season.

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