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New England will forever be linked to fall foliage, but did you know that leaves also change their colors in the South and out West? In fact, many U.S. states hold their own as great places to go leaf peeping. Skip Vermont and instead consider these eight oft-overlooked, but still excellent destinations for autumn leaf peeping. 

RELATED: 10 Orlando “must do” fall foodie events

 

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Credit: Scott Parkin/ Meet Minneapolis

Minnesota
The state known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has some lovely fall scenery too. Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis is home to Minnehaha Falls, a picturesque 53-foot waterfall that’s even more enhanced when its surrounding fauna turns red, gold and bronze. The park also contains picnic areas and biking and hiking trails. Newcomer Gold Medal Park is bringing life—and color—to the revitalized riverfront Mill District. Also, catch autumn leaves aplenty within Theodore With Park, Minneapolis’ largest park. In St. Paul, Fort Snelling State Park is another gem featuring trails and also a lake for canoeing; plus it’s near Minnehaha Falls.
STAY Le Méridien Chambers Minneapolis

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Texas
The Lone Star State goes big with fall colors. South of Amarillo, the canyon walls within Palo Duro Canyon State Park change hues at the end of September and beginning of October. West of San Antonio, Lost Maples State Natural Area safeguards a strand of Uvalde bigtooth maples that become quite the fall spectrum. East of Dallas, Martin Creek Lake State Park’s forest marvels with varieties of hardwoods intermingling with loblolly and short-leaf pine trees, and Lake Bob Sandlin State Park’s cornucopia of oak, hickory, pine, dogwood, redbud and maple burst vibrantly. Meanwhile, Austin’s McKinney Falls State Park’s trails wind along Hill Country woods.
STAY Austin Motel (Austin); Hotel Havana (San Antonio); The Joule (Dallas)

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South Dakota
With diverse landscapes and enchanting national parks, seeing South Dakota’s fall foliage is best experienced via road trip. The state has a number of scenic drives that take in natural wonders of all colors. The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway leads visitors over pigtail bridges, through six rock tunnels and alongside granite pinnacles. Badlands Loop Scenic Byway stretches through the middle of 244,000 acres of parkland and the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in the United States. Also, the 17-mile Iron Mountain Road mandates a speed limit of 35 MPH; encouraging a leisurely ride and unforgettable Mount Rushmore views.
STAY Spearfish Canyon Lodge

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Alabama
Alabama’s fall colors can be best found in North Alabama, beginning in early October and sweeping across the region until early November. Colorful examples include Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, including its 65-foot tall Peavine Falls; Huntsville’s Monte Sano State Park, which offers beautiful views of the Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlooks; and Cheaha State Park in Delta, known as Alabama’s highest point with overhead views that truly go the distance. Scenic drives past state icons like the 90-foot-high Clarkson Covered Bridge, with its adjacent park, in Cullman, or Alabama’s portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a recreational route, also offer changing colors.
STAY Embassy Suites by Hilton Huntsville Hotel & Spa

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California
All across the state, California’s autumn colors travel with the elevations, starting in the highest mountains and descending to the foothills. On the eastern side of the Sierra, starting in mid-September, drive any road heading west off US 395 near June Lakes and Mammoth Lakes to find dense groves of quaking aspens and willows. Yosemite National Park’s maple, dogwood, aspen and oak trees acquire hues of gold, yellow and orange and within Yosemite Valley, stately sugar maples become distinctly red. From September to November, trees on the north side of Lake Tahoe transform with stunning hues; head to Page Meadows, just south of Tahoe City, for trails leading through miles of fall foliage. Napa Valley and Sonoma County’s vineyards change up in color, and the towns of Oak Glen (east of Los Angeles) and Julian (in San Diego county) shine with extensive oak groves and apple farms.
STAY The Village Lodge (Mammoth Lakes); Yosemite Valley Lodge (Yosemite); Calistoga Ranch (Napa Valley)

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Photo: Chattanooga CVB

Tennessee
In the Smoky Mountains, the peak foliage season varies; its highest peaks start around mid-September and mid to lower elevations reach peak peeping between mid-October and early November. With its backdrop of mountain peaks and a lush valley, the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a hit with cyclists, hikers and bikers. For more advanced riders, Foothills Parkway is a low-traffic, yet hilly scenic route while the Tail of the Dragon provides a bit of a tight-knuckled highway ride. The Little River Run is best for cyclists of all ages. Another fall foliage option is Chattanooga. Use the Chattanooga Bike Share System to pedal along a 13-mile paved Riverwalk running along the Tennessee River and through the Bluff View Art District. Mountain bikers can ride the trails at Stringer’s Ridge, Enterprise South Nature Park or on Lookout, Signal or Raccoon mountains. Hop aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad or the Incline Railway for a variety of rides that chug through the beautiful Tennessee valley or straight up Lookout Mountain.
STAY Townsend Gateway Inn

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Photo: TOURISM Santa Fe

New Mexico
Don’t let New Mexico’s semi-arid climate fool you, fall foliage thrives mid-September through mid-October. Golden aspens sparkle across the Sangre de Cristo range to the east of Santa Fe while the city itself is awash in shades of gold, mixed with green and reds just outside of town. The 1.6 million-acre Santa Fe National Forest shines with its mountainous scenery, and trails within a few miles of Santa Fe’s historic downtown area become a swirl of colors thanks to aspen, sycamore, cottonwood and other species. Check out Aspen Vista Trail. Also, the Enchanted Circle’s Scenic Byway connects Taos and Questa with neighboring communities of Red River, Eagle Nest and Angels Nest and Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest point.
STAY Inn at Santa Fe

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Missouri 
The Show Me State shows visitors a thing or two about fall foliage. Cyclists and long distance walkers will find changing foliage at Katy Trail State Park’s Katy Trail, a former railroad that’s now Missouri’s 237-mile biking and hiking trail and spanning most of the state. Branson offers great waterfront views, in particular Table Rock Lake, with its massive shoreline, and Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area, a woodsy trail bordering Lake Taneycomo. Within its metro area, Kansas City has 220 picturesque parks for doing some urban exploring, while Tower Grove Park in St. Louis is graced with hundreds of species of trees, Victorian pavilions and 19th-century sculptures. Thrill seekers will love Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, which houses more than 15 miles of winding trails and the remains of a European-style stone castle. Or go the distance by driving all of Missouri’s 317 miles of historic Route 66.
STAY Lodges at Timber Ridge (Branson); Ambassador Hotel (Kansas City); Magnolia Hotel (St. Louis)

Featured image courtesy of Go Tahoe North

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Tagged: Austin, California, Dallas, Midwest, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas