Leaf Peeping 101: The Ins and Outs of Foliage Tourism


By Evan Wade

There’s a reason domestic nature-based tourism is becoming such a large industry. In a country as expansive and geographically diverse as the United States, you’re never too far from a region that looks completely different from the one you live in.

Enter leaf peeping. As more people come to appreciate the beauty of turning leaves, it has become increasingly popular to visit new locales to see peak fall foliage. In the right setting, with the right lighting, the sight of a million blazing leaves can make for a serene—and even surreal—kind of beauty.

Prepare Like a Leaf-Peeping Pro

Indeed, the foliage vacation has become a science among aficionados, many of whom gather online to help each other plan for the next season. Among these fans, Northeast/New England states such as New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine are widely considered to be among the best territories to see peak fall foliage; however, the Midwest and South are also popular, among other regions.

By picking a hotel chain with a large national presence—the Wyndham Hotel Group, for instance, which offers several locations in popular leaf-tourism states, including prime Northeastern destinations—you can ensure that you’ll have a home base for early-morning trips to see the leaves. Seeing as the best viewing usually occurs in the crisp early-morning hours, the only alternative to visiting a faraway locale is tiring yourself out by leaving at night.

Further, rental car aggregation services such as Expedia can help remove more stress from the trip. Whether you live far away from your leaf-viewing target or you just don’t want to put the strain of pulling on and off the road on your car—often into unpaved fields or other potential wear-and-tear conditions—a rental with extra insurance offers more opportunity to enjoy the leaves you traveled to see.

Tips and Tools to Enjoy Your Trip

During a leaf-viewing road trip, your best friends are a calendar and a smart plan. Conventional knowledge says the colors begin to change in early September, starting in the northernmost states (New Hampshire and Maine, for instance) and moving southward. This knowledge, along with tips from experienced peeping communities, can help you catch the blazing leaves at the best times.

Once you have your itinerary locked, hotel settled, and rental car lined up, knowing how to get to your planned sites is a primary concern. The TomTom GO 60 6-Inch Automotive GPS offers easy navigation and a large screen for quick pathfinding over unfamiliar (and often winding) roads; further, a dedicated sat-nav unit may get signal in the extremely rural areas most popular among leaf-watching fans, which can, in turn, help you avoid the stress of losing a navigation signal on your phone. Those rural highways can be tricky to navigate without help!

By the same token, a dedicated camera will often take far better pictures than the average smartphone. If you’re interested in nature photography and want to give yourself the best chance at stunning leaf photography, Nikon’s D3300 24.2 megapixel digital SLR camera comes out of the box with more than enough tools and configuration options to capture the perfect shot. A phone is nice and all, but let’s get real: Leaf peeping is serious business, and that includes the photos you take.

Enjoy the Fall

Above all else, the online leaf-viewing community is helpful to newcomers and eager to share information. A quick email or forum post may be all you need to find the perfect peeping opportunity for your fall vacation. If you’re planning on going the national-forest route, you can also inquire with the U.S. Forest Service online or over the phone (1-800-354-4595). Whatever you do, don’t let a lack of planning or foresight ruin your peeping fun—the best trips are well-researched ones, after all. Happy leaf peeping!



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