Summer’s basically gone and winter’s coming – that means it’s time to head to the woods to take in Mother Nature’s fall show.
We’ve picked three areas to take in a little of fall’s striptease. Now if Ma Nature will just cooperate …
For a Texas trip with maximum color intensity, Lost Maples State Natural Area is the place to go. Typically, mid-November is best for viewing the bigtooth maples that make the park famous. Most are tucked in canyons, and you have to hike in to see them, but rangers can usually direct motorists to a few drive-to spots, too. Sometimes the leaves turn all at once and the color lasts only a week; other times the leaves turn in stages in different areas of the park and the show lingers for a month or more.
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“It’s just beautiful,” interpretive ranger Richard Treece says.“You get to see tree colors that you just don’t see other places … the bright fluorescent red these trees turn really sets it off.”
You'll get an eyeful driving to the park, too. Gold-tinged cypress and lacy oaks, along with maroon Texas red oaks, light up the hillsides.
Lost Maples State Natural Area: Foliage reports are posted starting in early October at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks.
Natchez Trace Parkway
Along the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs through parts of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, interpretive ranger Amy Genke says one of her favorite spots is a section of Old Trace Drive at Milepost 375.8, where you can overlook hardwood forests dappled with vibrant red, orange and yellow. Other good roadside stops? Metal Ford at Milepost 382.8 and Swan View Overlook at Milepost 392.5.
“In the Tennessee section especially, the terrain on the parkway starts to change,” Genke says.“You’re almost in the foothills of Appalachians, you start to gain elevation, the roadway itself starts to climb a little more and the trees along the roadway change. For people who want to drive and see colors, it’s a great way to do so.”
Better yet, stop and get out of the car for a short walk or longer day hike. You can even tour it by bicycle.
If you make it to the Water Valley Overlook near Fly, Tenn., stop by the general store, where you might bump into a country music star out picking up a loaf of bread or a six-pack of beer.
Genke’s best prediction for when colors will be in full bloom? Mid- to late October and early November.
Meanwhile, the New England fall foliage season kicks off at the Canadian border in September. Colors move southbound, finally fading away in early November.
In Vermont, some treetops are already tinged with yellow and gold. Book lodging early and hit the roads in mid-week if at all possible.
Another New England hotspot?
The Lake Champlain area. While there, be sure and keep an eye out for a silvery scaled sea monster dubbed Champ. Vermont leaf info: www.vermont.com/foliage.cfm.