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6 breathtaking leaf-peeping flights

Most of the trees in the United States are predicted to display their peak fall colors during October, according to the Farmers’ Almanac, so start planning your fall foliage flights.

Photo by Jim Moore.

Peak color is predicted earliest in northern Vermont, starting September 24, followed by central Montana, inland New Hampshire, New Mexico, and New York on September 28. The full splendor of color is expected to be on display the latest in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, starting November 2.

Here are six areas perfect for weekend getaway leaf-peeping flights.

Acadia National Park in Maine: Fly around Mount Desert Island, see the colors on Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain, and view Bar Harbor from the air to enjoy this New England destination’s fall foliage. Locals also recommend hiking Cadillac Mountain. The area makes a great place to spend a weekend exploring nature and the town.

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia: The national park is known for its Skyline Drive, a 105-mile scenic road that offers stunning views. Fly over the park to get a more encompassing view of the fall colors. If you want to make a day or weekend of it, visit Harrisonburg, a small town that’s also home to James Madison University, or go underground to tour Luray Caverns, a Registered Natural Landmark, in Luray. The Luray Caverns Airport is nestled in a valley, so you’ll be able to enjoy the fall foliage just off your wing as you fly the traffic pattern to land (the airport will provide transportation to the caverns).

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee: Because of the elevation change in the Great Smoky Mountains, the fall color window lasts for several weeks from mid-September to early November. The trees on the peaks change color first, typically yellow, and those at the base turn last with varying shades, according to the National Park Service. To make it a weekend getaway, check out Pigeon Forge, its Old Mill district, Dollywood, and the Tennessee Museum of Aviation.

Ozark Mountains in Arkansas: The Ozark Mountain region is one of the best to view autumn leaves in Arkansas. For those who might enjoy a little backcountry flying during the fall peak, explore the Fly Oz network of 64 airstrips near Bentonville.

Rocky Mountains in Colorado: Explore the San Juan mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado by air for a fall foliage flight that can’t be beat. Then land at Telluride Regional Airport and take in the outdoor adventures and small-town vibes of Telluride and Mountain Village, which are connected by a gondola.

San Juan Islands in Washington: The San Juan Islands are a pilot’s paradise any time of year, and autumn is as beautiful a time as any to check them out. Condé Nast Traveler included the San Juan Islands on its list of 13 scenic places for fall foliage that aren’t in New England. If you make a weekend escape out of it, you won’t be disappointed. Here are a few fun activities.

For more inspiration, check out the Farmers’ Almanac’s recommended best places to view the leaves in seven different regions in the United States. And use the AOPA Airports and Destinations Directory to find airports that might have fun leaf-peeping activities nearby. We created a list of airports with fun outdoor activities that includes airports with nearby hiking and walking opportunities, some of which are in ideal areas for admiring the changing colors of autumn.

Wherever you go, be sure to have your camera handy to capture the fall splendor. We offer 11 tips for capturing the perfect picture.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb began working at AOPA in 2004, is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and son. Alyssa is also co-host of AOPA Live This Week.
Topics: Travel, US Travel

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