Traditionally, we think of New England and the northeast when we think of fall, but the seasons change throughout the country, albeit less dramatically in some parts of the United States. We've picked a few less-than-obvious destinations for fall foliage travel for those who want something different, or who don't live near New England, to make a trip feasible. In some cases, we're early with our reporting that there are no promotions posted just yet on tourism web sitesÂ?just lots of helpful links. Nevertheless, this ought to get you thinking about the three-day weekend you might want to plan in peak season.
Michigan's travel site (tel. 800/644-2489; www.michigan.org) has a section dedicated to foliage, with driving tours, color updates, a hotline and a map-guided estimate for when the leaves change throughout the state. The state sees color as early as the middle of September, in the northeastern most portion, and there are already a few specials on its web site for fall. The Jeep Safari Adventure package at the White Swan Inn in Whitehall (tel. 888/948-7926; www.whiteswaninn.com) takes you on a five-hour journey on unpaved roads, two-track trails, and other adventures. Package starts at $325 with a half day guided safari, gift bag from the Inn, and dinner gift certificate at the nearby Old Channel Inn, located on the shores of Michigan. The special is valid through October 31. McGuire's Color Tour, offered by McGuire Resort (tel. 800/634-7302; www.mcguiresresort.com) in Cadillac, offers two nights' accommodations with breakfast daily, one dinner, a foliage tour map, gift, and bonfire on Saturday night. It is priced at $119 per person based on double occupancy in a standard room, and it is valid September 28 through October 14, 2007. Another offer is called Autumn Moon Special in Mackinaw City, at the Deer Head Inn Bed and Breakfast (tel. 231/436-3337; www.deerhead.com) and is valid September 15-October 15, 2007. The Inn was built in 1913 and has five rooms. The special entitles guests to complimentary hors d'oeuvres on Saturday if you reserve two weekend nights from mid-September to mid-October.
Tennessee (tel. 800/697-4200; http://fall.tnvacation.com) has its own foliage hotline and fall website, which makes sense: The state is home to more than 400 species of deciduous trees, four national parks and 54 state parks. The hotline goes live the first day of autumn, with weekly updates available to callers through November. The site lists possible scenic routes for car, train or even boat, and preplanned suggested itineraries, such as Tennessee for couples, with suggestions for activities (Highland Manor Winery and a visit to Frozen Head State Natural Area) and lodging, such as Grey Gables Bed & Breakfast Inn, located in Rugby. Another itinerary, geared toward families, takes about two-three days and gives you options such as a Great Pumpkin Festival in Jackson and visiting Simmons and Simmons Farm in Brownsville. The helpful tourism site makes it is easy to find places to stay depending on your route; a map makes it easier for the uninitiated.
In Texas (tel. 800/8888-TEX; www.traveltex.com), there are several parks within driving distance of one another in Hill Country, and you can check out the state's Parks and Wildlife web site, which gives you an overview of the foliage throughout the Lone Star state, or information about an individual park, such as the Lost Maples State Natural Area, in Vanderpool, just north of Garner State Park in Concan, another popular destination. Right now, the page tells you that there will be another update in October 2007 and weekly updates through November, but in the meantime, you can look at last year's color reports. Start your search for accommodations at the state's tourism site, which organizes coupons alphabetically by town name; the closest lodging options to Lost Maples are Utopia and Bandera. Currently, there are no promotions listed that specifically target those interested in foliage. But a BedandBreakfast.com (www.bedandbreakfast.com) search for lodging in Hill Country Texas brought up options nearby, such as the lodge Utopia On the River (tel. 830/966-2444; www.utopiaontheriver.com), where off-season rates are $98 for double occupancy rooms. Or look into the rustic, small and romantic Stony Ridge Ranch in Tarpley (tel. 830/562-3542; www.stonyridgeranch.com), within driving distance to the aforementioned nature areas; rates run $165-$210.
On Wyoming's tourism page (tel. 800/225-5996; www.wyomingtourism.org) there's a whole section on the seasons in the regions of the state and a focus on fall foliage, with suggestions for a three-day drive headed west from Laramie to Highway 130, also referred to as Snowy Range Scenic Byway. The road gives you views from up to 11,000 feet of fall color, lakes, and mountains.
There are suggestions for overnight stops at each point, such as Wolf Hotel (tel. 307/326-5525; www.wolfhotel.com) in Saratoga, which dates back to 1893 and has rates starting at just $57 for double occupancy, or the Historic Elk Mountain Hotel (tel. 888/348-7774; www.elkmountainhotel.com), which has packages listed, including the bed and breakfast one, from $125 for Sunday-Thursday stays and $135 for Friday and Saturday.
West Virginia (tel. 800/CALL-WVA; www.wvtourism.com) is a great place for camping and all kinds of outdoor activities, and you can see peak foliage in some parts of the state starting in Iate September through late October, according to the tourism department's online color map. There are links to six different suggested fall driving tours and weekly updates are available by calling its toll-free number. Under visitor information drop-down menu you can find packages, such as the Girls' Getaway offered by Cabins on the Gorge. It's a two-night package priced from $335 per person that includes two meals (a lunch and dinner), a welcome basket with snacks, discount coupons for area shopping and galleries, maps. Cabins on the Gorge is located near the north rim of New River Gorge and Fayetteville. The two and three bedroom cabins can sleep up to eight and come equipped with a full-service kitchen, a large private hot tub, and two bathrooms Optional activities include golfing, spa service, mountain biking, shopping, hiking, whitewater rafting and of course, scenic drives to view the changing colors. Another option is the special at The Gillum House Bed and Breakfast (tel. 888/592-0177; www.gillumhouse.com) in Shinnston, which is geared toward exploring the area's heritage, from covered bridges to crafts such as glassblowing and Civil War history. The package is priced at $375 plus tax, valid through November 1. It includes breakfast, lunch for two packaged to go for a picnic, dinner, and accommodations.
Oregon (tel. 800/547-7842; www.traveloregon.com) has many beautiful places for foliage and several resources. One popular place to view the changes is along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, (tel. 541/308-1700; www.fs.fed.us), which cuts through the Cascade Mountain range. The gorge runs along the border between Washington and Oregon and is known for its waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls. Expect color, historically speaking, mid-September through mid-October. The state's tourism site allows you to search by region for places to stay. South of the gorge area, Lane Country presents other opportunities, and its tourism page (tel. 800/547-5445; www.visitlanecounty.org/foliage/) posts a foliage hotline for the entire state and a color report. Right now it's still showing last year's, but expect updates shortly after Labor Day. There are suggested driving tours along the Williamette Valley, between Portland and Eugene and home to many great wineries, Mt. Hood Loop, and the aspen-loaded Klamath Basin.
In this part of the country, you can rough it and camp or take your RV, you can stay at a cozy inn, or you can go all out and check into a place such as The Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River (tel. 800/345-1921; www.columbiagorgehotel.com). The Fall Into the Gorge special, available August through November, is priced at $315 per person, and includes a garden or river view room, a spa service valued at $195, dinner for two, fruit and cheese plate, bottle of Oregon pinot noir, farm breakfast for two, gift shop credit for two. Regular rates for weeknights start from $199; weekend rates start from $229. To immerse yourself in nature, Summit Meadow Cabins (tel. 503/272-3494; www.summitmeadow.com) has a special for fall hikers that includes a two-night stay, with use of the Northwest Forest Pass (required at most trailheads), and a copy of Hikes and Walks on Mt. Hood. The five cabins to choose from, depending on the size of your group are located in private land near the trails and local attractions. The price will vary depending on the day of your stay and the cabin size, but one of the smaller cabins runs about $300 for a two-night midweek stay, and the largest cabin, which easily sleeps ten, costs about $530 for two nights on the weekends. The package price is valid for stays through November 15.
Railroad enthusiasts might be interested in excursion trains in northeast Oregon on the Eagle Tap Excursion Train northeast of La Grande. Two fall foliage trips (tel. 800.323.7330; www.eaglecaptrain.com) are scheduled, one departing from Elgin and the other from Wallowa, on October 6 and 13 respectively, in the morning. You will travel along the Wallowa and Grande Ronde Rivers, through canyons, open meadows and ridges. The trip includes lunch, a photo drive-by, and is priced at $65 for adults, $55 for seniors and $35 for children.Do you know a spot we left out that's worthy of mention? Jump over to our Road Trip Message Boards to share your thoughts.