With October looming and temperatures around the UK plummeting over the past week, autumn is undeniably on its way. Diminishing sunlight and frosty mornings may be one side effect of the seasonal changes, but so is the fiery foliage decorating trees throughout the northern hemisphere at this time of the year.
While New England might lay claim to some of the world’s most spectacular autumn colours, there are plenty of other places to “leaf peep” and enjoy this most striking natural spectacle.
If you take your fall foliage seriously, Vermont is probably the ultimate bucket-list destination for those seeking the ultimate in autumnal splendour. Boasting first-class hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail, the US’s oldest long distance walking route, the Green Mountain State’s many forests and woodland is one of the best ways to spot some incredible colours. For those not keen on hiking, Balloon Vermont offers hot-air balloon rides over the lush mountains and forests below. Woodstock, Burlington and Grafton are all popular bases for exploring this verdant state.
Westonbirt Arboretum holds one of the most beautiful and important plant collections in the world, with over 2,500 species of tree from around the globe and 15,000 specimens. Famous for its autumn colours, this site includes a number of autumn walking trails, including those suitable for kids, pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters, ensuring everyone can admire full moon maples, western thimbleberries and common beech trees.
In addition to the annual springtime cherry blossom bloom, Japan also has an autumnal counterpart in the form of fall foliage. Similarly to the US, leaf colours begin to turn to shades of gold, red and yellow in northern Japan and work their way down with the changing weather. The Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido is not only famous for being one of the country’s best hiking destinations, it’s also the perfect spot to admire the autumnal colours in a practice known as momiji gari. Visitors can appreciate the leaves around Mount Asahi, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido.
Białowieża Forest, Poland
The Poles are proud of their autumnal foliage, to the extent that it has an official title: The Polish Golden Autumn or Złota Polska Jesień. The Białowieża Forest, or Puszcza Białowieska, straddles the border between Poland and Belarus and is the last remaining primeval forest in lowland Europe. While much of the region is under strict protection and only accessible with the company of a guide, the Białowieża National Park includes many walking and cycling trails for visitors to enjoy this special place. The forest contains centuries old oak, elm and lime trees and is recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Those of an adventurous nature should visit the Carpathian Mountains in northern Romania for their fiery leaf fix. In addition to admiring the changing colours of the birch, oak, maple, acacia, larch and pine tree leaves, visitors can also enjoy bird watching, rock climbing, trekking, horse riding and little rainfall at this time of year. The Carpathian Mountain region is the highest mountain region in central Europe; it also includes the Oas-Harghita range, the longest volcanic mountain range in Europe.
Cape Breton Island, Canada
Trees cover almost 80 per cent of Nova Scotia, making it an excellent destination to admire the autumn leaves changing colour. On Cape Breton Island, an annual festival – Celtic Colours International Festival – takes place to coincide with the changing leaves, making this an ideal spot for lovers of Celtic and traditional music. The 185-mile Cabot Trail, which connects eight major communities on the island, is a scenic road named as one of the best road trips in the world by Lonely Planet and is an ideal way to admire the autumn leaves.
Known as Big Tree Country, Perthshire has many dramatic autumn colours at this time of year. The Hermitage, a National Trust for Scotland protected site, houses giant Douglas firs, which are among the tallest trees in the UK. Visitors can walk to the Black Linn Falls and stroll along the banks of the River Braan, where the sharp-eyed can spot salmon leaping up the falls to spawning grounds further up the river.
Forêt d’Orient, France
Located in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, the Forêt d’Orient covers an area of 70,000 hectares and includes three lakes. Forests of hornbeam, oak and pine groves provide ample walking opportunities, while the 27th International Garden Festival takes place until 4 November in Chaumont, an hour’s drive away. Chaumont is also a direct train ride from Paris, making it an ideal option for a weekend break.
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