Whether we want to admit it or not, summer is coming to a close. The good news: You can finally tackle all those outdoorsy to-dos you’ve been meaning to get to but have avoided because of the heat, crowds, and humidity.
So, open those windows and breathe in some crisp autumn air—it’s time to get out in nature. To help steer you from the crowds and toward a better autumn experience, we’ve rounded up eight great options for under-the-radar places to visit this fall.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Above the mitten is the Upper Peninsula (UP), Michigan’s often-overlooked northern region that’s easily one of the most naturally beautiful areas in all of the Midwest. The UP, which touches three of the five Great Lakes, is a forested region with trees that burst into color each fall.
A can’t-miss spot is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with rock arches, pristine cliffs, and crystal clear water impressive enough to post on your feed. Visit during fall and the already stunning landscape comes to life for a final show before the area’s harsh winter rolls through.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
We can’t exactly call a National Park under the radar, but let’s be honest—unless you live in the Mid-Atlantic area, it’s unlikely you’ll be too familiar with Shenandoah. The 200,000+ acre area of protected lands is absolutely stunning year-round, especially during the fall, where the landscape is a sea of colorful foliage.
With endless hikes and a ridge-line parkway drive that offers plenty of impressive views, this park is a sure-bet for fall travelers looking for a new and memorable destination.
North Adams, Massachusetts
Massachusetts, like most of its Northeastern neighbors, becomes engulfed in color from late September through early December. But the reason North Adams lands on this list is specifically for the ultra cool Tourists, a new hotel and riverside retreat inspired by the classic American motor lodge and reimagined into a chic, 48-room property where good design and the great outdoors meet.
With nature trails and a pool on the property—along with a farm-to-table restaurant and cocktail bar—there’s no shortage of opportunity to get cozy and embrace the changing season.
Though Oregon is indeed an evergreen state, there are still plenty of opportunities to see changing colors each fall. East of Portland, over the Cascade Mountains and in the high desert of Central Oregon, sits Bend, a haven for beer nerds and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Drake Park, in the center of Bend, has a serene landscape accented by maples that turn red each fall. Another spot to check out is Mirror Pond, the namesake of Deschutes Brewery’s most well-known beer.
The Gunks, New York
The Shawanagunk Mountains, known simply as “The Gunks” to rock climbers, are a modest range north of New York City extending from the Catskills to the New York/New Jersey border. The Gunks offers hiking, camping, fishing, and of course, climbing.
Stay at the 150-year-old Mohonk Mountain House and enjoy a bit of luxury, or hit the rock for yourself and get a unique perspective among a forest of changing colors.
Mount Mansfield, Vermont
Each fall, the entire state of Vermont becomes a tourist attraction for leaf-peeping enthusiasts. Luckily, the state is sizable, filled with winding mountain roads and quiet historic towns.
Mount Mansfield offers the opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the region via the aptly named Sunset Ridge Trail. When combined with the Long Trail and CCC Road, the loop lasts just over six miles and reaches a top elevation of 4,342 feet. From that height you’ll have a 36o-degree view of all of Vermont’s fall landscape.
Dixie National Forest, Utah
Dixie National Forest is located in the heart of one of the world’s most unique natural areas. The lesser-known national forest spans nearly two million acres, reaching 170 miles across Utah, and still few outside of its home state have ever heard of it.
Among iconic red sandstone formations, expansive desert landscapes, and towering mountains, you’ll find a range of vegetation that really comes to life in autumn—especially at elevation, where pinyon pine and juniper trees give way to aspens.
Lawrenceburg, located 25 miles west of Lexington, is a small historic town with a big bourbon footprint—it’s home to both Four Roses and Wild Turkey. The town of 10,500 is also home to multiple acclaimed wineries, and reportedly a number of apparitions too, so plan your visit near Halloween, sign up for the local ghost tour, and really make the most of the experience.