When we think fall, we think foliage — the brighter, the better. Sure, a lazy October afternoon walk through a charming Vermont town is the classic way to take in the showy orange and red displays, but the best way to experience fall is with outdoor activities. And don't limit your leaf peeping to New England.
From New Mexico to New York, here are nine ways you can putt, putter and paddle your way through spectacular autumn scenery.
1. Zip through the trees in the Smoky Mountains
The Smokies, on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, are the perfect place to hit the heights on a zipline. Moving from the mountains early in the season to the foothills later, bright colors change the landscape for seven full weeks.
2. Cast a fly in Aspen, Colorado
Take to the rivers in early October and enjoy some late-season fly fishing on the Roaring Fork River. The Little Nell, a five-star resort in Aspen, offers a gourmet guide service that includes lunch served streamside, with wine paired by a master sommelier, for an extremely civilized morning or afternoon in the mountains.
3. Bike across a covered bridge in Eugene, Oregon
Oregon has the largest collection of covered bridges west of the Mississippi, and the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region is home to 20, dating back to as early as 1920; many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Oregon Fall Foliage Blog (updated weekly) reports on the best spots for great hikes, drives and picnics.
4. Chug up a mountain in New Hampshire's White Mountains
The legendary Mount Washington Cog Railway climbs New England's highest peak from its base in Bretton Woods. Columbus Day weekend is often the focal point of fall foliage excursions.
5. Tour a catwalk in southern West Virginia
Eight hundred seventy-six feet above a canyon, the New River Gorge Bridge is the world's fourth-longest steel single-span arch bridge. From the top of the catwalk, take in panoramic views of the fall foliage — the best in the area. Because a safety system is in place, seniors and disabled guests are welcome.
6. Paddle a kayak in Traverse City, Michigan
Most of northern Michigan's rivers are tame enough for even novice paddlers, with just enough current to keep things interesting; the Boardman, the Crystal and the Platte are particular favorites, and they're spectacular in fall.
7. Hike through a forest in Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Santa Fe National Forest is a 1.6 million-acre playground covered in hiking trails through huge aspen stands that turn golden in the fall. Dozens of trails offer everything from an easy stroll to a strenuous climb.
8. Play nine holes in Cooperstown, New York
The Otesaga Resort Hotel's 18-hole Leatherstocking Golf Course sweeps along the beautiful western shoreline of Lake Otsego. Audubon International officially designated the course a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, meaning it is a stunning place to chip and putt when foliage peaks in late September to early October.
9. Fly through the sky in a hot-air balloon in Charlottesville, Virginia
At the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville's foliage turns bright from mid-October through mid-November. On a sunset flight, it's even more impressive.
Lisa McElroy is a freelance writer and law professor who covers travel and the Supreme Court.