Fall into these lakeside destinations to make the most of your autumn travels
Whether you want to hike amid the best of Mother Nature’s colorful leaves, or get cozy by a lakeside fire pit, we’ll help you find your perfect fall getaway destination. By Paul Oswell | September 17, 2021
Fall brings to mind pumpkin patches, colorful leaves, cozy fireplaces, calming canoe rides and hot apple cider. What’s not to love? Temperatures cool, there’s a crispness in the air and Mother Nature puts on a spectacular show as greens turn into oranges, reds and ambers all across the countryside. Some of the best autumn travel destinations in the country are by scenic bodies of water, and lakeside vacations will delight anyone who loves this time of year.
We’ve taken a look at some of our favorite lakeside travel destinations that will deliver a memorable vacation with activities like:
Leaf peeping: We checked the fall foliage forecast, and these destinations offer some serious scenic opportunities to revel in autumn’s changing colors
Hiking through woodlands: Get back to nature and trail blaze through the forest to see a variety of trees and wildlife
Wine-ing down at sun down: There is nothing quite like the sun setting across a lake (fireside with a glass of wine, of course)
Lake Bemidji, Minnesota
As autumn arrives, Lake Bemidji State Park’s colors are truly magnificent. Walking trails, including the popular Paul Bunyan State Trail, snake through the woodlands, lined with sugar maple, black spruce and birch trees. Look up to spot majestic eagles and herons, and around for curious deer and even the occasional black bear. The lake itself is a headwater for the Mississippi River, and is equally alluring. Paddle around in a kayak or canoe, or fish for walleye or muskellunge. Rent a bicycle and take a spin around the lake’s shores for a memorable fall adventure.
Lake Flower and Lake Placid, New York
The Adirondack’s forested mountains are beautiful at any time, but in the fall, the foliage blooms into dazzling colors. The majestic scenery makes this area a premium fall vacation spot, with the foliage moving like a wave of color across the park’s regions. Saranac Lake is one of the first places to glow with autumn pride. Outdoor pursuits include hiking, fishing and golfing, or you can relax by the cozy fire pits and take in the views across the lake. Lake Placid is also an area where red maple, black cherry and white ash trees burst into vivid panoramas.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Straddling the US-Canadian border in northern Vermont, Lake Champlain is an ideal getaway for autumn lovers. You will find apple and pumpkin picking, live music festivals and leaf peeping right at your doorstep. The 87 nature trails across the Champlain Valley are good for beginners to adventurous hikers alike, and there’s no better way to take in the foliage than by going for a trek among the trees.
Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Fall doesn’t just happen on the East Coast, and autumn vacation destinations such as Hot Springs, Arkansas, have their own vibrant natural colors to show off as the seasons change. Lake Hamilton is surrounded by some of the most glorious scenery. Spend a day hiking through the Ouachita Mountains or Hot Springs National Park, and then recover in the soothing thermal pools of Bathhouse Row. Or, book a trip on the Belle of Hot Springs riverboat to see Mother Nature’s show from the water.
Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada
The California-Nevada border may not seem like the most obvious location for America's largest alpine lake, but Lake Tahoe’s 6,200-foot (around 1890 meters) elevation wins that title. A fall vacation in Lake Tahoe has many advantages. You’re a short drive from Hope Valley's stunning groves of trees showing off their fiery fall colors. Hike to Maggie's Peaks for exceptionally memorable views across Emerald Bay, or, if you’re feeling up to the challenge, climb the northern or southern peaks for a reward of scenery that’s somehow even more magnificent. Head to the shores to watch kokanee salmon swim upstream to spawn in the creeks, or paddle around in a canoe or kayak. You can also take a steamboat tour aboard the Tahoe Queen or M.S. Dixie II.
Lake Powell, Arizona
There might not be the natural fireworks of changing tree colors in Lake Powell, Arizona, but visiting in the autumn offers a memorable alternative to visitors in the know. The stunning sandstone rock formations glow red and purple in the soft fall sunlight. The waters of the lake itself are still warm enough to swim in, and the shores are an idyllic spot for huddling around a campfire as the sun sets. Temperatures are perfect for long hikes around the lakes, or take to the waters on a calm boat tour that shows off the best of the region’s sculpted geology.
Create your fall vacation memories of long hikes beneath colorful forest canopies, sunsets across still lakes and cozy nights at the campfire. All of these autumn destinations have their own natural charms, and staying at a lakeside location means that the best of nature’s fall colors are laid out right before you. Feel the leaves crunch under your feet, inhale the clean forest air and let the tranquility of the lakes wash over you for a truly memorable trip.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”