10 great places to peep at the peak foliage

There are plenty of places besides Vt. and N.H. to explore seasonal foliage.

ByUSA Today

— -- Think fall colors, and the back roads of Vermont and New Hampshire immediately come to mind. But plenty of other locales for exploring seasonal foliage are often overlooked — even in New England. ScottyJohnston, a fall foliage guide with Tauck World Discovery for 47 years, suggests some less familiar places to see autumn's artistry with Kelly DiNardo for USA TODAY.

Brooklyn Botanic GardenBrooklyn, N.Y.

"When you think of fall's colors in New York, you're thinking the Adirondacks and places upstate," Johnston says. "It's surprising to find a place to look at foliage in an urban area." Brooklyn Botanic features 52 acres of gardens filled with 10,000 kinds of trees and plants from around the world. "You'll see things you wouldn't find if you were driving through Queens," he jokes. When to visit: late October and early November. 718-623-7200; bbg.org

Porcupine MountainsMichigan

In the northern section of Michigan's Upper Peninsula is an area of about 60,000 acres along the shores of Lake Superior. "The area has an amazing contrast of colors," Johnston says. "Several hikes offer a panoramic view of the red, orange and yellow mountains with the blue of Lake Superior. There's also an evergreen tree called hemlock, which offers more contrast." When to visit: late September. 906-884-2047; porcupinemountains.com

Crested Butte-GunnisonColorado

"The foliage is a different kind from what we find in the East," Johnston says. "You get three distinct shades along the long slopes. At higher altitudes is the western larch that turns a beige color. At the mid-slope is the aspen tree, which turns a beautiful gold color. When you get down low along the river valley, you have the soft yellow shade of cottonwood." Drive between Crested Butte and Gunnison through the Kebler Pass and along the Gunnison River almost anytime in September for great views. 800-814-7988; gunnisoncrestedbutte.com

Litchfield CountyConnecticut

"The area is virtually overshadowed by Vermont and New Hampshire, but it's part of the Appalachian chain and has beautiful foliage," he says. "There are also antique shops, craft fairs, pumpkin picking and unique items like the covered bridge in Cornwall." When to visit: the third and fourth weeks of October. litchfieldcty.com

United States National ArboretumWashington, D.C.

"China and Japan have amazing foliage," Johnston says. And much of it can be found right here at the National Arboretum: "You'll see things more common in Asia." Drive, bicycle or walk the 446-acre site. When to visit: late October and early November. 202-245-2726; www.usna.usda.gov

The Pig TrailArkansas

The Pig Trail, officially known as Highway 23, cuts 19 miles through the Ozark Mountains between the towns of Ozark and Brashears in northwestern Arkansas. "It's a wiggly old highway that reminded people of a pig tail," Johnston says. "There are abundant good views, and the canopy of the trees form a verdant archway." When to visit: late October and early November. arkansas.com/things-to-do/scenic-drives/pig-trail.asp

Acadia National ParkMaine

"People don't think of the coast as a good foliage spot, but it's just as beautiful," Johnston says. "It's just as beautiful as the scarlets and golds contrast with the blue of the Atlantic. And the colors appear later and last longer because the ocean has a moderating influence." For a spectacular vista, Johnston suggests heading to the summit of the park's Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the Atlantic. Peak season usually starts in mid-October. 207-288-3338; nps.gov/acad

Shenandoah National ParkVirginia

There are amazing places to see autumn's colors all along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile national scenic byway that runs from Virginia into North Carolina, Johnston says. During the third week of October, he suggests heading to Shenandoah National Park, north of the parkway in Virginia. "The fall wildflowers add even more color to autumn's spectacle. There are astor, goldenrod and harebells." 540-999-3500; nps.gov/shen

Santa FeNew Mexico

The Western larch, aspen and cottonwood are the highlight of the foliage near the Sangre de Cristo Mountains outside Santa Fe, Johnston says. Ski Santa Fe offers chairlift rides that offer panoramic views. Fall color is usually at its peak the first two weeks of October. For another aerial view of the foliage, visit Albuquerque during the International Balloon Fiesta Oct. 6-14. 800-777-2489; santafe.org

Lake LouiseAlberta, Canada

The trees are similar to what you'll find in Colorado, but the area offers a stunning contrast of colors. "The lake is a beautiful azure blue," Johnston says. "The fall foliage and the glacier on the other end make it a picture-taker's delight. There's hiking and canoeing. And you might hear the male elk. It's a profound sound when you hear it as you come through the mountains." When to visit: mid- to late September. 403-762-8421; banfflakelouise.com