Fall foliage, in most parts of the United States, has reached peak status, with blazing auburn, gold and orange leaves on full display. If you’re eager to squeeze in one more leaf-peeping adventure in 2023, or you want to plan an epic fall foliage excursion for next year, why not switch up your perspective and take in the gorgeous colors from above?
Ahead, five ways to take your leaf peeping to new heights.
1. Take Flight in a Hot Air Balloon
Float up in the sky in a hot air balloon and peer over your basket at the leaves, which almost look like a paint-by-number mural with a palette of amber, saffron and scarlet. Skyline Lodge in Highlands, North Carolina offers a hot air balloon package with rides over the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is home to more than 100 native tree species. Or, to see peak fall colors in New York at their finest, take flight in a hot air balloon ride at Letchworth State Park, which is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East. Trips with Balloon Rides Over Letchworth shows off waterfall views, too.
2. Go Leaf Peeping in a Jet
For an over-the-top, above-the-treeline fall foliage trip, you can charter a private jet with Wheels Up. The private aviation company leads customizable leaf peeping flights above some of the most iconic fall foliage destinations, including the Catskill Mountains, Stowe, Vermont, Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado and Taos, New Mexico that’s filled with Aspen stands.
3. Hike to a Fire Tower
In the 1930s, more than 5,000 fire towers existed throughout the United States, serving as lookouts for “smoke chasers” to spot and monitor wildfires. The use of helicopters and infrared technology has pushed fire towers into retirement, but there’s 200 or so throughout the country that people can book for overnight camping accommodations. Fire towers, like the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower near Bloomington, Indiana, also make a great observation tower for leaf peeping. Climb 133 steps to the top of Hickory Ridge Fire Tower and you’re rewarded with views of fall-toned tree tops.
4. Ride a Mountain Coaster
Dozens of mountain resorts and towns have extended their seasons by adding rides, like mountain coasters you can control with a handbrake. That means you can zip through the trees at a high speed, or slow down and take in the color. But for a high-adrenaline leaf-peeping adventure, take a ride on Defiance, a new eight-seat rollercoaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. If you can keep your eyes, open during the minute-long ride, take in the sights (sometimes from an upside-down POV) of Mount Sopris and Glenwood Canyon. The tram ride to and from the mountain-top park (pictured) provides a slower-paced opportunity to take in the crimson red canyon views and golden leaves.
5. See the Fall Colors from Michigan’s Skybridge
Peak colors in Michigan have arrived. At 1,200 feet long, SkyBridge Michigan bills itself as the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge, and it makes a great spot to see peak fall foliage. Leaf peepers can enjoy panoramic views and get above-the-tree line photos of the brilliant Michigan colors from the bridge, all while suspended 118 feet in the air. The bridge, which is located at Boyne Mountain Resort, has a glass-covered section that offers 360-degree views of the fiery foliage.