When pumpkin spice is in the air, it’s hard to resist the urge to hit the road for some wholesome, old-fashioned leaf-peeping. In fact, it’s so hard to resist that nobody actually does resist, resulting in clogged roads and minimal quiet in fall foliage hotspots from New England to the Pacific Northwest.

We don’t begrudge anyone for hitting the highwaysorchards and small towns in search of brilliant colors. But there’s only so far you can go in a car. That’s why we’ve gathered some alternative destinations and activities to add to your autumnal repertoire of classic leaf-peepery. From the romance of the railway to adrenaline-pumping adventure sure to give you a rush while you get the perfect autumn photos, they’ll have you looking at fall-foliage in a different light… and sometimes from tremendous heights.

Soar over the Finger Lakes

New York
New York’s Finger Lakes region is a prime destination for fall colors, but you haven’t truly taken in their beauty unless you’ve done it from the clouds. Balloons Over Letchworth brings a welcome dose of whimsy by loading you into a hot-air balloon, in which you’ll swoop past the magenta-blazed leaves to hover alongside the misty shoulders of Letchworth Park’s waterfalls. While you’re up there, you can scope out a colorful afternoon hike for when you land: There are 66 miles of foliage-dense trails below, including the park’s Autism Nature Trail that offers eight unique sensory stations for comfortable, accessible nature exploration.

Looking for something a little more adrenaline-pumping? Harris Hill Soaring in Elmira offers a unique blend of heart-pounding thrills and zen-like awe with its glider-plane excursions over Chemung County. Seated snugly in a two-seat, zero-engine glider, you’ll be towed far above the colorful treeline, then released to gently glide back to Earth alongside a skilled pilot.

 

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