7 Lesser-Known Fall Foliage Destinations You've Never Visited But Should

These colorful, under-the-radar fall vacations are guaranteed to soothe your spirit.

Nothing says autumn like a long, leisurely drive through Mother Nature's glorious color changes. Roll down the car windows, savor cool autumn breezes, and escape to these fall getaways where autumn's brilliance beckons.

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Lake Champlain Islands, Vermont

Best leaf-peeping drive: Travel past farmland and mountain vistas. Follow route 2 along the islands in the middle of Lake Champlain from Alburg to South Hero. Or start your trip by taking the ferry in either direction from Plattsburgh, New York to Grand Isle, Vermont.

What else to do: Enjoy a stroll on one of the longest beaches on Lake Champlain at , or venture back 480 million years in time at the and , a site first quarried in 1664 by the French. Picnic at the serene grounds of , once site of Samuel Champlain's explorations in 1609.

Where to stay: The boutique with its rustic yet chic decor in downtown Burlington is close to nearby eateries on Church Street. Reserve one of the dog-friendly rooms ahead of time.

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Wild Wonderful West Virginia
Coopers Rock State Forest, West Virginia

 Best leaf-peeping drive: Bands of dramatic rock cliffs line the Cheat River Gorge and offer spectacular panoramas and overlooks, while winding back roads boast eye-catching color. Head southeast of Morgantown off Interstate 68 to . Or drive farther south to follow route 7 past Kingwood or along the backcountry on route 50 to Aurora.

What else to do: Hiking trails of every level of difficulty crisscross the park. The best overlook is on the short path from the Overlook Trading Post. Other easy hikes include Reservoir Loop and Virgin Hemlock Trail through a hemlock grove that's more than 300 years old. For a more relaxed pursuit, visit for a sample of local wines and apple pie moonshine.

Where to stay: The in downtown Morgantown features locally crafted furniture, individually decorated rooms and a rooftop bar. Its central location makes it walkable to nearby restaurants and shops. 

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Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Best leaf-peeping drive: Gorgeous colors appear along routes 41 and 26 . Follow route 41 through the "Tree Tunnel" coming into Copper Harbor, and make a side trip to Brockway Mountain Drive, the highest paved road between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. At the top, there's a stunning 360 degree view of Lake Superior.

What else to do: In Hancock, learn about the region's copper mining history with a surface tour of , and journey seven levels underground into the mine on the cog-rail tram car. Stop at . Or visit at , a restored military outpost dating to 1844.

Where to stay: , where you can tour the 13,000 square-foot-home built in 1908 by one of the region's copper barons. It was built for $50,000 in an age when the copper miners made 25 cents an hour. 

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Aaron Fuhrman Photography
Missouri Ozarks

Best leaf-peeping drive: Rolling hills and pristine rivers along back country roads offer a relaxed amble through some of the state's best fall colors. Take route 19, south of Salem, with side trips east and west on route 106 toward Alley Spring and Eminence.

What else to do: area includes the Current and Jacks Forks Rivers, which are fabulous destinations for tubing, canoeing and kayaking. Explore natural springs in the area such as the spectacular Blue Spring off Route 106 east of Eminence. Hike, fish, bike and paddle in Sinking Creek within 's brand new .

Where to stay: Each room at the new lodge at Echo Bluff State Park has its own balcony with views of the bluff. For larger groups, cabins sleep up to 12 and accommodate pets.

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South Dakota Department of Tourism
Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Best leaf-peeping drive: Follow 20 miles of stunning scenery past 1000-foot-tall pink and grey limestone and shale cliffs, Ponderosa pines, birch, and aspen along the . Start at the mouth of the canyon at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and scenic byway 14A for a .

What else to do:  Along the way, pull off to admire , considered one of the most beautiful spots in the Black Hills. Stop to refresh  yourself with a craft brew at in Spearfish. Nearby, Wild West history comes alive in Lead and Deadwood.

Where to stay: in Lead features log walls, natural artifacts, and charming rooms with fireplaces, or rent the cozy cabin. Pets are welcome, too!

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David Putzier
Cascades Foothills, Oregon

Best leaf-peeping drive: offers brilliant colors, lushly set against the breathtaking backdrop of the . Follow the byway, which connects route 126 in the north and route 58 in the south.

What else to do: Hike the Delta Old Growth Nature Trail, an easy half-mile loop that wends through beautiful old growth forest in Willamette National Forest. Or explore the region's nearby waterfalls , and .  For the more adventurous, book a rafting or fishing trip on the McKenzie River.

Where to stay: in Vida is a charming hideaway with four acres of gardens right on the McKenzie River, a prime spot for fly-fishing.

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Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania

Best leaf-peeping drive: Known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, is a 47-mile-long and 1,000 foot deep chasm surrounded by 165,000 acres of unspoiled forest. Travel along the east rim of the canyon on route 660 to , then head toward route 362 along the west rim toward (get detailed directions from the Leonard Harrison Visitor Center as GPS is not accurate).

What else to do: Take a horse drawn wagon tour at the base of the canyon, or bike the relatively flat Pine Creek Rail Trail. Experienced hikers can tackle the steep descent into the canyon on the Turkey Path Trail in Leonard Harrison, while Barber Rock trail in Colton Point is a relatively easy hike along hard-packed gravel. Watch for eagles, osprey and mergansers because the gorge is one of the best birding areas in the state.

Where to stay: The in downtown Wellsboro offers both modern hotel-style suites in the lodge or charming guest rooms in the historic hotel, which was built in 1869.

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