Everything you need for your leaf peeping trip

Travel Essentials

Sunrise can be a unique time for leaf peeping, as you’re more likely to be rewarded with misty valleys and impressive sunbeams.

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Which items do you need for your leaf peeping trip?

The initial shift from the deep greens of summer to the beautiful red, orange and yellow hues of fall signals the start of leaf peeping season. Whether you’re looking for a quaint New England getaway or a drive through the brightly colored Rocky Mountains, there are a number of leaf peeping areas offering breathtaking and memorable views of the foliage.

Before heading out on your trip, be sure you pack all the necessary accessories and equipment to help make the most of your experience. From binoculars to an insulated thermos, these top leaf peeping items are ideal for any fall vacation. 

Tips for planning a leaf peeping trip

Choose your region

The first step when planning any leaf peeping trip is to carefully choose the location. 

New England has a reputation for its impressive and eye-catching fall foliage, which is why Vermont leaf peeping and New Hampshire leaf peeping have become so popular. However, all the New England states, from the mountains of Maine to the coast of Rhode Island offer spectacular autumn scenery. 

The Mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania offer just as majestic an experience, with the Adirondack, Catskill and Pocono Mountains as some of the best destinations. Further south, the areas surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains showcase their colors later into the season.

Across the Great Lakes Region, states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota show off a stunning display of colors and crisp, clear weather. 

The changing Aspen leaves that turn a radiant yellow cover large patches of the Rocky Mountains from Colorado and Utah to New Mexico. This region offers the most dramatic scenery with towering peaks and steep canyons. However, mountain weather can sometimes be unpredictable.

Know when to go

Prime leaf peeping dates vary depending on the region, altitude and other environmental factors. Many common leaf peeping destinations feature convenient color changing maps, so be sure to check for local leaf peeping 2021 updates. In general, the end of September through October is your best bet. 

Plan ahead

Hotels and other lodging accommodations can fill up quickly around poplar leaf peeping destinations, so try to plan ahead in order to avoid any stressful situations.

Take your time

You may be tempted to try to see it all, but you’ll likely want to take some time to explore off the beaten path or take a hike through the changing leaves, so give yourself enough time to fully enjoy the experience.

Be prepared 

Don’t leave home without a few essential leaf peeping items. Fall weather isn’t always the most reliable, so packing a variety of clothing helps you adjust to whatever the weather throws at you. 

What should you bring leaf peeping?

Insulated thermos

Stanley Classic Vacuum-Insulated Wide-Mouth Bottle

Stanley Classic Vacuum-Insulated Wide-Mouth Bottle

For chilly fall days spent outdoors, an insulated thermos helps keep your coffee, tea or hot cider warm for hours. This Stanley bottle is fully leakproof and features a handy lid that you can use as a cup.

Sold by Amazon and Backcountry 

Guidebooks

Fodor's New England

Fodor’s New England

Yes, you can find a lot of leaf peeping information online, but having a comprehensive guidebook that features detailed itineraries, local maps and thoughtful recommendations is convenient for times when you find yourself without cell service.

Sold by Amazon

Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees Eastern Region

Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region

For any true nature lover, having a field guide can help you to effectively identify different species of plants and trees, while providing further information to enhance your trip. This Audubon edition provides beautiful pictures of both summer and autumn foliage.

Sold by Amazon

Binoculars

Occer Compact Binoculars With Clear Low-Light Vision

Occer Compact Binoculars With Clear Low-Light Vision

These Occer travel binoculars can easily fit in your bag and are built using a durable and waterproof plastic, making them great for all weather conditions. The 12x magnification lets you get an up-close and personal view of faraway leaves and distant groves.

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Gloves

The North Face Etip Recycled Glove

The North Face Etip Recycled Glove

Depending on your location, you may not need a pair of gloves, but for chilly fall mornings and nights, these lightweight gloves are a perfect solution. The Etip design means you can still use your phone or other touch-screen devices without having to remove them.

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon

Hat

Carhartt Watch Hat

Carhartt Watch Hat

With unpredictable weather, it’s always better to be prepared than to be exposed to the elements. The acrylic Carhartt Watch Hat is a stylish, comfortable and warm way to keep your head and ears covered when the temperature drops.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods 

Bug spray 

Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent

Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent

Pesky summer insects such as mosquitoes, flies and ticks likely won’t be as bothersome later in the season, but they can still be a nuisance for some early leaf peepers. This milder formula uses 7% DEET and even contains aloe and vitamin E to help soften your skin.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot 

Camera

Canon EOS 4000D Digital SLR Camera

Canon EOS 4000D Digital SLR Camera

For some leaf peepers, a cellphone camera may do the trick, but for anyone wanting to capture the stunning scenery in vivid detail, this Canon DSLR camera is a great entry-level option for aspiring photographers. This convenient bundle includes everything you need from lenses and memory cards to a tripod.

Sold by Amazon

Layers

BALEAF Packable Outdoor Rain Jacket

BALEAF Packable Outdoor Rain Jacket

Even on rainy days, leaf peeping can be beautiful, so don’t let the weather put a damper on your plans. This packable and affordable rain jacket is easy to throw in your pack and forget about until you need it.

Sold by Amazon

Columbia Men's Steens Mountain 2.0 Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

Columbia Men’s Steens Mountain 2.0 Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

A soft and warm fleece jacket can act as a mid-layer on exceptionally cold days or as a cozy outer layer when there’s a slight chill in the air. This model is machine washable and includes two side hand pockets.

Sold by Amazon

Columbia Women's Fast Trek II Full-Zip Soft Fleece Jacket

Columbia Women’s Fast Trek II Full-Zip Soft Fleece Jacket

Similar to the men’s model but with an additional zippered side sleeve pocket for small essentials, this Columbia jacket is the ideal companion for all of your fall adventures.

Sold by Amazon

Sturdy footwear

Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Shoes

Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Shoes

Taking scenic drives through the heart of leaf peeping country is always enjoyable, but wandering down a trail and immersing yourself in the bright colors can add an extra element to your trip. These breathable waterproof hiking shoes keep your feet dry while also providing a sturdy grip on uneven terrain.

Sold by Amazon in men’s and women’s sizes

 

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