Head East for a Brilliant Autumn

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Witnessing the fall foliage in the East is sure to be a bucket list item, especially when you consider the charming local towns and covered bridges, wildlife viewing, paddling and leisurely urban walks. From our Nation's Capital to South Carolina this ranger-crafted list offers a variety of experiences for leaf-peepers. 


5 prime public lands locations for Fall's vivid display

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge


Carmans River lined with fall foliage.

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)

Looking for a serene get-away? Visit Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in New York. “Fall is that magical time on the refuge when the oppressive summer heat has finally abated, the frenetic nesting season has passed, and the natural world takes a quiet, reflective pause,” says Ann Marie Chapman, visitor services manager at the refuge on Long Island’s South Shore. “The refuge offers a feast for all the senses: dazzling colors, delicious scents, soft breezes and a quiet chatter all provide the attentive visitor with an enchanting experience.”         

John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge


The boardwalk at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum winds through wetlands.

John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)

Will you be in Philadelphia this fall? Take a walk along the boardwalk or a trail at John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is about 10 miles (16 km) south of downtown, just across I-95 from Philadelphia International Airport. It features 10 miles (16 km) of walking trails and 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of canoe/kayak trails through tidal Darby Creek. Want more? Check out this list and Fall for Autumn on Northeast Refuges.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park


Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Michele Filon, Share the Experience)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Michele Filon, Share the Experience)

Fall colors abound in Cuyahoga. Spend quality time outdoors with family or friends and reserve one of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Picnic Shelters for your group. There’s plenty of things to keep everyone on the move and happy. Most shelter areas have open fields for games and nearby hiking trails. You can ride the scenic railroad, check out visitor centers, attend a ranger-guided program or bike Towpath Trail. Learn about American Indian inhabitants and how history runs deep here with over 12,000 years of human occupation. From unwritten stories of prehistoric peoples to modern day environmental disasters and comebacks humans have left an impact on the valley. Get ready for a memorable experience!

National Capital Area


Fall colors paint a picturesque backdrop in Prince William Forest Park.

Prince William Forest Park (Judy Gallagher, Share the Experience)

Live near DC? Take kids on a weekend campout to Prince William Forest Park or to Catoctin Mountain Park, both easy places for beginners to bring home a story about their first overnighter. Walk Prince William’s 37 miles (59.5 km) of trails, the most extensive hiking trail network in Northern Virginia.

Vibrant orange, yellows and reds make a gorgeous backdrop for your fall picnic. You can book reservable picnic pavilions and sites at Prince William Forest Park, Rock Creek Park and Carderock for your next get-together. Combine biking and hiking on the Mount Vernon Trail with a picnic at Fort Hunt along the George Washington Memorial Parkway

For an easy day trip from DC, visit George Washington Birthplace National Monument, a peaceful setting to learn about history and a great spot to go canoeing, kayaking or fishing. The picnic area has a number of tables and grills for your fall gatherings, for larger groups, book the picnic pavilion. The picnic spot sits on a bluff overlooking the mouth of Pope's Creek with views of the Potomac River. You can also bike ride on park roads or go bird watching in the park.

Congaree National Park


A family paddles down the Congaree on a warm November day.

Congaree National Park (Kaitlyn Schwartz, Share the Experience)

You’ll discover unique plants and wildlife in the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining the southeastern United States at Congaree National Park. With over 25 miles (40.2 km) of hiking trails and 2.4 miles (3.8 km) of boardwalk you are bound to find your favorite places to explore this fall. Capture your family enjoying nature then submit your favorite photo to the Share the Experience Photo Contest.

With the season’s cooler temperatures, canoeing, hiking, fishing and camping are just a few recreational options for autumn. Reserve a tent camping site at Longleaf Campground or Bluff Campground. A marked water trail invites you to paddle miles of quiet waterways in a canoe or kayak. Book your reservation now to join aCongaree National Park Ranger-Guided Canoe Toursduring your stay. 

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