By Andrew Henley, Vice President American Flyers
Fall is my favorite time of the year. From the leaves changing color to the crispness in the air, fall provides wonderful opportunities for those that want to take advantage of all that autumn has to offer. For pilots, it is an amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of fall’s raw beauty – from the air.
Fall is a different season all around the United States. For those up north, you get to see the color change. For those in the south, you don’t get to see a dramatic color change, but you do see a drastic change in temperature (a welcome relief from the hot and humid summer). Regardless of your location, you can always find a beautiful fall destination.
Beyond the beauty of fall, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about autumn flying: lower temperatures (for those without air conditioning), better weather, beautiful scenery, and better airplane performance. For those of you looking to get out there and enjoy fall flying, here is my ultimate bucket list of places to fly to during the autumn season.
EAST COAST: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Here, you will see the first color change take place around mid-September (especially in the higher elevations). Fly into Shenandoah Regional airport, KSHD. The airport is located in Weyers Cave, VA about 10 to 12 miles northeast of Staunton. This national park is my top pick for the area due to its location on the East Coast. You’ll be able to get there in less than a day from places like Florida and Maine.
While you’re here, you’re also just a short flight to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Be sure to check out Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, N.C., and Eastern Tennessee.
MIDWEST: Upper Peninsula, Michigan
For the people that have been to Door County, Wisconsin, and are wondering why that’s not number one on my list, you’ll have to forgive me. At the very least, you’ll be able to look out the window and see Door County on your way to the Upper Peninsula. For those that have not been to the Upper Peninsula, fall is the perfect way to see its’ beautiful shores and colorful forests. I recommend flying into Sawyer International Airport (KMQT) in Marquette. The Upper Peninsula offers a wide variety of fall activities ranging from apple orchards, pumpkin picking, and my favorite fall activity– corn mazes.
WEST COAST: Julian, California
For those that call the west coast home, I highly recommend a trip to Julian, California. To get there, you can either fly into San Diego (41 miles away) or Palm Springs (52 miles away). Once you arrive at the airport, grab a crew or rental car and make your way to Julian, an old gold miner’s town. Once you get there, you’ll know why a small town in Southern California made my list. From the Cuyamaca mountains to main street, this small town will definitely provide you with all that fall has to offer.
From coast to coast, you’ll notice that there are plenty of opportunities to see fall colors in action. My list could have included another 100 recommendations, but I had to whittle it down to accessible airports from the western, central, and eastern regions of the United States. It’s also a list of some of my favorite places to experience fall in the United States. Here are a few more locations that did not make the list:
- Albany, New York
- Denali National Park, Alaska
- Aspen, Colorado
- The Poconos, Pennsylvania
Wherever your fall travels take you, I hope you fly confident and safe. Enjoy the colors and remember to encourage those around you to support general aviation!