Rake It All In: 5 Leaf-Peeping Vacations


Sign up for
Exclusive Offers

Get exclusive travel news and offers from the Xanterra Travel Collection

Fall for these fabulous foliage trips in New England, Canada, and Arizona

Posted by: Xanterra on August 13, 2019

With the highest percentage of maple trees in the country, Vermont has declared itself the home of the World’s Best Foliage.

Crisp, cool weather. Brilliant foliage. Fewer crowds. And lively harvest festivals. Autumn is the ideal time to get away from it all. From New England’s majestic leaf pageantry to a fall cruise along the Canadian coast to a train trip to the Grand Canyon, here are five tours just perfect for enjoying autumn leaves.

Vermont in Autumn

Hiking or Biking Vermont

Enjoy New England’s grandest of spectacles — the autumn leaf-turning pageantry — on a six-day walking tour with Country Walkers, “Vermont: Fall Foliage” or a six-day biking tour with VBT, “Vermont: Lake Champlain Islands, Burlington & Stowe.” There’s no better way to experience the essence of Vermont’s rural charm than by hiking or biking its gentle hills, scenic lakes, and picturesque towns with names like Norwich, Woodstock, and Stowe. Slow down and enjoy the quiet splendor of the state’s famous maple trees (syrup on everything, please!) and learn about the art of maple sugaring on its working family farms. Exult in the artist’s palette of flaming reds, buttery yellows, and blazing oranges as the maples shed their leaves. With the highest percentage of maple trees in the country, Vermont has declared itself home of the World’s Best Foliage.


Cruising the Canadian Coast

Witness the vibrant beauty of fall along the East Coast of the United States and Canada on a 10-day itinerary with Windstar Cruises, “Southeast Canadian Explorations.” On a small-ship Windstar vessel, with no more than 315 passengers, you’ll enjoy highlights of New England and the eastern Canadian coast. Cruise along the gorgeous Maine shoreline, past scenic Bar Harbor, Portland, and Acadia National Park, with more than 50 square miles of mountains, lakes, forests, soaring granite cliffs, and lovely leafy views. Take in Montreal’s architectural landmarks, Quebec City’s French heritage, Prince Edward Island’s distinctive charm (and inspiration for Anne of Green Gables), and Nova Scotia’s bucolic scenery. Step ashore at one beautiful Canadian town after another — Charlottetown, Gaspe, Halifax, and Saguenay — and marvel at the lakes, rivers, valleys, and hills that burst with fall color.

Niagara Falls

Touring New England by Coach

Visit New England in comfort on a 12-day coach tour with Holiday Vacations, “Autumn in New England.” Watch the leaves put on their annual show in this scenic part of the country. After seeing the major sites in New York City and Boston, discover colonial towns such as Salem, Mass., and Canterbury Shaker Village, N.H., and natural attractions set amid Insta-worthy lakes and mountains. In Vermont, visit maple farms, cider mills, and state parks and take a ferry ride on Lake Champlain. End the tour at iconic Niagara Falls, wrapped in fabulous fall foliage.

Kids watching cowboys from the train

Riding the Rails to the Grand Canyon

If you are lucky enough to visit Grand Canyon National Park between September and November, you’ll see this natural wonder in what may be its best season — with fewer visitors and in crisp fall light. But arriving via the Grand Canyon Railway makes it extra special.

The train sets off each morning from the historic town of Williams, Ariz., on a 65-mile journey north to Grand Canyon National Park. On a trip lasting more than two hours, you’ll travel up and over Arizona’s 5,000-foot-high Colorado Plateau, passing the high desert along the way, before arriving at the canyon’s South Rim. Fall’s bright blue skies help set off the grand landscapes, where bright yellow, orange, and red aspens take center stage, supported by cottonwoods, canyon maple, and ash.

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the classic train takes on a new name as the historic rail cars are transformed into the Pumpkin Patch Train for families. It’s a fantasy ride through the countryside en route to a secret destination that only the Grand Canyon Railway can reach.

How to Explore

On Foot

For more than 40 years, Country Walkers has provided active, immersive, and unforgettable travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.

By Bike

VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations offer more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 27 different countries and 10 U.S. states. They are the value leader in active biking vacations and have been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for seven years. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full van support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.

By Cruise

Recognized by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler on the 2016 Gold List of Favorite Cruise Lines and by USA TODAY readers for Best Boutique Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises’ fleet of small luxury sailing ships and all-suite power ships with 148 to 310 guests bring you closer to smaller ports and exclusive local experiences around the world. Visit windstarcruises.com or call 888-460-5098 for more information.

By Coach

Holiday Vacations is one of America’s most reputable tour companies, with 46 years of experience. As a nationwide provider of air, rail, motorcoach, and cruise guided vacations to more than 65 destinations worldwide, their packages are inclusive of all airfare, fine hotels, meals, and must-see attractions. Expert tour directors handle all travel details, assuring you a carefree and memorable vacation. Visit holidayvacations.com for more information.

By Train

There’s no better way to make a grand trip grander than on the historic train to Grand Canyon. Travel over 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. The Grand Canyon Railway has been departing daily from Williams, Ariz., since 1901. Spend a night in Williams next door to the train depot at the AAA Three Diamond Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Just walking distance from quaint downtown Williams and Route 66, the modern hotel has a grand lobby, indoor pool, and hot tub as well as Spenser’s Pub with its handcrafted 19th-century bar. Packages with train travel and overnight stays in Grand Canyon National Park and Williams are available. Visit thetrain.com for more information.

For more travel experiences available from the Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/stories.


Written by: Veronica Stoddart

Award-winning travel editor and writer Veronica Stoddart was the former editor in chief of the Travel Media Group at USA TODAY. She has written for nearly two dozen publications and websites.

Don't Miss Out

Sign up for exclusive travel news and offers for some of the world's most incredible destinations.