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High-Flying Foliage: 9 Ways to See Fall Colors From Above

Gazing up to see vibrant fall leaves is incredible, but why not go leaf peeping from a different vantage point? Instead of looking up, why not look down to see the fall colors? Across the U.S. and Canada, outdoor lovers can find plenty of ways to observe the kaleidoscope of color while looking down at the trees from above—from driving up to a high pass, taking a tram, hopping in a helicopter, riding a zipline, or soaring in a hot air balloon. 

Read on to learn about nine ways you can see spectacular fall foliage from above.

1. Ascend in a hot air balloon or on a tram in New Mexico

Image by Greg Meland

Albuquerque’s fall colors are on full display from the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, nearby hiking trails, or from a hot air balloon. Known as the world’s hot air ballooning capital, Albuquerque is home of the International Balloon Fiesta each October, showcasing the area from a birds-eye view. Sign up early for a ride in a balloon to see the kaleidoscope of color below.

Hop in the aerial tram on the edge of the city and watch the gorgeous scenery unfold on the way towards the summit of Sandia Peak at more than 10,000 feet. Golden aspen and oak leaves in red, orange, and yellow shimmer below the tram—or opt for one of the hiking trails in the area to mix it up a bit. The Sandia Peak Observation Deck also provides incredible views.

2. Go ziplining in Newfoundland, Canada

Image by Carol Yepes

In Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, make some time in the fall to soar over the Exploits River while enjoying beautiful autumn colors. Exploits Extreme Ziplines offers a six-line tour that features ziplines up to 70 feet above the river and ground below, with each being 850-1,200 feet long. Adventurers can reach speeds of more than 35 miles per hour, offering a thrilling and fun way to witness the foliage from above.

3. Ride a glider plane in New York’s Finger Lakes Region

glider plane
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Soar high over the changing leaves in New York’s Finger Lakes while taking in the fall views from a glider plane in Elmira, New York. Glider rides are generally offered on weekends well into the fall and on weekdays earlier in the year, but be sure to check the schedule. The rides are usually 15-20 minutes long, with a pilot and a single passenger in a two-seater ASK-21 glider. You can even learn to fly a glider by taking lessons, though that’s a bit of a commitment, generally taking 40-75 sessions to earn a pilot’s license.

4. Take a chairlift to see fall colors in five states from Beech Mountain, North Carolina

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Ride Beech Mountain Resort’s chair lift to 5,506 feet in elevation for a high-flying peek at some of the region’s best fall colors. From the chair lift and the summit, scope out the multitude of fall colors, including yellow beech and birch, red and brown oaks, red and yellow box elders, yellow ash, red dogwoods, and maples in stunning shades of red, orange, and yellow. Best of all, once you’re on top (if the day is clear), you might just be able to see fall foliage in five different states—North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Since it’s relatively high in elevation, it’s usually one of the earlier spots to see fall colors in the region.

5. Try the world’s largest zipline canopy tour in Georgia

Image by Amy Luo

Fly over the treetops on the World’s Longest Zipline Canopy Tour in Historic Banning Mills, Georgia. With nearly 10 miles of zipline course, you will find plenty of views of the gorgeous forest below. It holds the Guinness World Record as the “longest and largest zipline canopy tour” in the world. Around 50 minutes from Atlanta, the adventure resort features a number of aerial adventure options, including suspension bridges that span over a scenic gorge. Or try the 140-foot-tall World’s Tallest Free-Standing Climbing Wall for another view. Explore the Bridges of Banning for incredible views from lengthy suspension bridges.

6. Soak up California’s Sierra Nevada colors at Conway Summit

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Soak in stunning views of golden aspen leaves in the Sierra Nevada mountains and Mono Lake from Conway Summit, located along Highway 395 in Mono County, California. The pass is at 8,143 feet in elevation and provides incredible views along U.S. 395. In addition to leaf peeping, this location offers incredible opportunities for outdoor recreation—from camping and fishing to enjoying the Bodie Hills and Bodie ghost town nearby.

7. Fly in a paramotor, tackle a via ferrata, or try out a tower in Quebec, Canada

Image by Michele D’Amico Supersky77

Fly high from a two-seater paramotor for stunning views of the Richelieu area as the trees turn gorgeous shades of red, orange, and yellow. Sign up for a familiarization flight with 20- and 30-minute options to go along with an experienced pilot and focus on taking in the views, or train to become a pilot yourself.

You can also head to the Hotel Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu’s via ferrata for views of fall foliage, as well as the Saint Lawrence River and more. This cliffside route involves rock walls, wooden bridges, a zipline, and more. 

Or, walk up the Sentier des cimes Laurentides tower to enjoy panoramic views and, if you’re daring, stand in the center net located more than 130 feet off the ground. This panoramic tower provides incredible views of the region.

8. See the Canadian Rockies from a helicopter ride or heli-hiking tour

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Hop in a helicopter to see changing colors in the Canadian Rockies. A number of companies, including Rockies Heli Tours Canada, Alpine Helicopters, and CMH offer helicopter tours that feature glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, golden trees, and more. Some operators also offer heli-hiking opportunities, so you can get out and stretch your legs on a hike among the beautiful leaves, in addition to seeing them from above.

9. Take a float plane to enjoy British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast

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See beautiful fall colors from a float plane tour along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. The West Coast Wilderness Lodge is perched high above an inlet with incredible views, and the lodge offers float plane tours through Sunshine Coast Air. While you will see many evergreen trees, the flights offer great ways to see the fall colors along the coast. A number of different tour options are available, and some flights even go to the Vancouver Airport’s South Terminal, so you can take a float plane to connect to a commercial flight.

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