1 of 12

Great fall colors
can coexist with charming towns and affordable hotels. Here’s where to go.

Petersham is a quiet village
in Central Massachusetts with all the requirements of a quintessential New England town: central green, main street with 19th-century clapboard houses,
white-steepled church, general store. And it’s surrounded by dense forest that
explodes into red, orange, and yellow come late September.

What it doesn’t have is tour
buses and high prices. Instead, there’s the Inn
at Clamber Hill
, a five-room bed-and-breakfast where a double room in fall
high season runs a reasonable $169.

Petersham is not alone. It’s
still possible to find small towns that aren’t crawling with camera-toting
gawkers or have outrageously expensive hotels that have hiked up their prices
to cash in on the all-too-brief foliage season.

We scoured the country to
find some delightful small towns, places where it won’t cost a fortune to spend
an autumn weekend. Many of these towns feature small inns or bed-and-breakfasts
that offer good value and a central base for your foliage adventures. These are
places where you can sit on a porch rocker and breathe the cool country air, and
where a filling breakfast sends you out the door for a day of exploration.

Middlesboro, KY, for example, has a historic downtown and is the
gateway to the Cumberland Gap. From mid- to late October, the colors peak on
the surrounding sugar maples, beech, birch, and basswood trees. And the Cumberland
Manor Bed and Breakfast
, a grand Victorian home dating from 1890, has
double rooms with breakfast that start at just $99.

Even Arizona, better known
for its desert climate, offers the tiny aerie of Alpine, set at 8,000 feet and
considered the Switzerland of the state. And the area’s colorful aspen and oak
trees make a pretty compelling argument. Seclude yourself at the Hannagan
Meadow Lodge
, set at 9,100 feet in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, where doubles start at $65.

As with every year, some
basic color-viewing suggestions can make your fall journey even better. While
car touring is the classic way of appreciating the changing season, consider
traveling under your own power. Many of these locales offer superb hiking
trails and mountain-biking trails. They also offer untrafficked roads in many
cases, where you can ride a road bike at your own pace, slow down, stop at farm
stands, and really appreciate the colors.

Of course, finding the
season’s elusive peak—that annual ritual of predicting color progression and
“leaf drop”—is far from an exact science. In general, a succession of warm,
sunny days and cool, crisp nights (but not frost) is what seems to bring out
the most spectacular color displays.

The best thing to do is check
out the state tourism boards’ websites for information on how the colors are
progressing. But you’d be well advised to book now and to go midweek if you
truly want the winding country roads to yourself.

Best Affordable Fall Foliage Towns

Great fall colors
can coexist with charming towns and affordable hotels. Here’s where to go.

Petersham is a quiet village
in Central Massachusetts with all the requirements of a quintessential New England town: central green, main street with 19th-century clapboard houses,
white-steepled church, general store. And it’s surrounded by dense forest that
explodes into red, orange, and yellow come late September.

What it doesn’t have is tour
buses and high prices. Instead, there’s the Inn
at Clamber Hill
, a five-room bed-and-breakfast where a double room in fall
high season runs a reasonable $169.

Petersham is not alone. It’s
still possible to find small towns that aren’t crawling with camera-toting
gawkers or have outrageously expensive hotels that have hiked up their prices
to cash in on the all-too-brief foliage season.

We scoured the country to
find some delightful small towns, places where it won’t cost a fortune to spend
an autumn weekend. Many of these towns feature small inns or bed-and-breakfasts
that offer good value and a central base for your foliage adventures. These are
places where you can sit on a porch rocker and breathe the cool country air, and
where a filling breakfast sends you out the door for a day of exploration.

Middlesboro, KY, for example, has a historic downtown and is the
gateway to the Cumberland Gap. From mid- to late October, the colors peak on
the surrounding sugar maples, beech, birch, and basswood trees. And the Cumberland
Manor Bed and Breakfast
, a grand Victorian home dating from 1890, has
double rooms with breakfast that start at just $99.

Even Arizona, better known
for its desert climate, offers the tiny aerie of Alpine, set at 8,000 feet and
considered the Switzerland of the state. And the area’s colorful aspen and oak
trees make a pretty compelling argument. Seclude yourself at the Hannagan
Meadow Lodge
, set at 9,100 feet in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, where doubles start at $65.

As with every year, some
basic color-viewing suggestions can make your fall journey even better. While
car touring is the classic way of appreciating the changing season, consider
traveling under your own power. Many of these locales offer superb hiking
trails and mountain-biking trails. They also offer untrafficked roads in many
cases, where you can ride a road bike at your own pace, slow down, stop at farm
stands, and really appreciate the colors.

Of course, finding the
season’s elusive peak—that annual ritual of predicting color progression and
“leaf drop”—is far from an exact science. In general, a succession of warm,
sunny days and cool, crisp nights (but not frost) is what seems to bring out
the most spectacular color displays.

The best thing to do is check
out the state tourism boards’ websites for information on how the colors are
progressing. But you’d be well advised to book now and to go midweek if you
truly want the winding country roads to yourself.

Gene Ahrens / Alamy

Best Affordable Fall Foliage Towns

Explore More