Travel Picks: Top 10 autumn balloon ride destinations

Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:27am EST
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(Reuters) - Nature's beauty reaches a peak in autumn as the leaves take on rich and vibrant colors. This year, instead of hopping in the car and going for a drive, consider taking your autumn foliage tour to a soaring new level. Check out the ( top 10 list of hot air balloon destinations to get a new perspective on autumn. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Hokkaido, Japan

A large island in the northernmost region of Japan, Hokkaido is a great place to witness the change of seasons known by the Japanese as momiji. During the foliage season, soft yellows of beech trees, bright reds from birch trees and occasional deep purples of okagami Japanese maples are the stars of the show. Once you're back on the ground, and depending on where you stay, be sure to check out Hokkaido's numerous national parks, including the tourist favorite of Shikotsu-Toya, which comprises of several volcanic hot springs. Finding a hot air balloon company should be no problem as there is a growing demand for viewing the beautiful Hokkaido landscape from the sky.

2. Catskill Mountains, New York, United States

North of the hustle and bustle of New York City, in the central part of the state, stretches the Catskill Mountains. The beauty of the Catskills has inspired art movements, serving as the backdrop for many films and works of literature. Waterfalls, rivers, lakes and valleys create breathtaking landscapes when viewed from above or below. It should then be no surprise that its striking fall foliage makes our list. When searching for the perfect hot air balloon tour, there are plenty of options in the Hudson Valley region.

3. Coconino National Forest, Arizona, United States

We know what you're thinking: foliage in Arizona? Believe it or not, the Coconino National Forest puts on a great show during the autumn months around the Flagstaff area, thanks to its slightly higher elevation and leafy forests. Most of the Coconino's trees are towering white birches that turn to a deep golden yellow beginning in September. The rest of the national forest is made up of volcanic peaks, plateaus and ponderosa pines - plenty for you to explore when you're not busy leaf-peeping. Hot air balloon companies are not lacking in Arizona, but you'll want to find one around the Flagstaff area for the full foliage experience.

4. Prince Edward Island, Canada

Anne's gables aren't so green once autumn rolls around. Instead, Prince Edward Island is bursting with fall color and, because of its unique location and relatively mild temperatures, the foliage season is one of the longest compared to its neighboring provinces. Thanks to Prince Edward Island's beautiful landscape of coastal lighthouses, sandstone cliffs, lush farm lands, and blazing red maple forests, it's no wonder hot air ballooning is becoming so popular. Most balloon companies are out of Charlottetown and Summerside, which are great towns to spend the day or weekend exploring.   Continued...