- MapQuest has released its 2011 guide to leaf-peeping in Washington, D.C. One recommended location is (duh) on the National Mall. (Photo courtesy of WJLA's James Joslyn)
It's always interesting to see how outsiders judge the "best" things to do in Washington, D.C. In this case, I think that MapQuest did a decent job in putting together this short and sweet 2011 guide to leaf-peeping in the District.
The three local spots that MapQuest highlights are part of the company's sprawling ode to the annual death of U.S. chlorophyll, called LeafQuest. (Curious as to where Navy SEALS ogle the pretty plants? Chuck Pfarrer's got you covered in northern Michigan.) With 150 choices in every state but Hawaii, the guide blows away the notion that the prime destinations for observing glorious reds, rusts and golds are solely in the Northeast.
Here's MapQuest's choices for D.C.:
Rock Creek Park: "These residents get to enjoy full-time the blazing fall foliage that Rock Creek – one of the nation's largest and oldest parks – has to offer, including maple, hickory, oak and ash trees.... Indeed, it is so lovely here that, for a time after the Civil War, 'the Executive Mansion seriously considered relocating the presidential residence to Rock Creek Park.'"
Constitution Gardens: "[This] might be one of Washington's least-recognized attractions. But it's there, stealthily, on the mall, next to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, 5,000 maple, dogwood, oak, elm and crabapple trees strong." (Watch your step, though. There's also a poo island there, similar to the one guarded by angry geese in Harper's Ferry.)
C&O Canal: "In addition to its historical value, it's also one of the best spots to view fall foliage in the entire country, as it’s home to more than 1,500 plant species. Sycamores, bitternut hickories, box elders and shumard oaks are some of the trees whose fiery leaves transform the park every autumn to a leaf-peeping paradise." In particular, I would recommend taking a hike along the Billy Goat Trail in Potomac, Md., which you can access from the canal on Macarthur Boulevard. The views from craggy cliffs overseeing the Potomac are drool-inducing.
Did MapQuest leave other good places out? Drop your favorite leaf-peeping suggestions for D.C., Maryland and Virginia in the comments section. If enough people contribute, I'll put together a custom guide in time for the all-out color explosion of autumn.