If you're visiting China during the fall, the best thing you can do is head out of the big cities and into nature. In China, fall foliage season begins in October and you will have the most luck viewing the leaves in northern China, where the climate is more temperate. This time of year marks the return of the Mid-Autumn Festival, sometimes called the Moon Festival, which is celebrated throughout the country with events planned in major cities and smaller towns. While it might be hard to imagine a wooded landscape when you're stuck in a Beijing traffic jam, China is filled with many stunning natural environments, many of which are prime for leaf peeping once October comes around.
The Great Wall
Just 47 miles (76 kilometers) from the Chinese capital of Beijing, you can easily reach the Great Wall, which is in the mountains and fringed by deciduous color-changing leaves. In particular, the Badaling section is known to be the most vibrant. It's also one of the most popular sections, so you'll like have to share the trail, but the photo-opportunities will be worth it. According to park officials, the best time for viewing is mid-October but the season goes from late September through early November.
Red Leaves Valley
In the mountains of the Jilin Province, spectacular red leaves fill the Jiaohe Valley in late-September. This is one of the most pristine and untouched places where you can see fall foliage in China. Located in the Changbai Mountains, the valley of brilliant red maples makes for a stunning sight set against a mountain backdrop. However, it does require a bit of determination to get there. From Jilin City, the drive to the valley takes about one hour, 20 minutes, but there are also some tour busses based in Jilin City that operate this route during the season if you'd rather not drive yourself.
High in the mountains, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve is best known as the natural habitat of wild pandas and its many pristine glacial lakes. It's a fantastic destination year-round, but in October the fall colors light up the valley, and foliage-enthusiasts flock here to enjoy the colorful scenes. Located in Sichuan Province, you can get there either by flying to the city of Chengdu and driving seven hours north to the park, or you can fly to Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport (JZH), a smaller airport that isn't as well-serviced. From Jiuzhai, you will still have to drive two more hours to get to the park, or you can sign up for a bus tour that will take you there and back.
In northeastern China, the region surrounding the Yellow Mountains, or Huangshan Mountains, of the Anhui Province is a popular destination year-round and about 310 miles (500 kilometers) away from Shanghai. The mountain backdrop is one of the most famous in China and countless classical paintings have used them for landscapes. However, during the fall, the already-striking mountains dress up in shades of yellow and red making the scene even more magical.
Kanas Lake Nature Preserve
Way up north in the Altay region of western Xinjiang Province is the Kanas Nature Reserve, also known as the Hanas Nature Reserve. This reserve protects an extension of the Siberian taiga forest, consisting mostly of evergreens, but includes Siberian larch, elm, maple, and other deciduous trees that change colors. It's one of the most beautiful and hardest to reach places to see fall foliage in China. Not far from the border of Kazakhstan, the reserve can be a bit difficult to reach. The best way to go about planning a trip is to organize a tour from the capital city of the province Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.