We Found the South's Best Fall Color
Our collection of breathtaking views might end the debate on the South’s most beautiful season. Take a stroll through the golden leaves of autumn as we share the South’s best fall color.
This ginkgo grove at Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, Virginia, is open to the public from dawn to dusk every day.
About 80 miles north of Atlanta, the small town of Ellijay sits on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Renowned as the "Apple Capitol of Georgia," Ellijay and surrounding Gilmer County are home to 10 pick-your-own apple orchards and the annual Georgia Apple Festival. gilmerchamber.com
Beloved for their fall colors, rounded forms, and long lives, sugar maples are favorite trees for lining the quiet lanes and turnpikes of horse country.
Peep at fall foliage via a train car on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s four-hour trip through the mountains.
The Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont, (about 30 miles south of Louisville) includes 14,000 acres of fields and forests, as well as 35 miles of hiking trails and a bike route that winds along the fall-color-filled Long Lick Creek. bernheim.org
Located about 25 miles from Shreveport (and spreading into Texas), Caddo Lake is one of the South's largest natural lakes. Its 26,800 acres of freshwaters and cypress swamp are home to largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. The best place to drop a line, and enjoy the fall colors, is from Caddo State Park in Karnack. tpwd.state.tx.us
Stay in the picturesque town of Blowing Rock. After you’ve had your fill of the charming restaurants and shops, spend a day driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway toward the Linn Cove Viaduct, which snakes along the iconic Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather.com
With mountaintops rising more than 2,500 feet, this state park about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem boasts some of North Carolina's brightest fall colors. Cascading waterfalls and more than 18 miles of trails lined with oak trees make the 7,024-acre park a popular place for an autumn outdoor adventure. ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/haro/main.php
Check out fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
In Kentucky's Bluegrass region, a red maple crackles with flame as it catches the sun’s first rays, while, in the distance, silhouettes of trees appear through the fog.
A 1.6-mile section of the Appalachian Trail brings hikers to this scenic view of the French Broad River and town of Hot Springs. The Lover's Leap Loop Trail overlooks 500 feet above the river, offering unobstructed panoramic views of the French Broad River Bridge and Blue Ridge Mountain area. visitmadisoncounty.com
The Blandy Ginkgo Grove in Boyce, Virginia usually sees peak color around the last weekend in October. For more info, visit blandy.virginia.edu
New River Gorge in West Virginia is known for its white-water rafting, fishing, and hiking.
This historic town about an hour northwest of Washington D.C. was the site of abolitionist John Brown's infamous raid in 1859. Now it's better known as the "psychological half-way point" of the Appalachian Trail, where weary hikers can spend a day exploring the mountain town's shops, restaurants, and inns. historicharpersferry.com
Ginkgoes always seem to know when the party is over, they drop their leaves all at once, signaling the end of fall and creating a golden carpet beneath their bare branches.
Spreading across 800 square miles of southern Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, the nation's most visited national park offers acres of fall color. One of the most popular places to see the leaves and wildlife (including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and black bears) is Cades Cove, a broad valley at the northwestern corner of the park near Townsend, Tennessee. nps.gov/grsm
Running through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway connects the cities of Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi. The Tennessee section of the Parkway, which stretches for about 100 miles in the state, passes small towns such as Leipers Fork, and historic spots such as the Meriwether Lewis Site (where Lewis of the “Lewis and Clark Expedition” is buried). nps.gov/natr
A farmhouse on a lake in Mathews, Alabama is aglow with the colors of the season.
The highest point in Alabama, the top of Mount Cheaha sits 2,407 feet above sea level. Called "Chaha" (or high place) by the Creek Indians, the mountaintop is now home to Cheaha State Park, a resort park complete with a hotel, restaurant, cabins, and campgrounds. alapark.com/cheaharesort.com
Hems Mill is one of two remaining covered bridges around Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Church steeples and fall color dominate the skyline in Cumberland, Maryland.
A canopy of fall leaves line the way down a street in Historic Old Town Winchester, Virginia.
Young Thoroughbreds stride into the fading light at Airdrie Stud, one of more than 400 horse farms that dot Kentucky’s Bluegrass region.
West Virginia’s New River Gorge shows off the best of Appalachia’s color in October.
Smoke rises into the crisp fall air from the chimney of the house that Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan and President Herbert Hoover both once called home.
This view is taken from a porch at The High Five Lodge in Blue Ridge, Georgia. It features stunning views and enough room to sleep 12. escapetoblueridge.com
In late September, trees don their rich autumn jewel tones, and visitors rush to Dahlonega in the North Georgia Mountains with the enthusiasm of the gold miners who hit pay dirt here in 1828. Today, Dahlonega stakes its claim on a rich lode of architecture and history, hiking trails, fall festivals, vineyard tours, and family fun. Located just 65 miles north of Atlanta, it’s a quick getaway with enough to do and see for a long weekend.
Cyclists love Travelers Rest, where routes vary from 15-25 miles (about 1-2 hour ride) to 50 miles to 80. The 50 miles goes through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with 1500 feet of climbing and the 80 mile ride is one of George’s favorite training rides for the Tour de France with epic climbs. Riders can experience the surrounding country mountain roads, riding along the foothills and into the Blue Ridge Mountains and even ride past some quaint towns along the way.
Tallulah Gorge State Park in North Georgia straddles Tallulah Gorge, a two mile long, 1,000 foot canyon. When fall color peaks, the views are stunning, and the most unique way to see the foliage is during the bi-annual whitewater release. On the first three weekends of November, whitewater kayakers paddle through the gorge, where an average of 500 to 700 cubic feet per second create Class IV and V rapids. View the kayakers from the top of the gorge during this year’s release on November 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
In the heart of Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, make a stop at Showalter’s Orchard, where visitors can stroll on more than 40 acres of land that overlook the Valley. The u-pick orchard grows more than 20 varieties of apples, some of which are turned into a sweet, fresh apple cider. Taste something stronger and buy a bottle of Old Hill Hard Cider.
Macon County, North Carolina is famous for cascading waterfalls that are even more stunning surrounded by the reds, yellows, oranges and purples of autumn. The 65-foot Dry Falls offers a unique perspective from below; walk down the set of stone steps and look up to see the roaring waters above. The waterfall feeds into the Cullasaja River through the Nantahala National Forest.
A spectacular, not-to-be missed natural phenomenon in Jackson County, North Carolina is the “Shadow of the Bear.” During the last two weeks of October, when the sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, its shadow creates a perfect image of a Black Bear that dances across the tops of the colorful trees.
Zip through the trees and view foliage from above at Historic Banning Mills, home to the World’s Longest Zip-Wire Course. You will find yourself in a rare position looking down upon the leaves that are donning a new fall wardrobe while zip lining over the trees and through the woods.
Greenville is know as “Bikeville” for its concentration of trails for both recreational and avid cyclists. Spin down the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which follows along the Reedy River for 18 miles. Plan to stop by one of the breweries or distilleries along the trail, like The Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Copperhead Mountain Distillery in Travelers Rest. Peak foliage is from the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November.
South of Atlanta, you’ll be surprised to find rolling mountains like Dowdell’s Knob, which highlights a yellow burst of color in late October to early November. Bike along the polished paths of F.D. Roosevelt State Park, the largest state park in Georgia. Visitors will find more than 40 miles of trails for hiking.
Winston-Salem is known as the “City of Arts”, home to the first arts council in America. One of its neighborhoods, Old Salem, acts as a living history museum, where visitors will find blacksmiths, cobblers, potters, and carpenters that still practice their trade. Old Salem currently features more than 20 restored buildings with more than half featuring costumed interpreters living life the way the Moravians did in the 1700’s. Winston-Salem keeps the bright leaf colors longer than most of the other areas in North Carolina, so leaf peepers can see foliage through the second week of November.
At Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia, hike the Sitton Gulch Trail into the canyon. With a difference in elevation of 800 to 1,980 feet, the Sitton Gulch Creek carves through the center of the canyon. Along the hike you’ll pass beautiful waterfalls on Daniel Creek, and down 1,200 stair steps, offering a unique perspective of the gorge’s color from below.
Bordering the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is a laid-back, non-touristy town of 1,500 with more stop signs than stoplights. With more than 800 miles of hiking trails. Hike or bike the “Road to Nowhere” named after Lakeview Drive, an unfinished road that takes visitors eight miles into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ends at the mouth of a tunnel.