15 Destinations to See Bright and Brilliant Fall Leaves in the South

Leaf peeping hits its peak in the South from late September through mid November.

Photo: Jay Dickman/Getty Images

When the weather begins teasing those in the Southeast with mild temperatures and low humidity, it's a tell-tale sign that fall is on the way. Along with the anticipation of football season and everyone's favorite spooky holiday, fall also brings spectacular color across the South. Leaves begin to dawn bright bursts of orange, yellow, and red starting as early as mid-September and peak through mid-November. This year, spend some uninterrupted time enjoying the great outdoors at these 13 destinations to see fall leaves in the South.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

A view from the Blue Ridge Parkway..

The winding Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles in the Appalachian Highlands. Drive the last 40 mile section as it winds through Western North Carolina's Jackson County. Be sure to stop at the parkway's highest point, the Richland Balsam Overlook at 6,053 feet.

Bryson City, North Carolina

emThe Road to Nowhere. Courtesy of Bryson City / Swain County NC Chamber of Commerce./em.

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, plus 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.

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn, Georgia

emCloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia. Courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources./em.

At Cloudland Canyon State Park, 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.

Dahlonega, Georgia

Courtesy of Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Visitor Bureau

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.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs
JeremyMasonMcGraw.com/Getty Images

Eureka Springs is a lovely home base to see the majesty of the Ozark Mountains when they're donning their fall best. From fall hikes to scenic drives, you can choose your own leaf peeping adventure. Be sure to check out Hawksbill Crag and the Buffalo Natural River for two of the best views of the area's beauty come October and November.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain, Georgia

emF.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources./em.

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.

Greenville, South Carolina

emThe Swamp Rabbit Trail. Courtesy of VisitGreenvilleSC.com./em.

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.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry in the Fall
Jeffrey D. Walters / Getty Images

A charming small town and national park all in one, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a beautiful place to see dazzling fall color. Hike to the top of the Maryland Heights Trail for a bird's eye view of the town and pops of gold, burnt orange, and crimson in the full fall trees.

Historic Banning Mills, Whitesburg, Georgia

emZiplining at Historic Banning Mills. Courtesy of Historic Banning Mills./em.

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 zipping over the trees and through the woods.

Jackson County, North Carolina

emThe Shadow of the Bear. Courtesy of Jackson County TDA./em.

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.

Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina

emDry Falls in Jackson County, North Carolina. Courtesy of Jackson County TDA./em.

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.

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

emA view of the Shenandoah Valley./em.

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.

Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls, Georgia

emTallulah Gorge State Park. Courtesy of Alexa Lampasona./em.

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 biannual 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 creates Class IV and V rapids. Visitors can view the kayakers from the top of the gorge during the annual release.

Travelers Rest, South Carolina

emBiking in Travelers Rest, South Carolina./em.

Cyclists love Travelers Rest, where routes vary from 15-25 miles (about a 1-2 hour ride) to 50 miles to 80. The 50 miles goes through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with 1,500 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.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

emThe Old Salem neighborhood of Winston-Salem./em.

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 1700s. Winston-Salem keeps its fall color longer than most other areas in North Carolina, so leaf peepers can see foliage through the second week of November.

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