20 Must-Take Fall Trips

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Photo: Chris Murray/Getty Images

Fall turns the South into a canvas, painting it with more colors than Pollock had at his disposal. From the Ozarks to the Lowcountry, there are plenty of fantastic places to visit for a fun fall escape. If you're itching to plan a trip to see the seasons change and feel the temps start to drop, pack and bag and set your sights on one of these autumnal destinations. Whether you're interested in hopping a train, taking a hike, or winding along scenic byways on a meandering road trip, we have ideas for you. Keep reading for some travel recommendations along with our editors' favorite picks for great fall trips to small towns, cities, and other great getaways.

01 of 20

See the Leaves Change in the Shenandoah ValleY

Hazel Mountain
Dennis Govoni / Getty Images

Another great place to see the leaves change is the Shenandoah Valley. Take a meandering drive along Skyline Drive to see the hills rolling away on either side. You can see peak fall color at the Hazel Mountain overlook, one of many vistas along the drive.

02 of 20

Visit North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest

North Carolina Fall Color
Danita Delimont/Getty Images

Wake up to stunning mountain views from your front porch at pet-friendly Engadine Inn and Cabins. On the north edge of Nantahala National Forest, the property is just 20 miles west of Asheville and blissfully uncrowded. Don't miss The North Carolina Arboretum or the Southern Porch (a few miles from the Engadine Inn), where you can sit outside and enjoy live entertainment with your meal.

03 of 20

Wander in the Mountains Around Hot Springs, Arkansas

Eureka Springs
JeremyMasonMcGraw.com/Getty Images

Starting at the Louisiana border, Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 meanders for around 290 miles through the center of the state by the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains. Check into the historic and opulent 1890 Williams House Inn, which is just a few blocks from Quapaw Baths & Spa. The Hot Springs area offers everything from easy 1-mile loops to floating on Lake Leatherwood to more challenging adventures through Ouachita National Forest.

04 of 20

Enjoy the Unique Palette of South Carolina's Lowcountry

South Carolina Lowcountry
Chris M. Rogers

You won't see showy red and orange foliage here. Lowcountry color is subtle. Spartina, a perennial cordgrass grown in salt marshes, provides habitat for wildlife. Over time, it morphs into feathery yellow-gold blades that ripple in waves when the wind blows. From summer to fall, the stalks, which look like wheat, produce seeds that entice migratory birds and waterfowl. Along the marsh edge, look for sweetgrass, which shows off brilliant purple and creamy white plumes when days shorten. Clusters of vibrant purple berries appear in fall.

05 of 20

See Miles of Mountains in Maryland

Cumberland Maryland Fall Color
WilliamSherman/Getty Images

Miles of deciduous trees in the mountains of western Maryland are fired up with vibrant shades of gold, orange, and red in fall. Starting near the borders of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, I-68 meanders east through Green Ridge State Forest and Savage River State Forest. The drive alone is an easy scenic road trip, but go all out and board the Frostburg Flyer. The train passes through an array of hardwood trees that burst into an umbrella of color.

06 of 20

Walk Across the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia

New River Gorge
Scott Suchman

With the help of an experienced guide, families can walk across the 3,030-foot bridge. Be sure to pause and take in the breathtaking views of Fayetteville, West Virginia. But be warned: This one isn't for anyone who's scared of heights. You'll see all those deep reds and bright yellows from more than 875 feet over the New River.

07 of 20

Hop on the Blue Ridge Railway in North Georgia

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Photo: Michael Hanson

Hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and ride through the Chattahoochee National Forest just in time to see the leaves change. The train brings families on a 26-mile loop, which takes about four hours and stops in McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee, before heading back to Blue Ridge, Georgia.

08 of 20

Ramble North Carolina and Virginia's Scenic Byways

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Foliage
Cheryl Zibisky

The Blue Ridge Parkway's route gets busy in fall, when foliage hunters flock to the area to get a good look at the vibrant changing leaves. There are many great side trips off the parkway's central thoroughfare, so once you've seen all the drive's famed overlooks, take an exit and go searching for a route off the beaten path.

09 of 20

Drive Along the Pig Trail in Arkansas

Drive Along the Pig Trail

This 19-mile stretch of Arkansas Highway 23 winds sharply through the Boston Mountains, a region of the Ozark National Forest. The twisty road often has a speed limit of just 5 mph and is peppered with viewing stations to take in the sights. It's just a short drive from the mountainous Eureka Springs or the college town of Fayetteville.

10 of 20

Hike the Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia

Lewisburg, West Virginia
Bill Swindaman/Getty Images

Also in West Virginia but for the heights-adverse, this 78-mile trail is flanked by the Greenbrier River and offers consistently beautiful views of a Southern fall. Rent some bikes or a couple of horses, or just tie up your hiking boots, and wander through three national forests from Lewisburg to Slabtown, West Virginia.

11 of 20

Explore the Town of Cumberland, Maryland

Steeple Skyline
Photo: Bill Merlavage

The skyline of this small Maryland town is spotted with steeples of its many churches, most of which were built in the 1800s. Once the second-largest town in Maryland, Cumberland's filled with historical knickknacks. But the best thing to do is take in that skyline with its colorful Appalachian background. You can also stretch your legs with a hike on the towpath along the C&O Canal in Cumberland.

12 of 20

Visit the Horses of Lexington, Kentucky

Visit the Horses of Lexington
Photo: Bill Phelps

The sugar maples of Lexington turning deep hues of orange and yellow should be enough to draw any autumn lovers to the city. The horses roaming the pastures of various farms are an added bonus, a beautiful, almost ethereal added bonus. Take a drive through the countryside and take in fall in horse country.

13 of 20

Chomp on an Apple in a Virginia Orchard

Chomp on an Apple in a Virginia Orchard
Photo: Terry Manier

You've never tasted apples like these before. Take a trip to Lynchburg, Virginia, to experience the very best of fall. Yes, the beautiful colors painting the fields and a trip to historic Monticello are contenders. But we're talking about our Southern apples, more than 100 varieties that are grown in the region with names like 'Grimes Golden.'

14 of 20

Camp in Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Chris Murray/Getty Images

The Great Smoky Mountains turn vibrant colors as autumn falls across them, and there's no better place to enjoy them than Bryson City, North Carolina. From there, you can hop on the Appalachian Trail, one of the country's longest hiking trails, to take in the dusky mountains. Bring a tent, and enjoy the cool weather.

15 of 20

Listen to Tunes in Floyd, Virginia

Listen to Tunes in Floyd

It's argued that the early origins of country music can be found in the small town of Floyd, Virginia. The hamlet of 425 flushes with deep autumn colors come October, and its residents gather at the Floyd Country Store to do the two-step that they arguably helped invent.

16 of 20

Explore Bernheim Arboretum in Louisville, Kentucky

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest Louisville Kentucky
Ralph Anderson

Located just outside Louisville, Clermont is home to the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, where you can roam through more than 15,000 acres of formal plantings and collections or hike some of the 40 miles of trails under a colorful canopy of oak, hickory, beech, and maple trees. Book a room in downtown Louisville at the city's grande dame accommodation, The Brown Hotel, to indulge in a luxurious stay and sip amber-colored whiskeys or fall cocktails at the Lobby Bar. Then have dinner at Decca, where chef Annie Pettry creates delicious fall-centric meals.

17 of 20

Get Pampered in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Spring, Arkansas
Art Meripol

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is known for long days spent rejuvenating in its many spas. You can find plenty of spa opportunities, but there are also outdoor adventures to be had. Take some time to visit Hot Springs National Park and Lake Hamilton to take in autumn's charms.

18 of 20

Explore Asheville, North Carolina

Linn Cove Blue Ridge Parkway
Cheryl Zibisky

For a city break with a side of fall foliage, there's no better place than Asheville, North Carolina, a spot with all the charms of a city (complete with boutiques and breweries) as well as easy access to national parks, hiking, and biking opportunities across western North Carolina.

19 of 20

See the Lost Maples of Texas

Deborah Dyrssen/500px/Getty Images

Make a visit to Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of the locations in Texas where you can see stunning fall foliage. Visit the area, located northwest of San Antonio, and you'll find bigtooth maples turning red, orange, and yellow across the landscape.

20 of 20

Go Waterfall-Watching in Blackwater Falls State Park

Blackwater Falls State Park Waterfall
Gabriela Herman

When you're in West Virginia and want to see waterfalls, head to Blackwater Falls State Park, where hiking trails, rivers, and waterfalls criss-cross the landscape. That's also where you'll find some of the most vibrant foliage in the state. The neighboring small towns of Thomas and Davis will give you a warm welcome.

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