Try One of these 5 Fall Foliage Appalachian Destinations

Temperatures on the East Coast are still blazingly hot, so let’s distract ourselves by looking ahead to fall! It won’t be long now before the days become cooler and the mountains of Appalachia will be swept with bold reds, oranges, and yellows. Whether you prefer to take in the foliage by car, by train, or on foot, there is no shortage of opportunities for “leaf peeping.” Here are five of the best destinations in Appalachia for stunning autumn views.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

One of the most famous scenic drives in the US, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds for almost 500 miles through the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway connects Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to North Carolina’s Great Smokies National Park, with stunning views the whole way. In the Asheville area, hop on the Appalachian Trail through Max Patch to experience an expansive panoramic view of autumn foliage. The hike around the top of the mountain is a leisurely round-trip stroll of just over a mile, suffused with blazing color and plentiful sunshine. The variety of elevations and climates in this area makes for several long weeks of picturesque foliage. You can find an extensive fall colors forecast for the Blue Ridge Mountains here.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Image by abi.bhattachan

The Great Smoky Mountains

Clingman’s Dome | Image by CHeitz

In Gatlinburg, TN, forecasting autumn colors is such a big deal, there are multiple webcams available to give you a real-time glimpse of the leaves as they change. Early in the season, make your way up to the Smokies’ highest point, Clingmans Dome. After a scenic drive through the mountains, the short and spiraling climb to the observation tower will reward you with a 360-degree view from an elevation of 6,643 ft. There are also many spectacular hikes of varying difficulty. If you’re looking for a backpacking adventure, check out the Forney Creek Trail, which provides secluded backcountry with technical creek crossings and beautiful waterfalls.

If that sounds a little strenuous, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in Pigeon Forge will lift you 200 feet into the air in an all-glass gondola. Either way, eastern Tennessee will wow you with its fiery vistas.

The Catskill Mountains

Heading north, a fall getaway to the Catskills is a ticket to clear blue skies and autumnal hues like only New York can provide. Rent a bike for the Catskill Scenic Trail, 26 miles of gravel rail-to-trail meandering through charming rural villages and farms. In Kingston, just over an hour’s drive away, you can hop on

Train Ride in The Catskill’s Mountains Image by Gail Frederick

Image by Andy Montgomery

the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Fall Flyer Leaf Train. The antique cars provide beautiful views in comfort and class. For showstopping scenery, however, you can’t miss the former site of the Catskill Mountain House. In its prime, the hotel, built in 1824, offered a never-before-seen vantage point of the Hudson River Valley. Although the hotel was demolished in the 1960s, the spot where it once stood continues to captivate visitors with its sweeping views.

The Monongahela National Forest

Dolly Sods Sunrise | Image by Nicolas Raymond

Just outside of Canaan Valley in the small town of Davis, WV, the 30th Annual Leaf Peeper’s Festival will cater to lovers of fall foliage the last weekend of September. As the mountains of Tucker County explode with color, enjoy a multitude of festival events. The Fields of Fire guided tour will take you through the autumn scenery in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, a rocky high-elevation plateau with an alpine feel. You can also take a Scenic Chairlift Ride up the Canaan Valley Resort slopes, or enjoy a horseback excursion at Mountain Trail Rides. There will also be a parade, craft vendors, and plenty of live music. (Do yourself a favor and catch some bluegrass at the Purple Fiddle.)

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

In the North Georgia Mountains, natural wonders abound, and fall is an especially celebrated time of year. Check out the Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway for a winding 40 mile drive through the Southern Appalachian hills, with several scenic pullouts to stop and take in the changing colors. End your drive at Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia at 4,784 ft. On a bright and crisp autumn day, you can see as far as North Carolina. Nearby Anna Ruby Falls is another highlight, with the vivid fall leaves highlighting 150-foot twin waterfalls. Finally, make your way down to the town of Ellijay to visit the heirloom orchards and enjoy some fresh pressed apple cider.

Anna Ruby Falls Trail Approach | Image by Stanislav Vitebskiy

North or south, the Appalachian mountains have much to offer anyone in search of spectacular fall foliage. Take a drive, bring a bike, or pack a picnic lunch for a trip worth remembering- the sheer scale of the hills awash with color is enough to take anyone’s breath away. Before the snow flies, take a moment to absorb the magic of the autumn months.

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