Creative Ways to See Fall Colors in North Carolina

Tracy TurpenCreative Ways to See Fall Colors in North Carolina

High Falls in DuPont State Recreational Forest

With more than 200 tree species under the bluest of skies, North Carolina puts on a kaleidoscopic show in the fall. But the state’s exceptional color comes from more than maples and sourwoods. Experience the full glory in myriad ways from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Atlantic Ocean piers.

See a color cascade
Take a day hike or spend the weekend exploring 250 mountain waterfalls framed by fall foliage in Transylvania County. Then savor the taste of ambers, browns and golds at the new Oskar Blues Brewery Southeast in Brevard.

Soar through the canopy
Experience fall color up close on a canopy tour. North Carolina is the nation’s zip line leader with more than 20 tours, including The Gorge, the steepest in the Continental United States.

Bow down to monarchs
Vibrant orange wings flutter en masse during the monarch butterfly migration. Starting in mid-September, their flight path crosses the North Carolina mountains. The best odds of seeing them are on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Cherry Cove (Milepost 415.7) and Wagon Road Gap (Milepost 412.2).

Hop a train
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s fall foliage ride follows a historic rail line into river gorges, across valleys and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. And in Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad combines scenery with family fun.

Grab a paddle
Add the shimmering gold of cordgrass to the fall palette with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard trek through lush salt marshes. From Kitty Hawk Kayaks in Corolla to the Adventure Kayak Company in Southport, outfitters offer lessons and tours.

Find the bear
As the harvest sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, a bear-like shadow emerges from the canopy for 30 minutes every evening from mid-October to early November. Catch the Shadow of the Bear from Rhodes Big View Overlook near Cashiers.

Saddle up
Take a guided horseback ride at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where woodlands, streams and waterfalls create stunning scenery. Or bring your own horse and join RFD-TV’s Best of America by Horseback for a ride at Leatherwood Mountains in Ferguson.

Uncork the color
Sip reds and whites in the woodlands of North Carolina wine country. The Swan Creek Wine Trail includes Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery, known for panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Brushy Mountains.

See more than leaves
Floral colors at public gardens add beauty to the season. At Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, the red footbridge in the Asiatic arboretum harmonizes with the crimson of Japanese maple.

Cast a line in the surf
Start at daybreak for a double photo op — one for the coral-colored sky and one for the giant red drum or speckled seatrout you land.

Go airborne
Drink in the view from a hot air balloon. Join the crowd at the colorful Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville or connect with an individual operator such as Carolina Balloon Adventures, Balloons Over Charlotte or Asheville Hot Air Balloons.

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