Creative Ways to See Fall Colors in North Carolina

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 the Brevard area. Then savor the taste of ambers, browns and golds at Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard.

French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals are two of the many waterfalls to explore in the Brevard area

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. Try Kitty Hawk Kayaks in Corolla, which offers lessons and tours throughout fall.

Fall is an ideal time to enjoy paddling or kayaking our beaches, rivers and lakes

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 Windsor Run Cellars, set in the scenic foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and boasting a cabin-like tasting room with vineyard views.

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 and Asheville Hot Air Balloons.

Updated September 7, 2018
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