Creative Ways to See Fall Colors in North Carolina

Creative Ways to See Fall Colors in North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers a variety of scenic, round-trip excursions departing from Bryson City

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 Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard.

French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals

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.

Tweetsie Railroad in fall


Experience fun for all ages at Tweetsie Railroad and its Wild West-themed attractions

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.

Horseback riding at Cataloochee Ranch

Horseback riding at Cataloochee Ranch is a fun way to take in views of the Great Smoky Mountains

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.

Outer Banks Fishing Pier during sunrise

Take in the sunrise, then cast your line from Outer Banks Fishing Pier in Nags Head

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.


There’s much to see and do in North Carolina, so read on.

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