Fall in North Carolina is a special season, a time when our state’s beauty takes center stage as trees put on a spectacular, colorful performance. For some people, these colors aren’t just something they see – they’re also something they can hear. Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Maggie Rogers and Charli XCX are among the many musicians who have a sensory gift that allows them to see different colors when they hear specific musical notes. This year, experience the season in a completely new way and hear the sound of fall color across North Carolina.
1 Linville GorgeMarionSee on map
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find one of only two wilderness gorges in the southern United States. Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Linville Gorge comprises 12 miles of rugged walls that enclose the Linville River as it descends almost 2,000 feet. Take your first trip to this natural wonder on a weekday to avoid the crowds and experience fall in a new way. Enjoy scenic vistas, fishing, rock climbing and mountain biking, or take a hike to nearby Linville Falls to hear the roar of a three-tiered waterfall.
2 Sarah P. Duke GardensDurhamSee on map
Named one of the top 10 public gardens in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, Duke Gardens is the perfect place to enjoy fall’s cooler temperatures as you wander through this sprawling 55-acre garden. Spend the day discovering a new favorite among the hundreds of plant varieties and listen to the peaceful sounds of nature in the middle of a bustling city. End your trip with a stop at Bull City Ciderworks, where you can pull up a stool and taste a new fall flavor with delicious seasonal ciders.
3 Lake BrandtGreensboroSee on map
See double this autumn as the spectacular colors of the season reflect off the sparkling waters of Lake Brandt. With 816 acres where you can fish, paddleboard, kayak and canoe, there’s plenty to do and even more to see. Make it a full day with a stop at J. Razz & Tazz Farm, where the sounds of fall come to life with the rustle of an 11-acre corn maze, laughter at the pumpkin patch and the crackle of a cozy bonfire.
4 Kitty HawkOuter BanksSee on map
As the summer crowds head back home, the full splendor of fall on the North Carolina coast comes into view at Kitty Hawk with stunning landscapes and a slower pace of life. Purchase a fishing pass, cast a line off Kitty Hawk Pier and enjoy listening to the waves gently splash against the beach as you reel in red drum. Hear about the Wright brothers’ first flight and check out interactive exhibits at the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center. Then take to the sky yourself by going hang gliding with Kitty Hawk Kites and see the Outer Banks – and aviation history – from a new perspective.
5 Hemphill BaldMaggie ValleySee on map
During fall, the call of the mountains always seems a little louder. One answer? A breathtaking hike on the Hemphill Bald loop. Located in NC's Great Smoky Mountains, Hemphill Bald features epic scenery and plenty of ways to enjoy it. Hit the trail in your favorite pair of boots or saddle up at the Cataloochee Ranch and a take a leisurely horseback ride through mountains with 250 million years of history.