10 Reasons to Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall 2021

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10 Reasons You Should Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway This Fall

If you are in search of a scenic road trip this fall, look no further than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stretching 469 miles through the Appalachian mountains of Virginia and Western North Carolina, “America’s favorite drive” offers no shortage of panoramic mountain views and waterfalls. 

While the Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful all year round, the fall is extra special with vibrant red, yellow, and orange hues. Then add mountain views making it the ultimate leaf-peeping destination!

Believe it or not, in 2020, the Blue Ridge Parkway saw the most recreational visits in the United States at 14.1 million according to the National Park Service. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is also extremely popular, came in at 12.1 million recreational visits. 

So why should you take a road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway this fall? Here are 10 reasons that will have you planning your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip now!

Beacon Hike on Grandfather Mountain in Boone during fall in NC weekend
Fall at Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

You may also be interested in the Best Stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

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1. Immerse in Fall Foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the main reasons to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway during the fall is for the brilliant colors of autumn. With elevations reaching up to 6,683 ft., you have a greater chance to see fall foliage since there is a good range of higher and lower elevations.

This broadens the window for fall colors as autumn makes its way down the mountain!

Because of this, fall happens to be the most popular time to drive the parkway! Picture driving through tunnels of trees raining yellow and orange leaves.

Then add a plethora of pull-offs that greet you with unobstructed views of fall-covered mountains and endless sky.

One of the best places to see fall colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Grandfather Mountain. You have likely seen the famous photo of the Linn Cove Viaduct with bursts of fall foliage surrounding the road!

View Of Linn Cove Viaduct
View Of Linn Cove Viaduct in the distance

2. Experience 2 National Parks

This year has been all about road tripping through the USA and National Parks. The Blue Ridge Parkway conveniently starts in Shenandoah National Park located in Virginia and ends at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Shenandoah National Park includes over 200,000 acres nestled between Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont. Shenandoah offers a wide array of flora and fauna, wildlife, waterfalls, and hiking. 

Did you know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States?

From the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will enter through Cherokee, NC at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Oconaluftee also happens to be a known place to spot wild Elk.

You also have the opportunity to visit Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest which will have tons of beautiful fall colors as well.

Elk in Cherokee great smoky mountains blue ridge parkway in fall
Great Smoky Mountain Oconaluftee Center

3. Explore the Highest Mountain on the East Coast

Many don’t really look to the South for mountain experiences. However, you might be surprised to learn the highest peak East of the Mississippi can be found in North Carolina off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Mount Mitchell, reaching elevations of 6,684 ft high, offers unmatched views of fall foliage. The mountain is also very accessible.

Treat your inner holiday nostalgia with the sweet smell of the spruce-fir-covered forest, hiking trails, and even the chance of seeing a black bear.

Mount Mitchell Overlook with Me and Marley
Top of Mt. Mitchell

4. Enjoy a Lot of Beauty With Little Effort

One of the reasons I absolutely love bringing people to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains is because everyone can enjoy them. You don’t need to hike miles and scramble up rocks to experience the best of the Appalachian mountains.

Some of the best views can be experienced right from your car, or within a short walking distance.

Therefore, you’ll be rewarded with the best fall colors and views with very little effort other than actually driving the parkway.

Grandfather Mountain NC at sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset
Pull off at Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset

5. The Parkway is Pet-Friendly

As more and more people have begun traveling with their pets, you will be happy to learn that most of the Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trails are pet-friendly.

From Grandfather Mountain to the Biltmore Estate, your furry friend can accompany you throughout your fall road trip adventure!

If you plan on bringing your pet, just make sure to bring bags to clean up after them.

dog at Linville Falls waterfall during fal
Marley at Linville Waterfalls

6. Discover Some of the Best Mountain Towns in the South

As you make your way through the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will have the opportunity to explore some of the most quaint mountain towns from Boone, a friendly college town, and Banner Elk, a cute ski town, to the artsy city of Asheville, North Carolina.

These towns nestled along the Blue Ridge Parkway offer a vibe of natural beauty, wholesome food, and kind people.

Stay right outside the city to be greeted with stary nights and wilderness.

Fall in Boone, NC on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Woman holding small dog standing in front of 3 cows.
Cows on Grandfather Mountain in Boone, NC

7. See the Largest Home in the USA

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway allows you to check off many bucket list experiences. 2 National Parks – Check, the highest peak on the East Coast – check. Well, now you can also check off seeing the largest privately-owned home in the United States, the Biltmore Estate.

The Biltmore home, owned by George Vanderbilt, started construction in 1889. This massive French Renaissance-inspired chateau took about 6 years to build.

The estate covers 8,000 acres including beautiful endless gardens, mountain views, a winery, and more!

On top of this, you can even stay at the Biltmore Village, giving you close access to the estate. When planning your visit, make sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time.

Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC
Biltmore Estate

8. Chase Waterfalls

What’s better than fall foilage you ask? Well, that’s fall foilage etched around waterfalls, of course! Brevard and Transylvania County in North Carolina are known as the Land of Waterfalls. Here you will find over 250 waterfalls to explore.

Some of the most popular waterfalls along and around the Blue Ridge Parkway include Looking Glass Falls, Linville Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Soco falls, and Catawba Falls.

To sweeten the deal, all listed waterfalls are relatively easy to access and experience for all skill levels. 

Soco Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall
One of the Soco Twin Falls

9. Perfect Way to Get Outside

Fall is one of the best times to get outside especially in the South. The elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains welcome cool crip air, making it perfect for outdoor fall activities!

One of the best things to do during the fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway is hiking. With hundreds of hiking trails with a range of difficulties, you will find something for everyone. You can even say you’ve hiked part of the Appalachian trail as you will find trailheads near the parkway. 

Some of the best hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway are Rough Ridge at Grandfather Mountain, Craggy Gardens, and Linville Falls hike. 

Graveyard loop in fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Woman and small dog on rock
Graveyard Loop Trail

10. Fall Seasonal Activities on The Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall in the Blue Ridge Parkway offers some of the best seasonal activities. During your road trip, you can enjoy apple picking in the high country or hang out at one of the many vineyards along the parkway. 

Some apple picking you can find around the Blue Ridge Parkway includes The Orchard at Altapass, Saylor Orchard, and Grandad’s Apples.

Vineyards around the Blue Ridge Parkway to consider checking out are the vineyard at the Biltmore, Linville Falls Winery, and Grandfather Vineyard, and winery.

It will also be Oktoberfest in the Mountains! Asheville, in particular, is known as “Beer City USA”. With 50 breweries and more per capita than any other city, Oktoberfest is pretty special in Asheville. The festival is usually held in downtown Asheville at Pack Square Park.

While in Asheville, you might also want to consider the many tours they offer around the city!

Linville Falls NC

When to See Fall Foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Generally, the best time to see fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway is from mid to late October. Every year is different and all dependant on weather and elevation but, definitely worth seeing!

In 2020, we saw peak fall foliage on October 13th at Grandfather Mountain and the higher elevations.

When planning your road trip, the best piece of advice I can offer is to start your day early. Since fall is the most popular time to visit the parkway, parking lots fill up quickly. 

Since leaf-peeping on the Blue Ridge Parkway is so popular, you will find a handful of sites offering Fall forecasts. While this can help you plan your trip, keep in mind accommodations are limited. 

Grandfather Mountain in fall. Woman in orange shirt and blue and orange pants walking down road.
Beacon Heights on Grandfather Mountain

Where to Stay on The Blue Ridge Parkway

As mentioned before, the Blue Ridge Parkway is extremely popular during Fall. This is why it is really important to plan your accommodations ahead of time.

Some of the best towns to stay in while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway are Boone/Blowing Rock, Banner Elk, and Asheville.

Because driving the Parkway will take a couple of days, it is best to split it like this.

Boone/Blowing Rock Accommodations 

In the Boone/Blowing Rock area, consider checking out these accommodations. Vrbo

Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock (Lodge) – Moderate

Is a lovely mountain vibe lodge located in Blowing Rock. They offer an indoor pool, fitness center, water sports, and are dog friendly. They are also known to have pretty Christmas displays during the holidays. Their property is also located very close to the Blue Ridge Parkway

 Hampton Inn & Suites Boone – Budget/Moderate

Located centrally in Boone, the Hampton Inn & Suites have excellent reviews for their cleanliness. They offer an indoor pool and rooms that offer a terrace. Their property is also located within close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway 

Courtyard by Marriott Boone – Budget

Also located centrally in Boone, the Courtyard Marriot is just 5 minutes from Appalachian State College and very close to food. They offer a fitness center, jacuzzi, business room, and have a bistro bar for breakfast and diner. This location is also relatively close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

I have stayed at La Quinta by Wyndham Boone twice, which would be another budget option. Our first stay was fine, however, we found our room to be pretty dirty our second stay and won’t be going back.

Asheville Accommodations

In Asheville, you have to decide whether you want to stay closer to the Biltmore Estate or in or around Downtown Asheville. Both are great areas and have a lot to offer. Find some of the best places to stay in Asheville below.

The Omni Grove Park Inn (luxury) 

The Omni Grove Park Inn is known as a historic hotel in the area, built-in 1913. Their resort offers a top-of-the-line spa, incredible indoor pool, great restaurants, and beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are located relatively close to the Biltmore and are dog-friendly. 

Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville (Moderate)

Conveniently located in Downtown Asheville, be close to all the action the city has to offer along with lots of places to eat. Cambria Hotel offers stylish rooms, rooftop dining, and a fitness center.

Crowne Plaza Resort (Budget/ Moderate) 

A resort-style hotel located outside of downtown Asheville. Crowne Plaza Resort offers a saltwater lap pool, a heated outdoor pool, golf course, tennis court, and racketball club. They also offer a free shuttle to downtown Asheville and are pet-friendly. 

If you want to stay very close to or in the Biltmore Estate Village, consider these properties:

Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, Autograph Collection (Luxury) 

Located right outside the Biltmore Estate entrance, the Grand Bohemian has Bavarian vibes, with incredibly beautiful decor. Indulge at the Red Stage Lounge, enjoy the hotels’ collection of local art, Spa, and fitness center. They are also pet-friendly. 

Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate (Moderate) 

Located right in Antler Village at the Biltmore Estate. Enjoy being steps away from the Biltmore Winery. They also offer casual dining, a heated outdoor pool, and a fitness center. 

The Inn On Biltmore Estate (Moderate/ Luxury) 

Located on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, enjoy the close proximity to the estate and beautiful mountain views. The property also offers a spa, a lovely outdoor heated pool, and both casual and fine dining options. 

Blue Ridge Parkway in the Fall: Wrap-up

This covers why the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most incredible fall road trips to take in the USA! I hope you have the best time driving the parkway and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below! 

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Blue Ridge Parkway in Fall North Carolina

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