Experience Fall Colors and Activities in NC
If you are looking to experience some beautiful fall foliage and activities, look no further than North Carolina! From quaint mountain towns in Western North Carolina to the beaches in the Outer Banks, fall is one of the best times to visit NC. In this guide, find the perfect fall vacation in NC with some of the best places to experience fall this year.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Experience Fall Colors and Activities in NC
- Boone, NC
- Banner Elk
- Blowing Rock
- Asheville, NC
- Mt. Mitchell State Park
- Linville Falls and Linville Gorge Wilderness
- Pisgah National Forest
- Cherokee & The Great Smoky Mountains
- Roan Mountain
- Lake Norman
- Winston-Salem, NC
- Raleigh, NC
- The Outer Banks, NC (OBX)
- When is the Best Time to See Fall Colors in North Carolina
- Best Places to Experience Fall in NC: Wrap-Up
Located in the Appalachian Mountains of Watauga County, Boone is easily one of the best places to visit during the fall in NC. Boone is most known for being the college town of Appalachian State University. During a visit to Boone, explore the bustling Downtown area with shops and food.
Additionally, you will of course find beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains making Boone, NC, especially special in the fall.
Some of the best places to enjoy fall activities and leaf-peeping in Boone include Grandfather Mountain and taking a scenic road trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
While visiting Grandfather Mountain Nature Park, enjoy dozens of hikes, endless mountain views, the Mile High Swinging Bridge, and views of the famous Linn Cove Viaduct.
The best time to see fall colors around Boone, North Carolina is usually from mid-October – through the beginning of November. Plan your Boone Weekend itinerary here.
This quaint ski town sits at the base of the very popular Sugar Mountain. Nearby you will also find Beech Ski Mountain, which offers biking, disc golf, and events during the summer/fall.
At Beech Mountain, you can also head to Emerald Outback, one of the highest trail parks east of the Rockies at over 5,400 ft in elevation.
While Banner Elk is most popular to visit during the winter for skiing and snowboarding, Banner Elk is also centrally located to Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway for fall colors. If you happen to be visiting from October 21st-22nd, you can even attend the 46th Annual Woolly Worm Festival!
Additionally, you can visit Apple Hill Farm, a working alpaca and llama farm, or head to Elk River Falls, a 50 ft. waterfall!
Look for a cute Vrbo home in Banner Elk.
Another charming NC town to experience in the fall is Blowing Rock. Also located near Boone, you will find stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway which offers epic fall colors.
Moreover, you will find the home to North Carolina’s oldest tourist attraction, Blowing Rock. This mountain sits at 4,000 ft. above sea level and offers sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It costs $9 to visit Blowing Rock. Once you walk through the gift shop to enter, you can enjoy nature trails, see the blowing rock, look down on the gorge, and view the gardens.
Asheville has become one of the most popular places to visit in the North Carolina Mountains, and with good reason. Not only does this NC city offer fall activities like Oktober Fest, but it also offers incredible fall colors.
Downtown Asheville is a bustling artsy city with more breweries per capita than any other USA city, unique eateries, and shopping.
Right outside the city, you can find tons of outdoor activities, including hiking, waterfall chasing, and even hot air balloon rides above the NC fall foliage.
Asheville is also home to the largest privately-owned home in the USA, the Biltmore Estate. This french inspired chateau offers 8,000 acres of gardens, a winery, meadows, stables, and more!
Asheville is also located just an hour east of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! For an elevated experience, you can head over to Bryson City and take the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
Mt. Mitchell State Park
Ever wonder where the highest peak on the East Coast was located? It can be found right here in NC, and the mountain offers pretty epic views, especially in the fall. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, drive to the top of Mt. Mitchell, where you will reach elevations as high as 6,684 ft.
Make your way to the observation deck where can you experience panoramic views of the Black Mountain range (a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains) during peak fall foliage. Or, consider taking one of the many hiking trails through and around the mountains dense southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest.
If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can even hike to the peak of the mountain. The mountain is also a part of the Mountains to Seas trail which stretches 1,175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.
Moreover, you can find a museum, food, and camping around Mt. Mitchell. The only thing to keep in mind is that Mt. Mitchell is in black bear county.
The best place to stay near Mt. Mitchell is in Asheville, NC.
Linville Falls and Linville Gorge Wilderness
Possibly one of the most famous waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in Western NC is Linville Falls. Take a short hike through brightly colored fall foliage to the opening of the upper Linville waterfalls. This trail does get muddy, however, the short hike is worth it.
From Linville Falls, make your way to Linville Gorge for more fall colors in NC. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Linville Gorge is known as the Grand Canyon of the East. The Gorge descends an impressive 2,000 ft. to Lake James. It is also just one of two wilderness gorges in the Southern USA.
The best places to stay near Linville Falls are in Little Switzerland or Boone/Blowing Rock.
Pisgah National Forest
If you love fall colors and waterfalls, then Pisgah National Forest in NC is for you. Enjoy over 5,000 acres of mountain views, waterfalls, hiking trails, camping, fishing, and more.
One of the most notable waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest is Looking Glass Falls. You can find this impressive 60ft waterfall right off the highway. Nearby you can also take a short 1.5-mile hike to Moore Cove Falls. This 50 ft waterfall actually allows you to stand behind it!
Nearby hikes to enjoy include Graveyard Fields Loop (which includes a waterfall), Devils Courthouse, and Looking Glass Rock Overview.
If you are near Pisgah National Forest, some other popular places to visit nearby that are also beautiful in fall include Lake Lure near Chimney Rock State Park and DuPont State Forest, which also offers a handful of waterfalls.
The 3 most popular falls are Hooker Falls, High Falls, and Tripple Falls.
Additionally, enjoy apple picking in NC near Hendersonville, one of North Carolina’s top apple-producing counties. Some of the best places to explore the apple orchards include Grandad’s Apples, Sky Top Orchard, and Justus Orchard.
The best places to stay near Pisgah National Forest are near/in Asheville or near Hendersonville with Vrbo.
Cherokee & The Great Smoky Mountains
Did you know part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was located in North Carolina? You can reach the National Park through the town of Cherokee, NC, and experience beautiful fall colors.
Head to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center which is the entrance of the park. At the visitor center, enjoy the fall foliage, hike the trails, and even have the opportunity to see wild Elk and Turkey. The open meadow at the visitor center is a popular area to spot them.
In the area, also consider stopping by Soco Waterfalls located in Maggie Valley.
The best place to stay will be near Asheville, NC.
Bordering North Carolina and Tenessee, Roan Mountain is a 5-mile high ridge that offers epic views. While the mountain is probably most famous for the Catawba Rhododendron blooms in June and July, Roan Mountain is also a perfect place to experience fall in NC.
This mountain range reaches an elevation of 6,286 ft and is actually a part of the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy hiking through spruce-fir forests and treeless balds opening to marvelous fall colors. Roan Mountain is also quite magical during the winter as well!
This is one of the best day trips from Boone, NC.
Another great place to experience fall in NC is Lake Norman in Mooresville. Located about 25 minutes North of Charlotte, Lake Norman is one of the best things to do in Mooresville and makes for the perfect fall escape from the city. Lake Norman also happens to be the largest man-made lake in North Carolina, stretching 34 miles long.
Some of the most popular activities by the lake include water sports, hiking, biking, fishing, and camping. Lake Norman State Park covers 1,942-acres of public land and just recently included 6 cabins fitted with electric, heating, and air-conditioning.
If you’re a sports fan, can even catch a Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium about 35 minutes away!
I believe Winston- Salem is a real hidden gem in NC, especially during fall. While the actual downtown city is cool, the most unique place to visit is Old Salem. Take a step back in time with homes that have been preserved since the 1800s.
One of my favorite places to take photos is on the Old Heritage Bridge, which is covered and decorated during the holidays.
Not to mention, you will also find fabulous fall colors. Plus, nearby you will also find Pilot Mountain State Park and Hanging Rock State Park. These are great places to enjoy beautiful fall colors in NC and a great day trip for those located in Raleigh or the Triangle.
While most head to the WNC Mountains to see fall colors, Raleigh, the Capital of NC, also offers some really lovely foliage. Since Raleigh is not in the mountains, you are more likely to experience fall colors around the end of October to the beginning of November.
Some fall activities to do around Raleigh and surrounding areas include visiting pumpkin patches, getting lost in corn mazes, exploring the Halloween decorations in Historic Oakwood, and the Pumpkin Flotilla at Bond Park in Cary.
The State Fair in Raleigh is also a pretty big deal. This year it is from October 12th to October 22th and includes competitions, rides, food, and more!
Or experience an NC fall hockey game at PNC area where the Carolina Hurricanes play.
Additionally, Raleigh, NC offers some excellent parks to see fall colors, including Umstead State Park, Historic Yates Mill County Park, and Shelly Lake. Raleigh also offers cool free places to visit along with Instagrammable places.
The Outer Banks, NC (OBX)
The Outer Banks is arguably one of the best beach vacations in North Carolina. I know what you might be thinking, why would I go to the beach during fall? Well, that is because fall is shoulder season, giving you ample time to enjoy the coast without the crowds.
With milder weather, explore some of the best things to do in the Outer Banks, including visiting Jockey Ridge (the largest live sand dune on the East Coast), taking a road trip down the Scenic Byway, exploring Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and beach hopping.
Furthermore, many anglers would agree fishing is the best in the fall, along with surfing in OBX. They also have the Outer Banks Seafood Festival in Nags Head!
The only downside about the Outer Banks during the fall is that some restaurants are only open for the Summer season. However, OBX is still worth it in the fall!
When is the Best Time to See Fall Colors in North Carolina
The best time to see fall colors can range from early to mid-October and well into November, depending on where in the State you are. The mountains in NC will always see fall colors first since the mountains are at a higher elevation and have cooler temperatures.
As you get closer to November, you will see fall foliage at the lower elevations and the rest of the state. Keep in mind the weather in North Carolina is quite erratic. One day it may feel like fall, and the next day it will feel like full-blown summer.
Local North Carolinians can all agree the weather is just crazy here and is forever changing every year. Therefore, make sure to keep an eye on it when planning your visit.
Best Places to Experience Fall in NC: Wrap-Up
This concludes some of the best places to visit during the Fall in NC! From the North Carolina Mountains to the beaches, I hope you have the best time exploring all that NC has to offer in Autumn!
Have any questions or a place that should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments below.
You may also be interested in Fun North Carolina Facts.