The pursuit of fall colors is an annual event for many in North America. Whether you're exploring by car, by boat, or by foot, there are great opportunities to witness stunning displays of autumn foliage blanketing the landscape in vivid swatches of gold, orange and red.
Although New England is famous for its fall foliage, we're going to head south and feature the beautiful Mid-Atlantic region, where fall is most vibrant in mid-late October. Check out our ideas for autumn expeditions and start planning for the peak season!
Stretching between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an American icon. The road meanders, winds, rises and falls as it traverses this historic stretch of the Appalachian Mountains. Amidst lush forests and rolling terrain, fall brings a blaze of color that stretches far as the eye can see.
Perhaps the most stunning part of this drive lies in the highlands region of North Carolina. Between Linville Falls (milepost 317) and Moses Cone Memorial Park (milepost 294) is a mountain excursion with numerous overlooks and pull-offs with breathtaking vistas. In the center of the highlands is Linn Cove Viaduct (milepost 304), a feat of engineering that allows the road to soar above the treetops. As you traverse the gentle curves, you can witness breathtaking views and stop at the many scenic overlooks for photos.
Close to Asheville is the Pisgah region. From Sun Retreats Nantahala, you can drive 40 minutes east to reach the Richland Balsam Overlook (milepost 431), the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway. After you've surveyed the panoramic expanse, continue on the Parkway to Devil's Courthouse (milepost 422), a craggy mountain peak with overlooks accessible by car or foot. Multiple waterfalls lie just off the beaten path as you approach the city of Asheville, where you'll find a visitor center (milepost 384). Feel free to call it a day and explore the city, or continue along the Parkway to Pisgah National Forest, a wilderness that features hundreds of premier hiking trails and overlooks like Mount Mitchell State Park (milepost 355).
You've likely heard tales of Pennsylvania's beautiful Amish country, but why not visit it yourself? A fall road trip through Lancaster County awaits you on scenic Route 23, also known as Conestoga Ridge Road.
Begin your trip at Valley Forge, where you can stroll through the National Historic Park for a vivid autumn experience. Route 23 heads directly out of the park and into the countryside, where you'll pass Amish settlements and small towns situated amongst rolling fields. This is the heart of Pennsylvania's rustic beauty, where aged barns stand against a backdrop of vibrant autumnal forests and rugged, distant hills.
Be sure to stop in the villages for a taste of the Amish tradition. Bakeries, cheese shops, and farm stands are omnipresent along Route 23, providing an opportunity to sample the hand-crafted works of this unique culture. As you round out your drive in the city of Lancaster, take a break at Lancaster County Central Park, an outdoor paradise that's home to nature trails, a covered bridge, and multi-hued fall foliage.
The feeling of cool, crisp air and the sound of leaves crunching underfoot is a simple pleasure in life. Hiking in the fall lends itself to relaxation and offers the chance for an intimate look at the changing leaves. Though hiking by oneself is almost meditative, the lasting memories of hiking as a family are even better.
At Hacklebarney State Park, you'll find trails that are easy to navigate and friendly enough for the kids. Roughly six miles of overlapping paths run through the park, with options for short or moderate hikes. As you traverse through the area, you'll witness mossy rocks, striking fall colors, and the cascading waters of the Black River.
Turn your hike into a day trip by stopping for a family picnic. Tables are arranged throughout the park and the proximity to the parking lot ensures that you won't have far to carry your cooler.
Located in Fort Ann, roughly 40 minutes north of Saratoga Springs, is Pilot Knob Preserve, a family-friendly hiking trail. Park at the trailhead on Pilot Knob Road and take the family on an easy 30-minute hike to the overlook and gazebo. Fabulous views of blazing foliage and shimmering Lake George await you at the top.
If you're feeling energetic, the trail carries on to a scenic mountain waterfall, perfect for pictures and exploration. It takes about 20 minutes to hike to the waterfall with a family, but the trip is well worth the visit.
Experienced hikers will want to visit Prospect Mountain, a soaring summit with tremendous 100-mile views of the Adirondack region. Though this hike is too steep for young children, it's a rewarding challenge for adults.
The trail begins on Smith Street in Lake George Village, with an elevated walkway that carries hikers above the Adirondack Northway. On the other side of this bridge, the trail becomes distinctly mountainous, with dense forests and rocky outcrops. Though difficult, the trail is only 3-miles round-trip, making it a short, exhilarating hike.
For those who can't make the hike, Veterans Memorial Highway allows visitors to drive to the summit and survey the scenery.
Experiencing fall on land is a treat, but exploring the season by water is magical. Vivid colors reflect off the streams as you gently paddle your way through the scenery. In the Mid-Atlantic region, Virginia is home to thousands of waterways, allowing an endless opportunity for taking in the colors.
Located near Williamsburg and Jamestown, York River State Park is located alongside the York River where it meets the Chesapeake Bay. Small rivers and estuaries run through the park in an environment that beckons paddlers and kayakers. Unique blends of old forest and coastal marshes create an environment that is full of life and color in autumn.
Set off on the Taskinas Creek, a gentle stream that flows into the York River. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent at the creek, and you can sign up for a guided trip at the park's visitor center. Experienced paddlers can also head onto the mighty York River, with a launch available at Croaker Landing. No matter which waterway you choose, the fall colors are sure to be spectacular.