On Fall's Trail in North Carolina

What to Do and Where to Do It
Gorp.com

Camping in Cataloochee Valley

Spend your autumn leisure time in this valley of meadows, streams, mountains and history situated within the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The campsite is canopied with stately white pines nestled in the valley which is a hiker's paradise. Take the 7.4 mile undulating Boogerman Trail that loops among old growth hemlocks and other fall splendors. The valley's remoteness and inaccessibility keep it one of the Smokies best kept and least visited special places. It's open May-October.

Route: To get there, from Canton drive 11 miles west on 1-40 to Exit 20, then drive west on NC 276. Follow it a short distance, then turn right on Cove Creek Road, which you follow nearly 6 miles to enter the park. Two miles beyond the park boundary, turn left onto the paved Cataloochee Road and follow it 3 miles. The campground will be on your left.
Peak color: Mid to Late October
More about Camping in the Smokies

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Follow the Appalachian Mountain chain along the Blue Ridge Parkway which extends 469 miles along the crests of the Southern Appalachians linking two eastern national parks—Shenandoah and Great Smokey Mountains. Aside from the many points of interest along the way, trees, trees and more trees are nearly everywhere! And so is color. Dogwood, sourwood, and blackgum turn deep red in late September. Tulip trees and hickories turn bright yellow, sassafrass a vivid orange, and red maples add their multi-colored brilliance. A rainbow in the trees! As you peep at the leaves keep your eyes on the road for wildlife—groundhogs, chipmunks, skunks, bobcats, and Whitetail deer all make appearances.

Peak color: Late September to Mid-October
More about the Blue Ridge Parkway

Biking around Asheville

Autumn, with its cooler days, makes for delightful riding in the Swannanoa Valley. It's also very popular with touring motorists. The leaf season lasts several weeks, because the changes in altitude result in color changes starting early and ending much later. An autumn ride may start in green trees and ascend through brilliant colors, topping out at bare-branches in the upper elevations. However, extra caution for riding is required since so many additional autos are on the roads and drivers are sometimes concentrating on the foliage as much as the driving.

Access: Ride begins at Folk Art Center on Blue Ridge Parkway. Take the Parkway north from Tunnel Road or use any of the Highway 74 entrances. Be sure to park in the remote lots, away from gallery.
Peak color: Late September to Late October
More about Biking around Asheville

Rafting the Nantahala River

Is the family too restless for a calm drive? An alternative to viewing the foliage from a car is to splash it from your paddle. With over 20 named rapids on the Nantahala, there are plenty of play spots for boaters to discover and waves for rafters to crash through. There are also many flatwater opportunities for simply floating and quietly appreciating the natural character of the river during autumn. The Nantahala is a perfect family adventure and in the fall water may not be as high making for a calmer, safer ride. Also, seasonal discounts are more common and the river is less crowded during this time.

Route: Located in the western part of North Carolina, 13 miles southwest of Bryson City near the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Right on highway 74.
Peak color: Mid-October
More about rafting the Nantahala River


Published: 12 Sep 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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