Fall Fishing in Alabama
Wesley “Moose” Parton spends many fall days steering a Bass boat through the waters of Lake Guntersville. The 21-year-old plans to turn pro in the fishing world next year, so as a lake guide, he knows the best biting spots.
“The fishing seems better on the southern end of the lake,” explains Parton. But when he has some down time, he prefers the northern end for its peaceful solitude and bounty of color. He says that area is best for enjoying the scenic view, which includes glimpses of eagles.
“I see one probably every other time. It’s a sight, especially as ducks start coming in toward winter. You can tell when an eagle is around, the ducks go crazy,” he says. “It’s also not a surprise to see hawks diving in the water.” alapark.com/LakeGuntersville, lakeguntersville.org
Bouldering in Georgia
When Ty Wheeler clocks out of his job as director of adventure at the Currahee Club golf community in north Georgia, he doesn’t stray far from the area. The Toccoa area tops his list of favorite fall getaways; he says he enjoys seeing the beauty of the changing leaf color as he boulders and climbs rocks in the Lake Russell Wildlife Management Area about 10 minutes west of Toccoa.
“There are tons and tons of boulders there,” says Wheeler. “And it’s still kind of secluded. If you don’t pick up the right climbing guide book, you won’t know about it.” He says the rocks are surrounded by old-growth oaks, which produce magnificent fall color. One unusual characteristic of some rocks here is the graffiti left by soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division before they shipped off in World War II. Wheeler, who is a former member of the Air Force Special Operations, says the 101st trained in the area and the soldiers all etched their names and the date in the rock facings. fs.fed.us
Geocache in Maryland
Cassie Conklin, a canoe instructor at Western Maryland Adventures in Flintstone, has a favorite spot for viewing fall color and also for enjoying the sport of geocaching. The Canyon Overlook Cache is hidden only about a half a mile from the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort.
“It’s an absolutely magnificent view,” says Conklin. “It’s basically at the beginning of the Chesapeake Bay [watershed] and overlooks a huge canyon.” She estimates the round-trip hike to the cache is only 30 minutes, along an easy, flat trail. With a little more time to spare, she takes along a picnic lunch. rockygapresort.com
Festivals in North Carolina
John Cooper, owner of the Mast General Stores, doesn’t venture far from his flagship store in Valle Crucis when he is looking to enjoy the fall leaf display. And he says one of the most beautiful places to enjoy the view is “down in the valley” in a field across from the Holy Cross Episcopal Church where the Valle Country Fair is held annually on the third Saturday in October.
“When you’re at the fair, down in a flat plane, you’re surrounded by the hillsides covered with exquisite colors.” The fair started 30 years ago as a way to raise money for the church’s new parish hall. In the 29 years since, the proceeds have gone to support human service organizations in the community as well as to fund an emergency fund at the church to help people with utility bills in winter and support in the event of a house fire. The juried fair includes 135 craft vendors plus food booths, the majority of which are run by the church. And down the road in Banner Elk, on the same weekend, is the Woolly Worm Festival. vallecountryfair.org
High-Altitude Hikes in Virginia
Asheville, N.C.-based photographer Steven McBride points to Virginia for his favorite fall getaway. He recommends the Grayson Highlands State Park, located near the two highest peaks in Virginia: Mount Rogers and White Top Mountain.
“The Appalachian Trail runs there. The area has tons of really nice hiking trails and wild ponies that the kids love, of course,” says McBride. “Way up at the top it’s reminiscent of our west with bald areas with rock outcroppings. Hiking toward Rhododendron Gap is a beautiful hike.”
He and his family also enjoy biking on the nearby Virginia Creeper Trail. Sometimes he will rise before sunrise to capture amazing shots, like the accompanying picture. dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/gra.shtml
Motorcycling in West Virginia
When the leaves start turning color in West Virginia, the governor’s wife, Gayle C. Manchin, enjoys traveling the state by motorcycle.
“One of the most exhilarating aspects of motorcycling in West Virginia is the thrill of coming around a deep curve on one of our scenic mountain highways and seeing a clear, sparkling waterfall cascading over the rocks, down the mountainside,” says Manchin.
A recommended trip is to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, followed by a drive over W.Va. 9 to Berkeley Springs, where travelers can immerse themselves in the mineral waters at the Berkeley Springs State Park. nps.gov/hafe
A Ridgeline in Kentucky
Chris Hayes, one of the guides for True North Outfitters, in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, says he spends a lot of time helping people build rock climbing and rappelling skills. But when he heads out in the fall, he keeps both feet on the ground as he hikes up to spot where he can fully appreciate the beauty of the gorge.
“My favorite is the Auxier Ridge Trail,” says Hayes. “It is one of the best hikes in the Red River Gorge. It’s a nice ridgeline hike that provides great views of the gorge itself, as well as all of the leaves changing.” The hike is four miles roundtrip, and affords the opportunity to spot deer and turkeys. fs.fed.us/r8/boone
An Artist’s View in Tennessee
Gatlinburg watercolorist Vern Hippensteal laughs as he explains that his favorite fall spot in the Great Smokies National Park changes frequently. Yet, he is able to point to one area, known as Jungle Brook, that he holds special regard for. “It’s an easy hike for anyone to get to,” he says, “and the maples are just gorgeous.” He tapes watercolor canvas to a board and carries it with him, then works on a selected scene.
One of his paintings, “Autumn Canopy,” showcases the area. He says there is an old cabin, and also an old turbine mill. “The wheel actually lies on the ground,” says Hippensteal. “The water hits it and turns it, so it is horizontal rather than vertical. The blessing with this spot is that anyone can get to it.”
Another way to enjoy the rich fall color is by visiting the Hippensteal Inn, a bed and breakfast created and run by Vern and his wife, Lisa, that offers 360-degree views. nps.gov/grsm
A Float in South Carolina
Every fall, Tim Lee, the park interpreter and naturalist for the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, fits in time for a canoe trip on Lake Jocassee in Devils Fork State Park. He says color viewing is magnificent from the water, with temperatures that are fairly comfortable. He’s also quick to say, in addition, that he enjoys the fall foliage at Caesars Head State Park.
"There’s more variation in color there because of the different type of trees and the diversity of plants. It’s also the time of year for hawk migration, which begins in mid-September and continues through October.” The Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area encompasses two state parks in upstate South Carolina: Caesars Head and Jones Gap. southcarolinaparks.com
For information on peak color times:
Call the National Forest Service Fall Color Hotline at (800) 354-4595, or call the following numbers:
North Carolina, (800) 847-4862
Tennessee, (800) 697-4200
Virginia, (800) 434-LEAF
West Virginia, (800) CALL-WVA
Below are 13 common trees found in the Blue Ridge region as well as their colors during peak season.
Red Maple: Brilliant red, orange sometimes, yellow leaf color.
Red Oak: Red & orange leaf color.
Pin Oak: Red leaf color
Scarlet Oak: Red leaf color
Dogwood: Red-maroon, almost purple leaf color
Sourwood: Bright red leaf color
Sassafras: Yellow, orange or red leaf color
Hickory: Yellow leaf color
Sweetgum: Yellow, purple or red leaf color
Redbud: Yellow leaf color
Sycamore: Yellow & orange leaf color
American Chestnut: Yellow leaf color
American Elm: Yellow leaf color
*Sources of Information: University of Illinois Extension, forestry.about.com, ncnatural.com, Virginia Tech.
Miscellaneous Leaf Sites
- Trail Finder - Best Scenic Drives Finder
- National Park Service - Fall in Blue Ridge
- How To Photograph Fall Color - From The New York Institute Of Photography
- North Carolina Fall Foliage
- What is Photosynthesis? - From Arizona State University
- Fall Leaf & Twig Identification - Turn Leaf Peeping Into An Educational Experience
State Leaf Sites
- Alabama - Fall Tours and Trails
- Georgia - Great North Georgia Autumn Drives, Fall Events
- Kentucky - ColorFall
- Maryland - Fall Festivals, Hayrides and Pick-Your-Own Pumpkins
- North Carolina - Local Colors Of Autumn
- South Carolina - Map of Foliage Changes
- Tennessee - Smoky Mountains Region...Suggested Tours
- Virginia - Virginia Fall Foliage
- West Virginia - Fall Color Driving Tours