There is something enchanting about fall foliage. As the leaves change color, the landscape is transformed into a work of art. Every fall, outdoor enthusiasts make it a point to go for a long walk in the woods, an adventurous ride down a mountain path, or a peaceful walk for leaf peeping to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Traveling through the American South during the fall gives you access to a magical world where leaves crinkle under your feet, and the air permeates with the smell of cinnamon and cloves. Whether it's a mountainside blanketed in golden leaves in North Carolina or a quiet forest trail dappled with sunlight in Virginia, the towns we’ve listed below are the perfect spots to watch the scenery change to fall foliage this season.
10 Damascus, Virginia
As the leaves begin to change color in fall, the small town of Damascus, Virginia, comes alive with natural beauty, which is perfect for the outdoor adventurers that descend on “Trail Town USA.” Damascus earned the title by being the convergence of several well-known and popular scenic trails, including the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the U.S. Bicycle Route 76 trail.
The fall foliage change provides a stunning backdrop for the many activities that take place during this time of year. Not only can visitors enjoy these scenic trails they have a variety of activities to choose from, including apple picking and pumpkin carving to fishing. With its picturesque scenery and plethora of fall activities, it is no wonder that this small town is a popular destination for leaf peepers from all over the world.
9 Gatlinburg, Tennessee
As the leaves begin to change color, the Smoky Mountains come alive with a riot of oranges, reds, and yellows. This is when the town of Gatlinburg begins to shine the brightest. The best way to experience the fall foliage is by taking a scenic drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Every turn brings a new vista of colorful trees, and the air is full of the crisp smell of autumn. If you're lucky, you might even spot a deer or black bear foraging for food. Area hikes consist of treks to Baskins Creek Falls, Ramsey Cascades, and Arch Rock. Local icon Emert’s Cove Covered Bridge is a well-photographed landmark that bursts with color during the fall season as well. Of course, no trip to Gatlinburg would be complete without a visit to Dollywood. The world-famous theme park is decked out in fall decorations, and there's nothing like riding a roller coaster surrounded by falling leaves.
8 Greenville, South Carolina
Situated at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is a charming city in South Carolina that offers a historic downtown area, scenic parks, and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. The downtown district is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and businesses, as well as several historic landmarks. Among the most popular attractions is Falls Park on the Reedy, which features a walking trail, waterfalls, and a suspension bridge spanning the Reedy River, and Liberty Bridge, which offers breathtaking views of the cityscape. For those looking to stay active, there are plenty of options, including cycling trails, golf courses, and hiking trails.
And this is where Greenville truly shines. The fall foliage is simply breathtaking, and there are plenty of ways to take it all in. Whether you are exploring Sassafras Mountain, one of the many green spaces, or taking a scenic drive, you are sure to be impressed by the vibrant colors on display.
7 Concan, Texas
Concan is a small town located in the Hill Country of Texas. The town is situated near the Frio River, and its chief attractions are the many summer recreational opportunities that the river and nearby hills provide. Visitors to Concan often enjoy swimming, tubing, hiking, and birdwatching during those hot Texas months, but Concan also dazzles during the fall foliage season.
Nearby attractions such as Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area make Concan a must-visit for leaf peeping in the beauty of the Texas Hill Country. Hunters descend on the hills around Concan to find wild game-like deer, doves, and wild turkeys. It’s a peaceful area despite it being a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike, and its friendly atmosphere and scenic surroundings make it an ideal place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
6 Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is a beautiful city located in the mountains of North Carolina. Fall is a particularly wonderful time to visit, as the leaves change color and the weather is cool and crisp. There are plenty of activities to enjoy in Asheville during the fall, from hiking and biking to exploring the many breweries and shops downtown. The city is also home to a number of festivals and events, such as the annual Autumn Leaves Festival.
When you hit the city, make sure you visit the Biltmore Estate or take a scenic drive on the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway. And, of course, no trip to Asheville would be complete without sampling some local beer and food. From September to November, Asheville comes alive with color and festivity, making it the perfect destination for an autumn getaway.
5 Bryson City, North Carolina
Bryson City is a small town located in the western part of North Carolina. The town is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, and it is known for its beautiful fall foliage. Every year, thousands of people come to Bryson City to see the leaves change color. The town is also home to a number of hiking trails, and it is a popular destination for rafting and kayaking.
In recent years, Bryson City has become a popular tourist destination, and it is no wonder why. The town offers breathtaking views of the mountains, and it is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend to take in the fall scenery or an adventurous getaway into the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City deserves a spot on your travel list during the fall.
4 Dahlonega, Georgia
Dahlonega is a beautiful city in northern Georgia that is especially stunning in the fall. The leaves of the hardwood trees change color, creating a picturesque landscape. Visitors can enjoy this natural beauty by hiking or biking on one of the many trails in the area, such as Jones Creek Falls, Lake Zwerner Trail, and the DeSoto Falls Trail.
Another great way to experience Dahlonega in the fall is to take a drive on one of the scenic back roads or through the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains. The views at Amicalola Falls State Park, including the waterfalls themselves, are simply stunning as you wind your way through the mountains. Visitors can’t claim to have visited all of Dahlonega without sampling some of the delectable local wines in the cool weather while enjoying the fall scenes.
3 Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
The Shenandoah Valley is a region of Western Virginia located between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west. It wouldn’t be fair to choose just one charming small town from this amazing locale, so it’s worth it to take your time to make a slow drive up Highway 81 to visit all of them during the fall.
Shenandoah National Park is the real gem for leaf peepers during autumn. The trees turn shades of red, orange, and yellow, creating a stunning backdrop for the valley's rolling hills, and you’ll be extremely disappointed if you forget to pack your camera to capture these vistas. The cool weather is perfect for hikes and picnics, and there are plenty of apple orchards to visit. Additionally, history hounds will no doubt love the area for the many Civil War battles that were fought in the valley and get their fill of visiting these sites during a visit.
2 Tallulah Falls, Georgia
When thinking about pristine waterfalls and spectacular chasms, most travelers wouldn’t initially point to Georgia on the map. Tallulah Falls is proof that many fall travelers still have a lot to learn about Peach State. Tallulah Falls gets its name from a series of waterfalls located in Tallulah Gorge. The falls range from 30 to 70 feet in height, and the gorge is up to 1,000 feet deep. The site is popular with hikers and rock climbers, and a suspension bridge offers views of the amazing local attractions.
In the fall, the leaves of the deciduous trees that line the gorge change color, creating a stunning setting for an autumn hike. The best time to visit Tallulah Falls is in October when the leaves are at their peak color and the falls are still flowing, providing a spectacular show for guests.
1 Harper’s Ferry, WV
Harper’s Ferry is a historic town located in West Virginia. The town is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, making it a popular spot for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and fishing.
In the fall, the town comes alive with color as the leaves on the trees change from green to yellow, orange, and red. The crisp autumn air is perfect for hiking to one of the many scenic overlooks in the area, including Maryland Heights and Loudoun Heights Overlook. Visitors can also take a tour of Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park, which contains numerous buildings and sites that date back to the Revolutionary War era. There are also several festivals held in the town during the fall months, including an Oktoberfest celebration and a pumpkin festival.