The Blue Ridge region is nationally renowned for its leaf peeping potential, but picking the right trail for viewing fall colors can be a daunting task. Use this guide to find five of the best leaf viewing locations in the southern Appalachians before you hit the trails this fall.
Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest
This is an iconic hike in Pisgah National Forest. From a distance, Looking Glass is one of the most impressive mountains in the Southeast, but even more stunning is the view from its summit. The strenuous 6.4-mile out-and-back that guides forest visitors to the top of of the mountain, where the they find a sprawling view of the Western North Carolina mountains. 2016 is projected to be a banner year for leaf viewing in Western North Carolina, so plan to hit the trail soon.
Auxier Ridge Loop, Red River Gorge
Some of the best vistas in the Red River Gorge await on the Auxier Ridge Loop trail. This moderate day hike requires about five miles of foot travel and anywhere from three to six hours depending on your skill level. At the top you’ll find a stellar view of Courthouse Rock and sprawling vistas of Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Learn more here.
Old Rag, Shenandoah National Park
One of the most popular hikes in the Mid-Atlantic region, Old Rag offers fall visitors a prime vantage point from which to witness the changing of the seasons. In fact, it’s widely regarded as one of the best summits views in Virginia, particularly in autumn. The hike itself is strenuous, requiring a rock scramble and approximately 3.5 miles of trekking with many viewpoints along the way. But the real pay off is at the top! Learn more here.
Situated in the Monongahela National Forest in the north central West Virginia Highlands, Blackwater Canyon stands apart as one of the Mountain State’s best fall view points. Once used to haul lumber and coal through this sunning natural landscape, the Blackwater Canyon Trail is tailor-made for those seeking a sense if mountain solitude. In addition to transitioning leaves, be on the lookout for the endangered West Virginia flying squirrel, the Indiana bat, and the Cheat Mountain salamander. More on Blackwater Canyon here.
Table Rock Mountain, Linville Gorge
The Linville Gorge is arguably one of the most stunning landscapes in all of Western North Carolina, and it’s chock full of top-notch leaf peeping destinations. If you’ve never been, use the summit of Table Rock Mountain as an intro to all the gorge has to offer. The unique summit can be seen throughout much of the North Carolina High Country, and the route to the top is a breeze compared to some of the other summits on this list. Learn more here.