When it comes to hiking in the Southeast, there is no better time to take to the trails than in the fall.
From the delightful temperatures to the symphony of autumn colors that fills the entire landscape, hikers of all levels have nothing but great choices to make and great experiences to enjoy.
Take a Hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge
With over 700 miles of hiking trails, including 240 miles of the Appalachian Trail, you can’t go wrong with your choice in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. From the urban hikes in Roanoke, the largest city along the A.T., to remote locations in the surrounding counties, discover the best of what the area has to offer. Visit Virginia Blue Ridge is an official Leave No Trace Community Partner and requests that you recreate responsibly and leave a minimal impact when visiting the area by staying on designated trails and packing out all trash.
Just minutes from downtown Roanoke, hike up the Mill Mountain Star Trail to the iconic Roanoke Star for views of the surrounding mountains, valley, and downtown skyline. Then head out onto one of the beautiful waterfall hikes in the area, like Roaring Run Falls, Bottom Creek Gorge, or Stiles Falls, for lunch or a snack by the water.
The Virginia Triple Crown is a must-see while you are in the area. Hop on the A.T. to Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs for three of the most recognizable viewpoints in Virginia. The trio features some of the best spots for challenging hikes with views of the changing leaves. Take advantage of the new McAfee Knob Shuttle, departing every half-hour on weekends, making it easier to enjoy the trail without worrying about finding a parking spot.
For other fun trails, go for a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike out to some truly remarkable places. Stand below the towering Apple Orchard Falls or wander through the woods along the Chestnut Ridge Trail and Rock Creek Gorge. The Peaks of Otter area offers a variety of options, from strenuous climbs up Sharp Top and Flat Top to a scenic loop around Abbott Lake.
Looking for the perfect gear for your hiking adventure? You’ll find it at Roanoke Mountain Adventures, a full-service outfitter and outdoor consignment shop.
When you are traveling, do you prefer to stay close to the action? Explore Park, Jamison Mill Park, and Middle Creek Campground have you covered with yurts, cabins, and campsites galore, all within short walking or driving distances to trails, ziplines, boat launches, and more. Plus, you will be close enough o to head into town, kick back, and relax with a beer from one of the local breweries. At Big Lick Brewing Company, Parkway Brewing Company, and Twin Creek Creeks Brewing Company, you’ll find refreshing craft brews and warm, inviting people who quickly feel like old friends.
When it comes to deciding where to plan your next trip, you can’t beat the trails, views, and adventures of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Escape City Life in Dawson County, Ga.
There is no better way to escape city life for an adventure than with a visit to Dawsonville, Georgia. Located just an hour from Atlanta, Dawsonville is perfectly positioned between Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee National Forest, offering a wide range of sights and experiences tailor made for every kind of outdoor enthusiast.
A great place to start is Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge, located just northeast of Dawsonville on the cusp of the North Georgia Mountains and the southernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. It won’t take long for you to understand why this is known as one of the seven natural wonders of Georgia; the 729-foot Amicalola Falls. It’s the state’s tallest cascading waterfall and the third-tallest east of the Mississippi River, spilling down a towering bluff and into a mossy, boulder-forest. The waterfall is located just 7.5 miles from the southern end of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, upon whose summit thru hikers embark on their epic northward journeys toward their ultimate destination in Maine.
The 829-acre park features ten trails in all, including the AT Approach Trail, an eight-mile trek that will carry you to the gateway to AT adventures. The Amicalola Loop Trail offers a scenic trip around the park offering a range of spectacular views, leading you alongside the magnificent falls.
At Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge, the experience is about the journey and the destination, as there are two of Georgia’s most unique lodging opportunities that provide every opportunity to rest and recharge. The Amicalola Falls Lodge, the perfect place for comfort, rejuvenation, and adventure, Georgia style! With stunning views from nearly every room and breathtaking vistas and sunsets awaiting you each day, this is a place has all the ingredients to turn any visit into an unforgettable experience. The Len Foote Hike Inn, accessible only by hiking the 5-mile Hike Inn Trail, is a year-round eco-friendly inn that is the Peach State’s only backcounty lodge and one of the most memorable overnight experiences. Featuring 20 private guest rooms, hot showers, fresh linens and home-cooked meals, this is the perfect place to kick up your feet for a night (or more) before hitting the trail again.
Looking to go beyond the trails? Dawsonville has an abundance of autumn treats to share. For instance, Burt’s Pumpkin Farm is filled with a brilliant sea of orange created by thousands of pumpkins. The seasonal stars of the show range from pumpkins weighing less than a pound to those clocking in at more than 150 lbs. Family fun abounds with hayrides, storytelling pumpkins and even some who bust out in song. Just south of Burt’s you’ll find Fausett Farms Sunflowers. Family-owned since 1868, the farm’s 30 acres packed with more than a million gorgeous sunflowers that transform the autumn landscape and make for an unforgettable visit, not to mention a photo backdrop to die for!
Frederick County, Md. Beautiful Hiking Trails
Frederick’s Catoctin Mountain Park trails test and reward every level of hiker with a wonderful experience and some of the region’s most beautiful vistas. A can’t miss for serious hikers, Chimney Rock is a loop trail that contains some of the park’s most strenuous sections of trail. You can expect uneven and rocky terrain starting with the river valley areas near the Visitor Center and Park Headquarters all the way up until you reach 600 feet in elevation where you will be able to take in the spectacular Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock formations. Cunningham Falls State Park features 25 miles of trails including Lower Cliffs, which offers a memorable payoff in the form of the 78-foot Cunningham Falls, Maryland’s highest cascading waterfall. Another highlight is the Catoctin Furnace Trail, a plus for history lovers that takes hikers past the ruins of an iron furnace operation that originally went into blast at the start of the American Revolution. Frederick County is also home to 15.7 of The Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park’s 184.5 miles and features a level hike along the canal’s old towpath with picturesque views of the adjacent Potomac River on land that was once home to native Indian tribes including the Tuscarora and the Piscataway.
The Best Places to “FALL” in Love in Bristol, Tn. & Va.
Bristol, Tn/Va and the surrounding region is known as one of the prettiest places for fall foliage, and it starts with South Holston Lake, where you’ll find the surrounding mountain vistas exploding with bright orange, red, and yellow hues when the temperatures start to cool and autumn is in the air. The setting around the lake, which sits in Tennessee and Virginia, is phenomenal any time of the year, but when October rolls around, there’s nothing like the scenery.
Steele Creek Park, which encompasses more than 2,200 acres, is Tennessee’s third-largest municipal park – and it takes autumn awesomeness to an all-new level once the leaves start changing color. The picturesque park includes a 52-acre lake surrounded by knobs and hills that turn into an artist’s palette of color each fall. You can enjoy the autumn scenery while kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or hiking the more than 24 miles of trails around the park.
The 400-acre Sugar Hollow Park also offers incredible fall foliage views. Whether you’re biking, hiking, or camping, the park offers a gorgeous setting for leaf lookers, who can also enjoy disc golf while taking in the gorgeous sights.
The Mendota Trail, a 12.5-mile hiking and biking recreational corridor, spans tranquil countryside and forests, making it an excellent location to enjoy autumn’s vibrant colors. One of the prettiest spots along the trail features a beautiful trestle known as “Abrams Creek Crossing.” When fall’s colors are at their peak, this area makes for some gorgeous photos!
Here are some other options to see fall foliage in the Bristol region: a walk or biking venture along the Virginia Creeper Trail, and if you love music and beauty – you might also want to take a drive along the Crooked Road Music Trail. The trail winds through Southwest Virginia and takes drivers through nearly 300 miles of scenic countryside that is ablaze with color during autumn.
Lake Hartwell Country’s Perfect Autumn Day Hiking Trails
One of the most exhilarating outdoor activities in Lake Hartwell Country is taking a hike on a perfect autumn day in Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens Counties.
Our breathtaking burst of fall colors lasts well into November. Each trail has its own seasonal palette, from the bright yellows of hickory, beech and tulip poplars to the bold reds and oranges of maples to the deep reds and browns of oaks and much more.
Get started in In Anderson County’s, Fant’s Grove Trail System, part of the Clemson Experimental Forest, More than 35 miles of trails, ranging from easy to difficult, wind through this beautiful, wooded area. Most trails are shared by hikers, bikers, and equestrian riders, so stay alert. The Fant’s Grove Lake Trail offers a 9.4-mile moderate trek with lake views, a rock quarry, and wetlands, while Treaty Oak Trail is a pedestrian-only, 1.5 mile pathway, near Lake Hartwell.
Those looking to challenge themselves can try Table Rock Trail in Pickens County’s Table Rock State Park. One of the best-known hikes in South Carolina, it is a strenuous 3.5 miles to the summit of Table Rock Mountain, but the foliage views are more than worth it! More challenges and breathtaking views await at the 4.2-mile Pinnacle Mountain Trail. Looking for more family-friendly trails? Try the state park’s Lakeside and Carrick Creek trails, each with two miles of picturesque forest and mountain scenery.
Pickens County also offers the Natural Bridge Nature Trail at Keowee Toxaway State Park on Residence Drive in Sunset, SC. Considered one of the state’s most colorful fall hiking trails, it’s 1.3 miles of moderate-to-strenuous walking that crosses a natural bridge over Poe Creek. This trail ties into the Raven Rock Trail, a tough 4.4-mile loop through the land where the Cherokee once walked with brooks and small waterfalls.
How about some trout fishing with a view in Pickens County? Anglers up for a rugged trail can discover an excellent, and spectacular fall spot by taking the Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve, a 2.3-mile hike down to the lower gorge area.
Add first-rate trout fishing to your hiking adventures with a stop on the Chattooga River in Oconnee County, easily accessed along the Hatchery Trail, which begins at the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery, a must-stop for fishing enthusiasts.
Fly fishing lovers can get all geared up at the Chattooga River Fly Shop (chattoogariverflyshop.com), which offers full and half-day guided fly-fishing wade trips, rods, reels, waders, vests, a huge variety of flies, and a comprehensive knowledge of the best local spots.
Oconee State Park is the gateway to several hiking trails among the fall colors. Station Cove Falls Trail, which takes you by the historic Oconee Station, is an easy walk-through forest that delivers you to a 60-foot waterfall. It’s less than two miles round-trip, and it’s ideal for families with young children. The Foothills Access Trail is 1.2 miles of moderate to strenuous hiking that leads to beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, which plunges down into the rolling hills of the Upstate.
These are just a few of the abundant hiking opportunities available throughout Lake Hartwell Country. To see a more comprehensive list and a map with locations, click on “Hiking” under the Outdoor section of our website. Remember to be courteous to others, and to wildlife. Always carry enough water, and travel with others. Take only pictures and leave only footprints! And be sure to keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can also stop by our visitor center in Pendleton!
Challenge Yourself in Carter County, Tn.
The first challenge you’ll find in hiking Carter County is choosing between all the outstanding options. You’ve got 150 miles of the Appalachian Trail here. Six mountains. Nineteen waterfalls. Seven separate wilderness areas. And the Cherokee National Forest.
Let’s start in the Roan Highlands, recognized as one of the most scenic regions of the Southern Appalachians and home to the Roan Mountain State Park and its inspiring scenery. Or try the historic Over Mountain Victory Trail, Yellow Mountain, Hump Mountain, Little Hump Mountain and Roan High Bluff.
Laurel Fork Falls, likely one of the most popular trails in the county is a delightful 5-mile hike perfect for families, where you can look up to see cliffs and then finish with a refreshing dip at the base of Laurel Folk Falls.
Create your own Appalachian Trail adventures by hiking Carvers Gap to Roan High Knob, a moderate 2.0-mile trip featuring the highest shelter on the AT; Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge is a 5.2-mile round trip that delivers stunning 360-degree views; Watauga Dam is an easy 7-mile trip that affords gorgeous views of the lake and the mountains that surround it.
There are so many more where these came from. Because in Carter County, your dream hike is always just a trail away.
An Unforgettable Adventure in Eastern Highlands, Ky.
The Eastern Highlands of Kentucky are also known by another name – Daniel Boone Country. In fact, it is rather easy to see how this iconic American figure first fell in love with the region and with Kentucky itself. “Heaven,” he once said, “must be a Kentucky kind of place.”
The terrain you discover today is just as wild and unspoiled as it was in Boone’s day, back in the 1700’s. The frontier spirit lives on in miles and miles of hiking trails that feature an array of experiences from easy to challenging, and just as you would have been back then, you are always a few steps away from breathtaking sights that will live on in your heart as well as your camera roll.
Red River Gorge, or as it is known to many, “The Red,” is known as one of the leading climbing and rappelling destinations in the world, with rugged cliffs, natural bridges and sandstone arches that provide an endlessly fascinating backdrop for any hiking adventure. The Red’s hiking trails feature otherworldly terrain along a vast network of trails that link to some of the longest trail systems in the state. Soon after you hit the ground, you’ll be afforded an unforgettable view of Gray’s Arch Trail, and a gorgeous sampling of fall colors below. The Rough Trail Loop is the perfect spot for the hybrid hiker who likes to mix in a little climbing with their journeys, and those looking to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.
Nearly 85 miles of hiking trails await in the famed Cumberland Gap National Park, highlighted by the first great gateway to the west, Cumberland Gap. Follow in the footsteps of Bison, Native Americans, long hunters and pioneers on terrain that carried more than 300,000 across the Appalachians to settle America. Take your pick among experiences that range from easy ¼- mile strolls to much heartier and wilder multi-day adventures in the deeper wilderness. There is no better way to learn about the region’s rich history and seemingly endless natural resources. – not to mention spectacular scenery, wildlife viewing opportunities and more. And you’re not going to want to miss Cumberland Falls, known as the “Niagara of the South.” Measuring at 68-feet tall and 125 feet wide, this is a stunning sight to behold with a formidable roar to match, especially given the fact that it spills 3,600 cubic feet of water over its sandstone edge every single second!
Waynesboro, Va. a Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley.
Nestled between the southernmost entrance to Shenandoah National Park and the northernmost entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway is a small mountain town with a big personality. Waynesboro, Va., is known for views of the beautiful Blue Ridge visible from the charming downtown, and pretty much everywhere in the city.
Make Waynesboro your home base as you explore more than 500 miles of trails in Shenandoah National Park, including Blackrock Summit and Riprap Trail, as well as 50 designated trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, like Humpback Rocks, as it meanders south through Virginia. Grab a flashlight and make time to walk nearly a mile through the historic Blue Ridge Tunnel, a recently-opened trail celebrating the railroad history of the area.
This designated Appalachian Trail Community offers hikers of all skill levels many amenities, including two local outfitters—Rockfish Gap Outfitters and South River Fly Shop—plus eclectic downtown shops and great local restaurants. Spend a cozy night at the Iris Inn or Heritage Hill Bed & Breakfast before doing it all over again the next day.
With miles of trails to explore right out the backdoor, it’s no wonder Waynesboro is a top stop for hikers from all around the region. visitwaynesboro.com
Hiking in Calvert County, Md.
Jefferson Patterson Park features 560 scenic acres along the Patuxent River, more than 65 identified architectural sites and 9,000 years of documented human occupation spread across three trails. The one-mile Riverside Trail shares information about the first archaeological discoveries here. The longer Woodland Trail showcases gorgeous sky and water views through a beautiful tree canopy. The Woodland Indian Village Trail leads you to a recreated Native American village and offers a window into the people who lived in the area prior to colonial contact. The onsite Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory offers indoor tours where you can see some of the 10 million preserved artifacts.
If you’re looking for longer, nature-based hikes, explore over 22 miles of trails within the 3,400-acre American Chestnut Land Trust preserve. Committed to preserving special natural and cultural places for the next generations, the American Chestnut Land Trust offers options for every age and hiking level. Create your own hike between the trails, scale inclines on the North-South Trail or wander between wood line and creek views on the Parkers Creek Trail. Cross Parkers Creek on a pulley-system-powered raft, fun for kids and adults alike!
Wytheville is an Autumn Hiker’s Paradise
Wytheville, Virginia is the only “Wytheville” in the world, and full of equally unique natural treasures that make the town a true autumn hiker’s paradise.
New River Trail is a 57-mile linear park that follows an abandoned railroad bed along the river and is perfect for hikers or all ages and abilities. Rental gear is available in the park. The historic Shot Tower, used more than 200 years ago to make ammunition, is a can’t miss attraction. Big Walker Mountain offers Monster Rock Trail, where you can wind your way toward breathtaking valley views. Crystal Springs Recreation Area features a gorgeous trail system surrounding the town’s historic reservoir, including a recently unveiled 7-mile loop.
Hikers will also find miles of water to be fished, and hundreds of acres of forest for hunting or taking in beautiful scenery. – not to mention bicycling, horseback riding, canoeing, and tubing, Campers have options galore, from primitive sites to some with more comforts included. And if it is comfort you seek, you can also choose from a variety of short-term rentals, B&B’s and a boutique hotel as well as a range of outstanding dining options and spirit-lifting vineyards and wineries.
Find Your Own Happy Trails in Shenandoah County
When it comes to hiking, Shenandoah County has it all, from 187 miles of trails throughout the George Washington National Park to spectacular views, abundant natural beauty, gorgeous ponds, rivers and streams, and plenty of wildlife. There is something for every hiking enthusiast here.
We’ll start with Story Book, a relaxed half-mile trail built for every age and featuring interpretive rocks and signs that tell the history of the region, and a gorgeous fall-colored filled overlook finale. Intermediate hikers can enjoy Wolf Gap Recreation Area you’ll find the beautiful terrain of Big Schloss (4.4 miles), which leads you to a 1,000 foot-elevated Instagram-worthy rock outcrop for which the trail gets its name “Big Castle” that rewards you with stunning views of the surrounding valleys. Accessed from the same parking lot is the 3-mile Tibbet Knobb, which boasts boasting equally beautiful vistas with approximately 1/10th of the hikers, and featuring two short, steep rock scrambles. Seven Bends State Park in Woodstock serves up 8 miles of hiking and biking trails that take you along the “seven bends” of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River and connect you with the Massanutten Trail in the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest.