Fall in Love
Breathtaking views and fun-filled festivals—
this is the season our mountains shine.
Color your life with an escape to western North Carolina, where the Blue Ridge Mountains unveil a spectacular panorama of autumn foliage. Our state has one of the longest-running fall leaf seasons in the world, and—while many try to pinpoint the precise peak week to visit—any time from mid-September to early November will showcase varying stages of gold and crimson hues.
The most scenic drive is along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from the Virginia border down to the southwestern corner of the state at Cherokee and offers more than 200 overlooks. For drivers, the Linn Cove Viaduct is perhaps the most stunning experience, as it gracefully wraps around the contours of Grandfather Mountain. Commonly described as the “missing link” of the 469-mile parkway, the Linn Cove Viaduct opened in September 1987, successfully creating the final leg of the parkway in our state.
Hikers will find access to more than 65 trails along this stretch of the parkway, with varying degrees of difficulty from easy to moderate to strenuous, as well as additional parks and hiking opportunities throughout the region. Trails at Grandfather Mountain State Park have some of the most dramatic terrain, and a walk across Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge is a bucket-list contender for everyone.
The towns and vacation destinations in western North Carolina are as colorful in their own respect as the surrounding mountains, and this is the season when festivals and special events abound.
Take your pick among charming villages, such as Blowing Rock, with its signature landmark attraction that offers its own stunning views across the gorge and hosts an annual music festival on September 14th. Nearby is Banner Elk, home to the annual Woolly Worm Festival (yes, you can race your very own woolly worm). The 42nd running of the woollies will be October 19th and 20th. And for those who don’t know: This is as close to an official winter forecast as it gets. The coloration across the 13 segments of the winning woolly worm are said to predict the snowfall across the 13 weeks of winter.
Or, celebrate the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz at the annual Autumn at Oz festival, September 6th–9th and 13th–15th, which celebrates the movie classic and The Land of Oz theme park. Located atop Beech Mountain (which claims the title of “highest town in the Eastern U.S.”), the Land of Oz opened in 1970 and led visitors down a yellow brick road–reenactment of the classic movie.
If scarier witches and spooks are what you’re seeking for the Halloween season, the Ghost Train at Tweetsie Railroad, between Blowing Rock and Boone, runs weekends from September 20th through October.
And also, throughout the month of October, take your pick among a host of festivals in the Asheville area, including two beer festivals on the 5th: Oktoberfest in downtown Asheville and the Brewgrass Festival, also near downtown. The next Saturday you can visit the Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest or CiderFest, featuring more than 20 cider makers and 90 varieties of cider. And that same weekend, October 12th–13th, there’s the Spruce Pine Potters Market and the Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival.