As residents of North Carolina we are lucky, because this time of year we get to see how gorgeous our state really is. But since we live here, when the leaves start to turn…it’s usually an afterthought and we try to wing it with a weekend ride up Blue Ridge Parkway. Thanks to the North Carolina visitors bureau, here’s 10 tips to view the fall colors in a Beyond the Usual way.
With more than tree 200 species under the bluest of skies, North Carolina puts on a kaleidoscopic show in the fall.
Soar through the canopy: Experience fall color up close on a canopy tour. North Carolina is a national zipline leader with more than 20 tours, including The Gorge, the steepest in the Continental United States.
Bow down to monarchs: Vibrant orange wings flutter en masse during the monarch butterfly migration. Starting in mid-September, their flight path crosses the North Carolina mountains. The best odds of seeing them are on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Cherry Cove (milepost 415.7) and Wagon Road Gap (milepost 412.2) and at Chimney Rock.
Hop a train: The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad's fall foliage ride follows a historic rail line into river gorges, across valleys and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. And in Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad combines scenery with family fun.
Grab a paddle: Add the shimmering gold of cordgrass to the fall palette with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard trek through lush salt marshes. From Kitty Hawk Kayaks & Surf School on the Outer Banks to The Adventure Kayak Company in Southport, outfitters offer lessons and tours.
Find the bear: As the harvest sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, a bear-like shadow emerges from the canopy for 30 minutes every evening from mid-October to early November. Catch the “Shadow of the Bear” from Rhodes Big View Overlook near Cashiers.
Saddle up: Take a guided horseback ride at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where woodlands, streams and waterfalls create stunning scenery. Or bring your own horse and join RFD-TV’s “Best of America by Horseback” for a ride at Leatherwood Mountains in Ferguson.
Uncork the color: Sip reds and whites in the woodlands of North Carolina wine country. The Vineyards of Swan Creek Wine Trail includes Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery, known for panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Brushy Mountains.
See more than leaves: Floral colors at public gardens add beauty to the season. At Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, the red footbridge in the Asiatic arboretum harmonizes with the crimson of Japanese maple.
Cast a line in the surf: Start at daybreak for a double photo op — one for the coral-colored sky and one for the giant red drum or speckled seatrout you land.
Go airborne: Drink in the view from a hot-air balloon. Join the crowd at the colorful Carolina Balloon Fest in Statesville or connect with an individual operator such as Carolina Balloon Adventures, Balloons Over Charlotte or Asheville Hot Air Balloons.
*Tips courtesy of the North Carolina Visitor’s Bureau. Find more ideas for fall color travel at VisitNC.com