Autumn in the mountains of North Carolina draws people from all over the country. During peak season the surrounding area is flooded with leaf lookers searching for some spectacular color combinations.
Those who ride in the car can travel the back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway for the easy views. Many opt to hike in and capture their favorite panoramic shots on the many trails available in the High Country. Below are some of the trail selected that produce the best color for those who seek the beauty and the adventure in one package.
Cragway Trail: Rocky and strenuous trail that links Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trails. Beautiful views from this trail and the Boone bowl opens up in the fall with plenty of autumn color. It is a bit of a hike but one you will remember. This section is 1.0 mile to the Daniel Boone Scout Trail where you can view down to Price Lake on top of Flatrock.
Tanawha Trail/Rough Ridge: This trail, 13 miles in length, can be started at either the Price Park Campground, in Blowing Rock, or at the Linn Cove Viaduct’s parking lot, at Grandfather Mountain (Milepost 305.5). The Rough Ridge section is at Milepost 302 if you want to access it off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scene in the fall is a long range view that produces plenty of color. You will not be disappointed. Check with Grandfather Mountain for a map of the trail.
Price Lake Trail: An easy trail leading around scenic Price Lake for 2.7 miles. If you are lucky the beavers will be working or the Kingfishers searching for a small fish. Trailhead is at Price Lake parking area, Milepost 297.0. and when at peak for leaf lookers, this is a beautiful array of scenes.
Grandfather Trail: This is the big one! It begins at Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge and eventually hits all of Grandfather’s three highest peaks. This 2.4 mile trail requires approximately 5 hours of hiking time to travel the entire length. It’s extremely rugged, with only wooden ladders making some sheer cliff faces accessible. It intersects with several other trails at its northern terminus. In the fall there is scenery of the changing leaves on both sides. You will not be short of colorful views.
Hawksbill Trail: This 1.5 mile moderate roundtrip starts on Forest Service road 210. The short steep hike goes to the top of Hawksbill Mountain. The top provides beautiful views of the gorge and back to Table Rock. The color heading down and up the Linville Gorge adds a different feel to the rugged area, but make no mistake, it is still a wilderness for the outdoorsman in you.
Moses Cone Carriage Trails: Easy to moderate. The Moses Cone Park includes 25 miles of gently sloping carriage trails of varying lengths, available to hikers, joggers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. Most trails begin near the Moses Cone Manor, Milepost 294.0. This trail has some great fall scenery viewpoints and the family can enjoy the trek. The payoff is the Flat top tower at the end which provides a 360 degree view to Boone, Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain.
Harper Creek Trail: Strenuous 6.3 mile trail, connects to 9 other area trails, leading to gorgeous waterfalls, aspiring views, and excellent backpacking opportunities. Get lost in the fall foliage and enjoy a crisp fall morning in the Wilson Creek Proposed Wilderness Area. The waterfalls add to colorful autumn composition for photographers and artists alike, as they meander along in search of their next best seller.
Rock Jock Trail: This is a rocky, well maintained trail that is 4 miles in length. You will see plenty of spur trails off of this one, especially from the Conley Cove access side, that give you plenty of views up and down the Gorge for some beautiful fall shots. There are some nice campsites on this route so an overnight stay and an early morning rise might add to the fall feeling and just being in a wilderness.
Southern Ridge: The most strenuous of the trails of the Beech Mountain Emerald Outback, 1.3 miles, in this system with some cool rock formations. Elk River Valley, Awesome Oz and Pride Rock overlooks are on this trail for some excellent fall viewing. You might even come across the many deer that frequent this “Hobbit’ type terrain.
Plunge Basin Trail: This is a moderate hike with some rugged spots but by far the best vantage point to view the Linville Falls. There is a pool of water at the bottom that is home to river otters if you can catch them out fishing. Length is .72 with a great payoff. This is spectacular if you catch the fall color and the waterfall together with a blue sky. The leaves of the trees looking down the river reflected in the pools and currents create a colorful image to paint or photograph. This is beauty in the eye of the beholder.