By Doyle Irvin, American Forests

It’s not just the Northeast that gets all of the fall foliage! The South is filled with all kinds of gems for those of you wanting to explore nature in its beautiful transition. Whether you have just an afternoon or the whole weekend, our guide will help you plan an experience you won’t forget.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina to Virginia

Known to some as “America’s favorite drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway is simply an outstanding experience. Connecting two states, the 469-mile journey scales 5,500 feet of elevation and contains an abundant diversity of fall foliage. Visitors are advised to try to experience a wide range of north-south locations and altitudes, as fall colors happen at different times throughout the park.

Where to begin:

Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter.
Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter. Credit: Michael Miller via Flickr.
  • Hike the trails!
    Trails can be found near anywhere along the Parkway, so it can be hard to know where to start! Popular hikes for all ages located near the beginning of the trip start at Humpback Rocks and the Peaks of Otter. Both places feature regional historical attractions and excellent picnic locations. Lodging, a restaurant and a lake with fishing are all at the Peaks of Otter.
  • Listen to some Appalachian music
    Visit The Blue Ridge Music Center, located in Galax, Va., just off the Parkway, between noon and 4 p.m. any day of the week to hear authentic Appalachian music!
  • Check out the notable scenic roadside stops:
    • Waterrock Knob (Mile 451)
    • Richland Balsam — highest elevation on the Parkway (Mile 431)
    • East Fork Overlook (Mile 418)
    • Glassmine Falls — an 800-foot waterfall (Mile 361)
    • Laurel Knob (Mile 349)
    • The Lump (Mile 264)
    • Rock Castle Gorge (Mile 167 – 174)
    • Raven’s Roost Overlook (Mile 10)

Lost Maples State Natural Area, Texas

This part of Texas has been inhabited since prehistoric times for a very good reason — it is absolutely beautiful. Widely renowned for its fall color, the natural area exhibits a wide variety of oak, maple, juniper, sycamore, prickly pear and persimmon among other species. The 2,906-acre park has a number of rugged hiking trails for those who want an adventure, along with scenic overlooks and bird-watching blinds.

Things to do in Lost Maples:

Lost Maples Grotto near campsite on East Trail.
Lost Maples Grotto near campsite on East Trail. Credit: Knowsphotos via Flickr.
  • Camp!
    The Natural Area features 30 excellent camping grounds with amenities and six back-packer only campgrounds.
  • Hike the East Trail up to the scenic overlook.
    Make sure to look out for rare wildlife along the way, including the green kingfisher and the gray fox.
  • Stay for the weekend
    Have a whole weekend? If you stay in Fredericksburg or San Antonio, Texas, exploring Lost Maples one day and inner tubing down the Guadalupe River the next day is easily manageable. Just make sure it’s going to be hot!

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway, Georgia

Nestled deep in the Chattahoochee Mountains of northern Georgia, this 41-mile drive takes you through some of the most alluring vistas to be found in the South. Blanketed by oak, fir and spruce, the stunning colors of these mountains during fall make it one of Georgia’s top destinations. Noteworthy aspects of the byway include the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River, part of the Appalachian Trail and Georgia’s tallest mountain, Brasstown Bald. The town of Helen, which sits at the base of the byway, is a good place to start your trip.

Stops to make along the way:

Chattahoochee National Forest, view from Dukes Creek Falls. Credit: Chattoconeenf via Flickr.
  • See Dukes Creek Falls
    The closest attraction to Helen, Dukes Creek Falls is a good place to begin. Parking is nearby with an observation deck just a short walk away. Hiking down to the falls themselves is more of an undertaking, but well worth the effort!
  • Hike part of the Appalachian Trail!
    Want to get a piece of the Appalachian Trail? The Russell-Brasstown Byway has access points on highways 17 and 348, with parking available at both. This section of the trail will take you over Brasstown Bald and past the Chattahoochee headwaters.
  • Get a view from the top
    Just want the view? You can skip the full-day hike and drive to Brasstown Bald, parking a half-mile from the top. The walk to the observatory and museum at the top is steep, but there is a bus to the peak if needed. The views are spectacular!