Where are the fall colors? 10 spots to go in the Upstate, western North Carolina

Lake Jocassee in the fall. Photo courtesy ofDiscoversouthCarolina.com.

Because of changes in elevation, Upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina together enjoy one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country.

Here are 10 locations to consider:

Caesar’s Head overlook. Photo courtesy of DiscoverSouthCarolina.com

Caesar’s Head

The overlook at Caesar’s Head State Park has a reputation for being one of the best locations for viewing fall color in the Upstate and in all of South Carolina. If you want something more challenging, hike to the park’s Raven Cliff Falls, which is the highest waterfall in South Carolina at 400 feet. The trail is rated a moderate 2.2 miles.

Graveyard Fields. Photo by Cindy Landrum Photography

Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields has some of the best fall color on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is located at milepost 418.8. If you’re not a hiker, you can view the color right from the side of the road. If you are, the Graveyard Fields Loop will take you to two waterfalls.

Lake Placid, Paris Mountain State Park. Photo courtesy of DiscoverSouthCarolina.com

Paris Mountain State Park

For a different view of fall color, consider Paris Mountain State Park. Instead of mountain vistas, you’ll see fall colors in the reflections in the park’s Mountain Lake or Lake Placid. The best thing is, unlike some of the other fall color hotspots, it’s just minutes from downtown Greenville.

Lake Jocassee. Photo courtesy of DiscoverSouthCarolina.com

Lake Jocassee

Falling Waters Scenic Byway is a 13-mile-long gateway to the mountains that begins in Walhalla in Oconee County and follows S.C. Highway 107. Going north, it passes Issaqueena Falls, the Stumphouse Tunnel, and Oconee State Park. As you get near the North Carolina line,  take Oscar Wigington Highway, or S-37-413,  to the overlook that gives a fantastic view of Lake Jocassee. For another view of Lake Jocassee, go to Jumping Off Rock. It’s accessible from Horsepasture Road off U.S. Highway 178. You’ll want a four-wheel drive or high-clearance vehicle.

Rough Ridge off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Rough Ridge

If you can do only one hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall, this should be your pick. The trail, which is located at milepost 302.8, offers spectacular views of Grandfather Mountain, Linn Cove, and Linville Gorge.

Sunrise at Beacon Heights.

Beacon Heights

While you’re in the Rough Ridge area, stop at the Beacon Heights Overlook at milepost 305.2. While it doesn’t look like much from the parking lot, that changes once you hike a short but steep Beacon Heights Trail. Once at the top, there are two rocky overlooks. One faces east and the other west, allowing views of sunrises and sunsets.

Table Rock State Park. Photo courtesy of DiscoverSouthCaroloina.com

Table Rock State Park

There are two ways to photograph fall foliage at Table Rock. The easiest is to stop along S.C. Highway 11 at Lake Oolenoy. If you want another view, enter the park and hike the Carrick Creek Nature Trail, or take the Table Rock trail to the top. To help determine when color is the best, go to https://southcarolinaparks.com/webcams/table-rock.

Hooker Falls in DuPont State Forest in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina

DuPont State Forest

North Carolina’s DuPont State Forest, located past Caesar’s Head in Cedar Mountain, offers waterfalls and fall colors. For an easy hike, go to Hooker Falls. For a little more exercise, hike to Triple Falls, which happened to be featured in the first “Hunger Games” movie.

Shadow of the Bear, near Cashiers, North Carolina. Photo by Cindy Landrum Photography

Shadow of the Bear

This seasonal display is viewable from about 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-October through early November from the Rhodes Big View Overlook on U.S. Highway 64 about 4 miles outside Cashiers, North Carolina. Because of how the sun sets behind the mountain, the shadow starts off as a small dark shadow at the bottom of the valley before progressing to a bear.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Photo courtesy of the Bryson City/Swain County, North Carolina, Chamber of Commerce

Bryson City, North Carolina

If you don’t want to see fall colors by foot or car, there’s the train. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, based in Bryson City, North Carolina, offers a couple of options. The first is its Nantahala Gorge excursion, a 44-mile trip to the Nantahala Gorge and back. The other is a 32-mile round trip along the Tuckasegee River.


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