As the summer heat begins to cool and the trees transform into vivid shades of red and yellow, fall in the South is a magical time of year! There are so many beautiful places to discover vibrant fall colors in the Southern USA, and we have put a list together of some of the best!
From the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the heart of Texas Hill Country and everywhere in between, the south transforms into a kaleidoscope of changing color from late September through November. Fall in the South is the perfect time to discover the region with fewer crowds, crisp autumn air, and an abundance of seasonal wildlife.
The best time to see fall colors in the South is usually around mid-October through mid-November. Always check the fall foliage report beforehand because this varies by state and elevation.
Whether you are looking to plan an epic road trip, mountain getaway, or quick escape from the city, this list has got you covered! From scenic hiking trails to breathtaking drives, there are so many ways to take in the stunning natural scenery that this region has to offer.
Keep reading to discover the best places to discover tips for visiting the South USA in the fall!
16 Places To See Fall Foliage In The South USA
Skyline Drive, Virginia
This scenic 105-mile drive through Shenandoah National Park is one of the best ways to see fall foliage in Virginia! Skyline Drive follows along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing stunning mountain views that come to life with vibrant colors during fall in the South USA!
This three-hour drive is one of the best things to do in Shenandoah National Park! There are plenty of stops to make along the way including some of the best Virginia hiking trails, waterfalls, and lookout points to take in the views. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as it is not uncommon to spot black bears, deer, wild turkeys, and other woodland animals in the area!
Skyline Drive is the only public road within Shenandoah National Park and can be accessed from either of the park’s 4 entrances. The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day but may close due to inclement weather so be sure to check the forecast before planning your visit!
Where to Stay Near Skyline Drive:
Big Meadows Lodge: Check Rates on Hotels.com
Blue Ridge Parkway
The famous Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most breathtaking drives in the entire USA! Fall is the perfect time for a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, with colorful fall foliage in every direction!
This scenic 469-mile drive crosses through both Virginia and North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You will need at least a few days to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway as there are many scenic overlooks and hiking trails to stop and take in the views along the way!
Road tripping the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best fall getaways in the South! Enjoy the vibrant fall colors and fresh mountain air as you take in some of the best natural scenery in the South. There are plenty of cozy Blue Ridge Mountain cabins to stay in along the way, so you can spend the evenings curled up around the fire and enjoy the peaceful mountain surroundings.
Driving this famous route is one of the most popular things to do in the South in September and October.
Where to Stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
Swiss Mountain Village: Check Rates on Booking.com
Desoto Falls, Alabama
Desoto Falls is one of the prettiest waterfalls in Alabama, especially during the fall when the trees surrounding the falls change into incredible shades of red and gold!
This is one of the best places to see fall foliage in Alabama! This incredible waterfall is located in Desoto Falls State Park and is one of the most visited waterfalls in the state! Fall is when the water level is at its highest, making it the perfect time to witness this impressive 104-foot waterfall plunge into the natural rock canyon below.
On the way down to Desoto Falls, be sure to stop to see the A.A. Miller Dam which forms the upper part of the falls. This area looks especially beautiful surrounded by fall foliage with vibrant colors reflecting in the water. If you have extra time, take in even more fall foliage on hiking trails or bring along a picnic to enjoy the views of one of the best state parks in Alabama.
Where to Stay Near Desoto Falls
Jacob and Ida’s Pumpkin Playhouse: Check Rates on Booking.com
Talimena National Scenic Byway, Arkansas
This stunning scenic drive is a hidden gem and one of the most unique fall vacations in the South! The Talimena National Scenic Byway is where to go if you’re looking for the best fall leaves in the USA with fewer crowds!
This 54-mile road trip is a fabulous way to experience fall foliage in Arkansas. It runs along Crest Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest, offering spectacular views around every corner. The road begins in Historic Mena, Arkansas, and ends in Talihina, Oklahoma.
It only takes a little over an hour to drive the entirety of the Talimena Scenic Byway, but you will want to allow at least a full day to enjoy everything this area has to offer. The drive offers plenty of pull-offs along the way to snap photos of the colorful foliage and mountain views as well as cute, historic towns to explore. There are also scenic Arkansas hiking trails and beautiful campgrounds for a more outdoorsy adventure.
Where to Stay near the Talimena National Scenic Byway:
Table Rock State Park, South Carolina
Table Rock State Park is a fabulous place for nature lovers to spend fall in South Carolina! This park boasts stunning natural scenery any time of year, but the cooler temperatures and changing colors make fall a perfect time.
Featuring over 3,000 acres of pristine wilderness, Table Rock State Park has something for everyone to discover! There are over 12 miles of hiking trails, two beautiful lakes, and plenty of scenic spots for camping or picnics. Hike to the top of Table Rock Mountain, go kayaking on Lake Oolenoy, or discover one of the park’s waterfalls all while enjoying the stunning fall foliage.
You could easily spend a few days discovering everything this park has to offer. Table Rock State Park is located right off the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, so it can be easily combined with many of the other beautiful spots along the road for a fabulous fall road trip!
Add this park to your list of things to do in the Southern USA in the fall! You will not regret it!
Where to Stay Near Table Rock State Park:
Restful Creekside Retreat by Table Rock State Park: Check Rates on Booking.com
With vibrant fall foliage in every direction and stunning mountain views that rival the much more well-known Blue Ridge Parkway, a road trip along the scenic Cherohala Skyway is one of the best fall trips in the South!
This 43-mile scenic drive begins in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, and ends in Robbinsville, South Carolina. The drive only takes a couple of hours without stops, however, there are scenic overlooks with unobstructed mountain views, hiking trails, and beautiful Tennessee waterfalls waiting to be discovered around every corner!
The Cherohala Skyway is one of the best road trips in Tennessee and is perfect for a fall getaway! It’s easy to add this mini road trip to a Blue Ridge Mountain getaway or a trip to the Smoky Mountains.
If you’re looking for a scenic drive that offers some of the best views, this short but stunning road trip should be at the top of your list of what to do in Southern USA in the fall!
Where to Stay Near the Cherohala Skyway
Historic Tapoco Lodge: Check Rates on Hotels.com
Brasstown Bald, Georgia
If you’re looking for the best views of fall foliage in Georgia, Brasstown Bald is hard to beat! This mountain peak is the highest point in the entire state and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the foliage-covered Appalachian Mountains.
Some of the best views can be found from the cloud-level observation deck at the Brasstown Bald visitor center. On a clear day, you can see four states and enjoy 360-degree views of the Chattahoochee- Oconee National Forest’s vibrant fall foliage. There is also an impressive 8,000-square-foot museum with natural history exhibits and fascinating information about the area.
The view from Brasstown Bald is one of the best views during fall in the South and is completely worth the steep trek up to the visitor’s center. Luckily, visitors have the option of either taking a shuttle bus or hiking up via a scenic trail. After enjoying the view, nature lovers will enjoy hiking one of the many hiking trails in the area, or camping in the forest nearby.
Where to Stay Near Brasstown Bald:
Dancing Bear: Check Rates on Booking.com
Linn Cove Viaduct, North Carolina
While this spectacular bridge is part of the aforementioned Blue Bridge Parkway, it is a destination in its own right! This postcard-perfect viewpoint is one of the most beautiful spots during fall in the South USA!
This engineering marvel winds 1243 feet around Grandfather Mountain just outside of Newland, North Carolina. Although this bridge was the much-needed missing piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway for many years, construction wasn’t completed until 1987 after years of delays due to environmental and engineering concerns.
Today, there is a museum dedicated to the bridge that explains more of its history and complex construction complex. There are many things to do during fall in North Carolina near Linn Cove Viaduct. Hike the nearby Tanawha Trail for amazing views of the viaduct or cross the mile-high suspension bridge to enjoy sweeping views of Grandfather Mountain.
Where to Stay Near Linn Cove Viaduct:
Highland Haven: Check Rates on Booking.com
Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway
The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway is one of the best road trips in South Carolina! This beautiful drive passes stunning mountains, quaint towns, and amazing fall foliage! A road trip on this beautiful byway is one of the best fall trips in the South!
This incredible 130-mile road trip begins in Walhalla and ends in Gaffney, passing amazing natural scenery, quaint towns, significant historical sites, and vibrant fall foliage along the way. Several beautiful state parks along the route are worth a short detour to explore including Table Rock State Park, Lake Jocassee, and Caesar’s Head State Park.
One of the best photo stops along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Parkway is Campell’s Covered Bridge, a cute red bridge surrounded by colorful foliage that makes the perfect fall photo backdrop! History buffs will not want to miss Cowpens National Battlefield or Oconee Station State Historic Site. Another can’t-miss stop is the quaint town of Strawberry Hill for authentic southern charm, farm-fresh produce, and fun fall festivities!
Where to Stay on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway:
Hampton Inn Gaffney: Check Rates on Hotels.com
South Toledo Bend State Park, Louisiana
When you think of fall in the South, Louisiana may not be the first state that comes to mind, but this unique waterfront state park in Louisiana with vibrant foliage, stunning views, and abundant wildlife is sure to change your mind!
South Toledo Bend State Park is one of the most beautiful places to spend fall in Louisiana! Visitors flock here in the summer to relax at one of the many lake house rentals or compete in bass fishing tournaments. By fall, the area is much quieter, making for a peaceful getaway surrounded by nature.
This stunning state park is located right on the border of Louisiana and Texas on the Toledo Bend Reservoir, one of the largest man-made lakes in the USA! Taking a scenic hike or exploring the park by boat to get a unique view of the fall foliage is one of the best things to do in Louisiana.
This park is a bird watcher’s paradise with many unique species found here year-round! It is also a popular nesting site for bald eagles so be sure to keep an eye out!
Where to Stay Near Toledo Bend State Park:
Lakefront Toledo Bend Cabin: Check Rates on Booking.com
Garner State Park, Texas
Located outside of San Antonio in the heart of hill country, Garner State Park is a beautiful spot for viewing vibrant fall foliage in Texas!
Located on the banks of the Frio River, this park becomes a hotspot in the summer for river-tubing. During the fall, it quiets down a little and becomes a peaceful retreat for enjoying the fall colors in Southern USA. It is also great for camping under the stars in cooler weather.
Visitors can spend the day hiking over 16 miles of trails or rent a kayak to get a glimpse of the stunning fall foliage from the water. For those with less time to explore, just pack a picnic and enjoy the views! You will want to bring along your camera to capture some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the South!
Where to Stay Near Garner State Park:
River Bluff Cabins: Check Rates on Booking.com
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Kentucky
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park located near Middlesboro, Kentucky, is one of the most fascinating places to experience fall in the USA for history buffs and nature lovers alike!
The park straddles the border of Kentucky and Virginia and offers spectacular mountain views, rich history, fascinating caves, and breathtaking natural scenery. Enjoy the breathtaking views over the Cumberland Mountains and enjoy some of the most vibrant fall colors in Kentucky!
There are 70 different trails to explore ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous mountain trails in Kentucky. Walk the wilderness trail and learn about the Native Americans, early settlers, and civil war soldiers that have left their mark on this land. To go even more in-depth into the park’s history, be sure to stop by the park’s visitor center and museum.
Where to Stay Near Cumberland Gap National Historical Park:
Sleep Inn & Suites Middlesboro: Check Rates on Booking.com
Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains
Newfound Gap Road is the main road that winds its way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This drive is spectacular any time of year, but the shades of red and gold really bring the Smokies to life during fall in Tennessee!
This 31-mile road winds through the Smoky Mountains past incredible mountain vistas, waterfalls, and significant landmarks throughout the park. There are plenty of viewpoints along the way to pull over and take in some of the most beautiful views during fall in the South!
The most popular way to access Newfound Gap Road is from the Sugarlands entrance, which is just a short drive from Gatlinburg. Although this road can be driven in a day, you may want to stick around for a few days to explore a few of the hiking trails in the area and discover some of the unique things to do in Gatlinburg!
Where to Stay Near the Smokies:
Star Dancer Cabin: Check Rates on Booking.com
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
Cumberland Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kentucky any time of year, it is especially gorgeous in the fall when it’s surrounded by colorful foliage!
Often called “Little Niagra”, this incredible waterfall plunges almost 70 feet into the river below. It spans a staggering 125 feet across the Cumberland River and is the largest waterfall in Kentucky! After taking in the views of the falls, be sure to explore more of the incredible natural scenery Cumberland Falls State Park has to offer! It is truly a hiker’s paradise with over 17 miles of scenic trails to explore.
If you happen to visit during a full moon, be sure to stay after dark or plan to camp overnight for a chance to see a rare “moonbow” over Cumberland Falls. This is the only place in the Western Hemisphere to view this phenomenon, making it one of the unique things to do during fall in the South!
A visit to Cumberland Falls should be on your list of things to do in the South USA in October!
Where to Stay Near Cumberland Falls:
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park: Check Rates on Booking.com
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
If you’re looking for a place to experience fall in Tennessee that offers beautiful mountain scenery, vibrant foliage, and plenty of fall activities, Pigeon Forge should be at the top of your list!
The foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains are packed with unique things to do in Pigeon Forge. This cute mountain town is one of the best southern getaways for families. There is excitement year-round in Pigeon Forge with entertaining live shows, fascinating interactive museums, and thrill rides for all ages, but the town really comes to life in the fall.
Dollywood Harvest Festival is one of the best fall festivals in the South! In October, the theme park transforms into a fall wonderland with live entertainment, food vendors, and colossal pumpkins on display. Complete your trip with a scenic drive through the Smoky Mountains for some of the most breathtaking views in the Southern USA in the fall!
Where to Stay in Pigeon Forge:
Pigeon River Inn: Check Rates on Hotels.com
Rough Ridge, North Carolina
If you want one of the best places for hiking in North Carolina during fall, head to milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here you will find the trailhead for the Rough Ridge Trail.
This trail is a 0.8 section of the longer 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail. It is relatively easy but does feature many stairs. The climb is 100% worth it for the amazing views you get at three Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks along the trail.
In fall, you will be impressed by the sea of fiery foliage blanketing the mountains. When fog settles among the peaks, it makes for a fantastic moody photoshoot!
Where To Stay Near Rough Ridge:
The Sweet Spot: Check Rates on Booking.com
Although the South is a wonderful place to discover any time of year, there is truly something special about fall in the South. We hope this list has inspired you to plan a fall getaway to discover the incredible Southern USA fall foliage and charm this region has to offer! For more getaway ideas, be sure to check out our list of southern road trips that should be on your bucket list!