Where to Find the Best Fall Leaves Near Greenville

Where should you go to see some fall colors near Greenville, SC? The fall equinox and the official end of summer are just around the corner, and you know what that means…it’s time for the annual display of fall colors. In Greenville, we’re lucky to live close to so many public lands that offer a variety of hikes and drives that showcase this vibrant seasonal show, so grab your camera and hit the road for what promises to be another fantastic year of color!

How about a fall weekend away? Here are some incredible house rentals with views of fabulous fall leaves.

where to view fall leaves near Greenville

When to go for the best leaf viewing

Although the exact height of color varies from year to year, the time to go leaf-viewing is somewhat predictable based on geographic location and summer weather, and this year’s predictions are calling for a earlier-than-usual peak schedule. The Blue Ridge Mountain Foliage Guide 2022 calls for peak colors:

  • September 25th – October 2nd for areas above 6,000ft
    This includes areas like Rough Ridge and Graveyard Fields, off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and you may see spotted change in other areas.
  • October 2nd – October 9th for areas above 5,000ft
    This includes Clingmans Dome and Grandfather Mountain as well as Mt. Mitchell.
  • October 9th – 16th for areas between 4,000 and 5,000ft
    This includes the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tweetsie Railroad, and Boone and Blowing Rock, NC.
  • October 16th – 23rd for elevations between 3,000 and 4,000ft
    This includes Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala Gorge.
  • October 23rd – October 30th for elevations between 2,000 and 3,000ft
    This includes Asheville, NC, Hendersonville, NC, and Brevard, NC. This is a great time to do our Waterfall Driving Tour or visit Biltmore.
  • October 30th – November 6th for remaining elevations
    This includes Gatlinburg, TN and Helen, GA, also Chimney Rock State Park.

This covers most spots in the Appalachians, Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge. To maximize your fall foliage experience, start north in the mountains late this month and early October, and mid- to late October head to destinations closer to the Upstate.

Many of the State Parks and other popular leaf-viewing areas have up-to-date information on color levels on their websites. Here are a few links for current conditions:

Where to go to see the best fall colors

A world-famous leaf-peeping destination is the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 469-mile drive meanders from North Carolina all the way to Virginia, and a longer drive on the Parkway in October through changing elevations and aspects will most likely yield some sections at peak color. Plan a hike or two at locations such as Graveyard Fields (milepost 418, elevation 5,120ft), Linville Falls (milepost 316.3, elevation 3,360ft) or Sam Knob (milepost 420, elevation 6,045ft) for the full experience. (For those looking for a longer road trip, the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is also an autumn leaf-viewing drive destination –Blackrock Summit is an awesome hike ending in almost 360˚ views of the mountains that will soon be bursting with color!)

Rough Ridge off the BRP; photo taken 10/7/22

Not too far off the Blue Ridge Parkway, these North Carolina parks will give you an early preview of color (due to their high altitude) and unbeatable views; Grandfather Mountain near Linville, Blowing Rock near Boone, and Mount Mitchell (highest peak in the state of NC) are three of our favorite fall destinations in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And on your way north into the Appalachians plan a stop at Looking Glass Falls near Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest; this roadside waterfall will leave you breathless!

Want to learn more about a free kid’s incentive program for Mount Mitchell and other NC parks? Read all about our fun with the Kids In Parks Program.

Been-there, done-that in North Carolina?  Head west to Georgia with a stop at the Chattooga River before making your way up to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state of Georgia. Scenic Anna Ruby Falls and Tallulah Falls in the awesome Tallulah Gorge also deserve a mention as two of the tallest waterfalls on this side of the Mississippi that, come autumn, cascade through a riot of color into their mountain coves.

Head a little further south, less than two hours from Greenville, and you’ll find Unicoi State Park, a beautiful spot for leaf viewing, hiking, and zip lining through the colors of the season.

Interested in learning more? Check out our review of Unicoi State Park.

Looking for a destination closer to home? Chimney Rock is just over an hour from Greenville, and together with nearby Lake Lure and the Rocky Broad Riverwalk offer views, hikes, waterfalls and lake views galore.

Autumn at the Biltmore Estate is a special time, and the mountains around Asheville are well-known for the hardwood forests that turn brilliant yellows, reds and oranges this time of year. Nearby, find the North Carolina Arboretum, the 343-acre preserve that becomes a kaleidoscope of colors every fall.

The viewing tower at Sassafras Mountain is now open at the highest point in South Carolina for spectacular views of the leaves turning in four states! The Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, NC is also a fantastic place to see fall colors. There is a gorgeous lake there, hiking trails, and goats to play with at the barn.

Carl Sandburg Home, Fall 2021

Any one of the dozens of waterfalls in the Upstate and nearby North Carolina will offer spectacular scenery with a backdrop of color as the leaves turn. Head to DuPont State Forest and the Hooker Falls area for a three-mile hike that encompasses three waterfalls including the majestic Triple Falls. Or try Raven Cliff Falls, a 2.2 mile one-way hike to the overlook or the 8-mile round trip hike through the forest and over the suspension bridge.

The Blue Ridge Escarpment offers a multitude of hiking and viewing options this fall. Our favorite views are from Pretty Place (check ahead for accessibility!), Caesars Head State Park, Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, and Jump Off Rock, all around an hour’s drive from Greenville. The lower elevations mean peak leaf color will be in mid-to-late October.

If you’re not looking to make the drive up into the mountains, go for a drive on Scenic Highway 11 which follows the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment and offers unbeatable views of the foothills such as the often-photographed Table Rock.  Plan a stop at Table Rock State Park or Long Shoals Wayside Park for a picnic and some fresh mountain air.

Paris Mountain, Mid-November 2021

Only have a few hours to spare? Head to Paris Mountain State Park for a hike to Mountain Lake, take a ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, or go for a stroll in Falls Park with a stop at the iconic beech tree with its exposed roots and effervescent yellow foliage. Pack an apple from one of the nearby orchards to snack on, and enjoy fall in the Upstate in all its glory!

What to bring when you go leaf viewing

Remember that higher elevations mean cooler temperatures, especially in the mornings; bring warm clothes and a steaming thermos of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or cider to warm up that brisk mountain morning!

Maps and directions will come in handy when you lose cellphone coverage up in the mountains! If you’re headed into the mountains, bring an atlas or state highway map for easy reference to nearby cities and possible scenic routes. Or, if you plan on taking a cruise on the Blue Ridge Drive, print off a mile-marker map for easy reference to all the pull-offs, hikes, and visitors centers in the park.

Finally, bring your entire family. You’ll find that the pictures you take of your autumn excursion are nowhere near as vibrant as the memories you’ll make with your loved ones.

For more places to enjoy the colors of fall in SC, check out all of the places in our Guide to a day of fun in Pickens.

This article was originally published on Femme au Foyer.

Where is your favorite spot to see the beauty of the season?

About the Author
Mother of four young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, http://FemmeauFoyer2011.blogspot.com.

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