NC’s Best Spots to Observe Fall Foliage at Its Peak

Where and when to catch peak autumn views around NC.

Pumpkin-flavored everything is back and the air is getting chillier. Read: It’s only a matter of time before we see the leaves transform from green to gorgeous shades of gold, red, orange and brown (!). Essentially, it’s like our reward for surviving those scorching summer temps. Our rec? Mark your cal and pack a pair of sturdy hiking shoes and a camera for these swoonworthy picturesque spots to catch the best autumnal leaf-peeping views. Happy fall, y’all! 

Devil’s Courthouse 
Peak Week: Oct. 10–16

Dance with the devil at this 360-degree lookout point named for the ominous appearance of the rock formation. Beyond the locale’s lore, the relatively short hike is steep, but the vivid colors are well worth the calf cramps. Alexa, play “The Climb,” stat

Clingmans Dome
Peak Week: Oct. 10–16

Just south of the North Carolina-Tennessee border lies the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and some of the most breathtaking views in the state (sorry Tennessee, it’s ours). The quick 30-minute hike leads to an observation tower giving a view of the mountain foliage—views stretch as far as seven surrounding states and 100+ miles on a clear day. Fall-elujah, indeed!

Grandview Overlook
Peak Week: Oct. 16–23

Will pit stop for breathtaking views. This majestic stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway boasts an off-the-beaten-path overlook right off Milepost 281.4. And trust us, it has earned its simple but apt name. After all, what’s more grand than an ocean of mountains, valleys and ridges ablaze with bright autumn hues? Pro tip: While in the area, try out a zipline tour to see the foliage while flying above. Zip up! 

DuPont State Recreational Forest
Peak Week: Oct. 23–30

Look up! The winding trails of this outdoor oasis will guide you underneath a colorful leafy canopy before reaching several super-’Grammable lookout points featuring both elevated views and massive waterfalls. For cinema fans, recognize the area from numerous scenes a la forest scenes from The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans—if you can tear your eyes away from the fab foliage, of course. 

Pilot Mountain State Park
Peak Week: Oct. 23–31

Fly through the season with this severely underrated state park serving as a hot spot for every activity from rock climbing to horseback riding, backdropped by the vibrant views of changing fall foliage and the park’s iconic geological knob. Want to peep the changing colors with a glass of vino in hand? Belly up to JOLO Winery and Vineyard in Pilot Mountain for the views and the booze to complete your excursion. 

Uwharrie National Forest
Peak Week: Oct. 23–31

Late to the leaf viewing party? This low-elevation piedmont forest is great for viewing rich colors later in the season because of its lower elevation—NTM ideal for Raleighites who may not have time to make a drive to the mountains. To boot, camping, mountain biking and horseback riding abound at this lush forest less than a two-hour drive away.

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.