Fall Lake Scene

8 Insider Tips to Autumn in the North Carolina Mountains

Listed as one of the “Top 10 Destinations for Fall Foliage,” by USA Today, the Western NC mountain towns of Jackson County are a must-visit for a seasonal getaway. According to WCU Biologist, Beverly Collins, “the mountains of Western North Carolina should produce a typically bright display of fall leaf color this year.” Beginning in early September, vibrant reds, yellows and oranges will start lining the towns surrounding peaks and inviting guests from all over to experience fall in these cozy, quaint mountain towns.

Although well-known for our popular hikes, waterfalls and outdoor adventures, the area is also home to incredible sights and hidden experiences that are more under the radar. Some of the best parts of a visit to the area during the fall months involve attractions that may be more off the beaten path. Here are eight insider tips to fully experience fall in Jackson County.

1. Uncover the best spots for viewing fall foliage.

Given Jackson County is home to the most named peaks in North Carolina, it’s no wonder also has the best locations for viewing the autumnal hues when fall arrives. Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of overlooks to take in the spectacular sights. A few favorites include Richland Balsam and Waterrock Knob. Another breathtaking view awaits high atop Whiteside Mountain. Set out on the Whiteside Mountain Trail to find yourself surrounded by glorious fall foliage. Another popular spot for leaf-lookers is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you can check out fall foliage on foot or by car.

2. Discover the waterfalls in Jackson County.

Home to dozens of stunning waterfalls, Jackson County is ideal for hikers who want to see not only colorful leaves, but cascading water, as well. You don’t have to be an experienced trekker, just lace up your walking shoes and prepare to be awe struck. Set out on the High Falls Trail and be rewarded with a view of the cascading High Falls.  This unique waterfall is a two-section, 100-foot waterfall fed by the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River. Not only does High Falls provide a breathtaking view at the forefront, but the surrounding fall color creates an incredible backdrop for that perfect photo.

3. Immerse yourself in the season with a hike.

For a fall adventure, check out Pinnacle Park Trail. Not for the faint of heart, this 7-mile trek is tough but leads to incredible foliage views. The hike ascends more than 3,000 feet in elevation, so bring a picnic to enjoy along the way. For a not so traditional way to experience fall, take a therapy hike with Dr. Mark Ellison. Offered on select weekends throughout the year, Ellison leads travelers on one-on-one, or group spiritual walks to re-center, refocus and reconnect amongst nature.

4. Explore the Fly-Fishing Trail.

Did you know the best time to fish Jackson County’s Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail, is fall through spring? During this time, the cooler temps allow cold-blooded fish to comfortably feed all day. Local anglers suggest that beginners cast a line in the Tuckasegee River. For more advanced anglers, try Caney Fork, Mull Creek or Moses Creek. Local outfitters are available throughout the county to help guests navigate the waters. See a complete list here.

5. Sip your way along the Ale Trail.

With more than 120 brews on tap, the Jackson County Ale Trail features six craft breweries specializing in various local brews. Our breweries love to get creative, and fall is the perfect time to sample some of their seasonal flavors. You don’t have to head to Germany to participate in Oktoberfest. During select dates in Sept. and Oct., specially crafted beers will be brewed, and beer-centric activities will be taking place at local breweries.

6. Support local artisans.

Known for its strong community of artists, craftsmen and artisans, Jackson County is home to a strong and vibrant art scene. Shop for wares such as pottery, weaving and paintings created right here at the area’s many art galleries, studios and local boutiques. Head over to Dogwood Crafters in Dillsboro to experience 12 shops in one. Dogwood also offers fall craft classes including scarecrow and Chai Spice Sugar Scrub making to get everyone in the fall spirit. Check classes, dates and times here.

7. Dine like the locals.

Jackson County is home to some of the top culinary talents in the state. You’ll find many farm-to-table restaurants whose menus change seasonally with locally grown and sourced produce. Be sure to check out what’s on the fall menu at places like Foragers, Canyon Kitchen, Cornucopia and Guadalupe Café. Get up early enough for a chance to beat the crowd and cozy up while enjoying a cup of joe at the local favorite, The Coffee Shop. Be sure to grab one of their famous slices of pie, they will be adding a pumpkin for the season.

8. Catch up on R&R.

Accommodations in Jackson County vary as much as the area’s outdoor recreation, artistic and food offerings. As the weather takes a pleasant dip, enjoy a cozy home base. Many rentals and hotels offer fireplaces where you can snuggle up with a loved one or a good book. To enjoy our mountain towns at peak time without the peak crowds and prices, try booking a mid-week vacation to experience the ultimate relaxing getaway.

This fall, explore the area during a perfect weekend getaway and uncover the hidden magic in the region. With these tips in hand, a trip to Jackson County is sure to be one for the books and easy on the wallet. Request a free Visitor Guide to help you plan your fall escape today.

Feature photo courtesy Keith Kunstmann

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