The true ending of summer is not Labor Day but the autumn foliage season when fluttering leaves tell us that the seasons are on the move.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Okay, so maybe not everyone feels as strongly as I do about autumn, but it really is a wonderful time of the year for RV travel. It’s a time for comfy long sweaters, mulled cider, and all things pumpkin. But perhaps the best way to enjoy autumn is to head outdoors and take in nature’s greatest displays: fall foliage.
Viewing the autumn foliage is a favorite pastime especially in the eastern United States. Bright washes of autumn colors annually awaken the senses when Mother Nature reaches out with a panorama of magnificent splendor.
Realizing many RVers have a favorite fall-color destination and it would take two lifetimes to experience the network of North America fall color, the following is offered as a help to broaden the leaf-peaking horizon for the coming season, while looking beyond Vermont, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, all classic fall foliage destinations.
If you’re searching for a new and exciting way to revel in the spectacular fall scenery this September and October, here are two lesser known colorful fall foliage hotspots.
Fall is a beautiful time of year on the Cherohala Skyway. Cool weather arrives and the changing leaves are spectacular.
A Road Through Beauty, the Cherohala Skyway’s 36 miles of scenic mountain views rival any scenic byway in the eastern U.S. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.
The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala.
Peak colors typically occur during the last two weeks in October, but that is dependent upon fall temperatures and in particular, the first frost date. The color change begins at higher elevations where you see the earliest changes in late September, and continue all the way into mid-November at the lower elevations.
The sourwood and dogwood trees are the first to turn red early in the season. Next are the Tulip Poplars which turn yellow, but then quickly turn brown. Peak leaf season brings in the red, orange, and yellow of the maples and the bright yellow of the birches. Oaks and sweetgums finish up the season with purple, orange, and red.
“This fall could be one of the best leaf color seasons in Western North Carolina in recent memory,” said Dr. Kathy Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, specializing in plant systematics.
Basing her color forecast on both past and predicted weather conditions, she concluded, “Three words explain it―unusually dry weather.”
The fall foliage season is a beautiful show each year along the Cherohala Skyway.
Shenandoah National Park is a quintessential autumn foliage destination. Often overlooked during leap peeping season is the less crowded Shenandoah River State Park.
As the crisp air of autumn settles over the Shenandoah Valley, the hillsides take on the brilliant fiery tones for which the valley is famous.
Named for the river it boarders, Shenandoah River State Park is a peaceful and serene park. Picture perfect scenery abounds here in the mountains and rolling hills of Northern Virginia.
With over five miles of river front and nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River State Park is truly a gem as nature dons its coat of many colors. The rolling, mountainous land features steep slopes and is mostly wooded. In addition to meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic vistas overlooking Massanutten Mountain to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.