Looking for the best places to view beautiful fall colors in the Upstate? In Spartanburg, we have a number of great places to see the fall colors from Croft State Park to Hatcher Gardens. This list not only contains spots inside Spartanburg but also includes the best places to find changing fall leaves across the Upstate and beyond. This article was originally published on Femme au Foyer as “Fall Foliage Viewing Guide“.
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! 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!
When To Go 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 close-to-normal schedule. The Blue Ridge Mountain Foliage Guide calls for peak colors:
- October 1st – 10th for areas above 5,000ft
- October 10th – 20th for areas between 4,000 and 5,000ft
- October 18th – 26th for areas between 3,000 and 4,000ft
- October 24th – 31st for elevations below 2,000ft.
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:
Blue Ridge Mountain Life Fall Foliage 2018 Forecast and Guide
The Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage map
The Blue Ridge County Daily on Facebook
Where To Go Leaf Viewing
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!)
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 for next couple of months; 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!
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.
Looking for a destination closer to home? Chimney Rock in North Carolina is only an hour from Spartanburg, 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.
Just because the viewing tower at Sassafras Mountain is still under construction shouldn’t keep you from heading up to the highest point in South Carolina for spectacular views of the leaves turning in four states!
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 to the base of one of the most scenic spots in the Upstate.
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 Jumping Off Rock, all around 1 ½ hours drive from Spartanburg. The lower elevations mean peak leaf color will be in mid- to late October.
It’s the perfect time of year to visit Crowders Mountain State Park just across the NC/SC state line. Pinnacle Peak and the Crowders Mountain overlook provide two vantage points over Gaston county and beyond, while the Lake trail offers a scenic loop around the picturesque Shorts Lake. For a longer excursion, hike 6 miles on the Ridgeline Trail all the way back to South Carolina to Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park.
Only have a few hours to spare? Head to Croft State Park for a hike on the Rocky Ridge/Whitestone Springs trail through a scenic hardwoods forest. Milliken Arboretum will offer a colorful display with its 600 acres and 500 different species of trees and shrubs. Walk the nature trail at Walnut Grove Plantation, take a ride on the Mary Black Rail Trail, or go for a stroll in the Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve; just don’t forget to 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 to View Leaves
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.
Where is your favorite spot to see the beauty of the fall season?