Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Explore Fall Foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway

October 12, 2012, 8:53 am

By Heather Crowley

Across the country, millions of visitors travel thousands of miles to enjoy the majestic beauty that is the National Park System. From the famed Yellowstone National Park to the lesser knowns, each brings its own unique landscape to the attention of the public.

In 2011, the National Park Service released their visitation numbers for the year and the Blue Ridge Parkway sat atop at number one as the most visited park unit. With over 15 million visitors in a year, the road is forged through untouched wilderness that all can appreciate--especially during prime leaf peeping season in October.

Regardless of the time of year, traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway is a magical experience. Cutting through the Blue Ridge Mountains and sliding down into the valleys, the windy road can feel like a trip back and time. Let your worries melt away as the imposing views fill your windows.

If you are an expert or a leaf peeping novice, making your way to the parkway during the fall is a different experience each time. Usually mid to late October is the perfect peak time, however the colors of the leaves will vary by location. One of the largest factors in determining the colors of the leaves is elevation. The lowest elevation on the road is 650 feet and it winds and ascends to over 6,000 feet. The best policy is to drive as much of the road as possible so you can spot a variety of colors and levels of foliage.

Although the Blue Ridge Parkway is often associated with Virginia, that’s only the beginning! The road actually runs across state lines, stretching 469 miles and connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Feel as though you are on top of the world by making a trip up to the top of Grandfather Mountain, which is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Range and can be found in Linville, NC. Whether you hike to the top or drive, mid-October is optimal for a vibrant leaf spotting experience. There is an $18 admission charge for adults.

Not only does the Blue Ridge Parkway lead through some of the most scenic locations in the country, there are also stunning stop offs where you can get out and stretch your legs. Along the parkway, be sure to discover trails and historic sites. Put the car in park and discover unparalleled beauty and sites, such as the Natural Bridge!

The over 20-story high limestone arch is a National Historic Monument that will be sure to wow the whole crew. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, the Natural Bridge is well worth the side trip. From stunning heights to subterranean depths, the area will provide a nice break from the minivan. For more exciting milepost stops, check out the highlights!

The oranges, reds and yellows of the leaves in the mountains are scenes evocative of a Robert Frost poem; stunning in their simplicity and wholly unforgettable. Remember to bring along your camera and snap shots!

People in the Blue Ridge love celebrating the fall as well. Don’t miss local events by checking out the Blue Ridge Parkway Association's calendar, which is filled with craft fairs, festivals, concerts and more! Take all that info on the go with the Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner App.

One of the best ways to check up on the trees before heading out is by calling the Fall Color Report Hotline at (828) 298-0398, press option 7. You can also view the report online right here!

Photo: Shutterstock

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