Escape to the Blue Ridge: Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park hugs the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering panoramic views and ample wildlife sightings

Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The name “Shenandoah” is an American Indian word meaning “Daughter of the Stars.” Natives used the area for hunting and shelter. Miners and loggers used it to harvest valuable resources. Soldiers used it as a fighting ground. Shenandoah is the name of a river, mountain, valley, county, and much more, so, the origin of the National Park name is unclear. Daughter of the Stars! That’s beautiful!

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah—Virginia’s first national park—was dedicated July 3, 1936. Cobbled together along the Blue Ridge from Front Royal to Waynesboro, the long narrow preserve divides the proud Shenandoah Valley from the rolling Piedmont to the east. The park contains a wide array of flora and fauna as it rises from a mere 550 feet at its lowest elevation to over 4,049 feet at its highest atop Hawksbill.

Related: Finding Fall Color along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Beyond

Along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Park has three districts, each with its own characteristics—North, Central, and South. Explore each district. Try new places and discover new wonders! Shenandoah is without a doubt one of the coolest leaf-peeping spots in the United States when fall foliage changes color each year.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Five hundred miles of trails consisting of 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, lead visitors to waterfalls, panoramic views, protected wilderness, and preserved human history in the Shenandoah Valley. A park full of recreational opportunities for the entire family, Shenandoah is worth repeat visits.

Related: Now Is the Best Time to Visit the Smokies

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are four entrances to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park, located at:

  • Front Royal, accessible via I-66 and U.S. 340
  • Thornton Gap, accessible via U.S. 211
  • Swift Run Gap, accessible via U.S. 33
  • Rockfish Gap, accessible via I-64 and U.S. 250
Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the United States at any time of the year. The picturesque 105-mile road rides the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness. And we drove this scenic byway all the way to the southern entrance, stopping by the numerous lookouts for different and unique views. Skyline Drive joins the Blue Ridge Parkway which connects Shenandoah to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Drive is a worthy destination in its own right.  As an aside, this is the same ridge that was walked by American Indians and early settlers of Virginia. 

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you travel along Skyline Drive you will notice mileposts on the west side of the road (right side if you are traveling south, left if you are heading north). These posts help you find your way through the Park and help you locate areas of interest. The miles begin at 0 in Front Royal and continue to 105 at the southern end of the Park. The largest developed area, Big Meadows, is near the center of the Park, at mile 51.

Related: The Other Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The speed limit is 35 mph, so feel free to roll down your windows, feel the breeze, and experience every curve and turn of this beautiful drive that offers stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the rolling Piedmont to the east. Be sure you will clear Marys Rock Tunnel (mile 32.2), with a maximum clearance of 12 feet 8 inches.RVs, camping trailers, and horse trailers are welcome, but prepare to shift into low gear.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is the most popular time to travel along Skyline Drive with its colorful foliage from late September to mid-November. But spring offers the most colorful wildflowers along the drive, as well as blooming azaleas and mountain laurel.

Related: Discover the Spirit of Adventure in National Parks of Eastern U.S.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park has an entrance fee of $30, payable at one of the four major entrance stations. The fee is good for 7 consecutive days, even if you leave the park.

Worth Pondering…

If you drive to, say, Shenandoah National Park, or the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll get some appreciation for the scale and beauty of the outdoors. When you walk into it, then you see it in a completely different way. You discover it in a much slower, more majestic sort of way.

—Bill Bryson

America’s Fall Foliage: Leafing through America

The real party here is the #foliage

At first glance, the sea of yellow, orange, red, and brown might seem like a random medley of colors…but it’s not. When chlorophyll abandons a tree in the autumn, it leaves behind a mix of other pigments that are distinct from one species to the next.

The sugar maple which rules the fall foliage world in North America glows a brilliant orange. Dogwoods turn reddish-purple. Beech and hickory trees get their yellow on as does aspen. And oak leaves—well, most of the poor fellows fade to brown before they become raking fodder.

I like to think of it as each tree leaving its individual signature on nature’s canvas before retiring for the winter.

Related: Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Fall is upon us. Gather your favorite road trip tunes, pack your camera, and consider one of these majestic drives to behold the dazzling shades of fall foliage from deep crimson to electric yellow. 

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive offers leaf peepers amazing autumn views

Who’s up for some leaf-peeping? If you haven’t traveled Skyline Drive in the fall, you may want to add it to your bucket list. The 105-mile National Scenic Byway runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. For over 75 years, the two-lane road has offered travelers the opportunity to view many scenic vistas.

Skyline Drive’s northern terminus is at an intersection with U.S. Route 340 near Front Royal and the southern terminus is at an interchange with US-250 near I-64 in Rockfish Gap where the road continues south as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Snap-happy tourists can capture the beauty of Shenandoah’s fall foliage while they stretch their legs at one of 70 overlooks.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive is buzzing with activity when Shenandoah’s trees exchange leaves of green for reds, oranges, and yellows. To avoid crowds, tourists are encouraged to visit on a weekday. Unless leaf peepers get caught in heavy traffic on fall foliage weekends, the entire length of Skyline Drive can be traveled in about three hours without stopping but why would you. The only public road through Shenandoah National Park is generally open 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless there is inclement weather.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway Festival set for tomorrow in Tellico Plains

The Charles Hall Museum & Heritage Center is gearing up for its fifth annual Cherohala Skyway Festival scheduled for Saturday, October 23, 2021, at the museum and its grounds. This year’s event commemorates the 25th anniversary of the completion of the Cherohala Skyway.

A professionally-directed video, “Highway To The Sky,” will play all day in Building 2’s meeting room. The seven-minute video offers footage and photos of the early Tellico Plains-North Carolina wagon trains along with the construction and completion of the Cherohala Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Cherohala Skyway Festival will feature some bluegrass musicians and groups. The Mountain Music String Band will kick off the entertainment. In addition to mountain music, there will be a variety of free activities to entertain children including a meet and greet with the Team Lexi princesses and princes, barrel train rides, a petting zoo, crafts and other activities, and Cherokee games. All ages can also enjoy free horse-drawn wagon rides with hayrides pulled by Mahindra tractors throughout the day.

Related: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The festival will also feature crafters and artists displaying many products from photography, painting, jewelry, leather, ceramics, quilting, needlework, and woodwork. All items are handmade or hand-decorated or designed.

During the festival, guests will be able to satisfy their appetite with southern specialties such as the Pork Palace’s pulled pork plates and fried ‘tater bowls. A&A Meat Co. will fry up a thick slice of bologna on grilled Texas toast with grilled onions and grilled cheese sandwiches. Slim’s Burger Joint will offer hamburgers with all the southern fixins’ including crinkle-style French fries.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dessert choices include funnel cakes, kettle corn, popcorn, homemade pork rinds, caramel apples, cotton candy, mini bundt cakes, ice cones, soft-serve ice cream, and a wide variety of baked goods from the Tellico Plains Public Library’s bake sale.

Following the festival experience the mountain and river valley sights by driving the Cherohala Skyway, a national scenic byway and the gateway to the Cherokee National Forest, or by visiting the 90-feet Bald River Falls, during peak fall color season,

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park

Fall is an incredible time to visit Zion National Park. As temperatures cool, it’s the perfect time for a hiking adventure. Also, the crowds are much smaller compared to summer and the park looks stunning as beautiful red, yellow, and orange leaves add so much color to its rugged desert landscape.

Though the climate in Zion National Park is incredibly arid, many trees thrive in the park. Evergreen white pines, ponderosa pines, and Douglas fir are mixed with golden aspens, crimson maples, copper oaks, and yellow cottonwoods. During the fall months, red and gold accents brighten the desert landscapes creating numerous opportunities for nature photographers.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To get the big picture of the fall in Zion, take the easy one-mile Canyon Overlook Trail east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The views of Zion Canyon from far above will take your breath away. A one-hour trail is perfect for families and those who are not ready for long strenuous hikes.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Virgin River is another excellent location to spot fall foliage. Hikers can start on the 2.2 mile Riverside Walk which is paved and comfortable. From there you can take the scenic Emerald Pools Trail which is especially rich with deciduous trees. A more challenging option is to walk on the river bed from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle station in the opposite direction for several miles. This way you can reach Zion Narrows, a beautiful slot canyon, which looks even better with colorful trees. If you are ready to challenge yourself, even more, take the 5.4-mile Angels Landing hike which offers views down into the canyon from a staggering height of 1,500 feet.

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Little of Austria. . . a Lot of Vermont!

One of my favorite places in the Green Mountain State is the town of Stowe. If you’re driving to Stowe from I-89 you will exit off the Interstate and pass through Waterbury and Waterbury Center. Don’t miss Ben & Jerry’s along the way. A little further up the road in Waterbury Center is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. You should definitely plan a stop to Cold Hollow for some fresh apple cider and the freshly made, delicious cider donuts.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe’s Main Street features a number of small stores, restaurants, and of course the subject of many scenic photos and artwork—the Stowe Community Church.

Related: Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make a trip up the Mountain Road to the Trapp Family Lodge, a unique mountain resort featuring Austrian-inspired architecture and European-style accommodations. The Lodge offers stunning mountain views along with activities for every season.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the early 1940s, the von Trapp family toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers before eventually settling in Stowe on an enchanted farm with sweeping mountain vistas reminiscent of their beloved Austria. In the summer of 1950, they began welcoming guests to a rustic, 27-room family home/lodge. After a devastating fire in 1980, the original structure was replaced by the new Trapp Family Lodge, a picturesque 96-room alpine lodge situated on 2,500 acres offering magnificent indoor and outdoor resort amenities. The entire property is owned and operated by the von Trapp family. You can learn all about the von Trapp family history by taking a tour while at the resort.

Worth Pondering…

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

—George Eliot

Fall is Fabulous in Georgia: 7 Perfect Ways to Celebrate the Season

Hike, drive, and bask in the beauty of the changing season

Fall is just around the corner! Explore the BEST of the season in Georgia with this bucket list created just for you.

Georgia apples © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Pick apples                                                                                                                             

John W. Clayton is credited with introducing the first apples to Gilmer County in 1903. Over a hundred years later, this north Georgia area produces more than 250,000 bushels of apples annually in over 30 varieties. The North Georgia Mountains abound with apple orchards, including you-pick, hayrides, petting zoos, and so much more. Fall is the apple picking season in Ellijay, the state’s capital of apple orchards. Visitors can fill up containers with varieties of apples as well as eat apple-accented dishes like apple fritters, apple cider doughnuts, and candy apples. Many orchards also have other things to do like hayrides, petting zoos, corn mazes, and other activities for kids.

Wondering when is the best time to go apple picking? Georgia’s season runs late August through October, however, not all varieties are available at the same time.

Field of sunflowers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Stroll through a sunflower field

A family-owned farm since 1858, Fausett Farms Sunflowers is located just south of Burt’s Pumpkin Farm and Amicalola Falls in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. For 60 years, the farm’s main business was poultry farming which ended in 2011. Now, the farm offers more than 13 acres of beautiful sunflowers for everyone to experience. The farm also offers horse trail riders the opportunity to bring their own horse and enjoy a day of riding on miles and miles of trails.

Autumn in northern Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Watch the leaves change

Rich reds, vibrant oranges, and golden yellows make autumn color in Georgia beautiful.

Georgia State Parks are fantastic family escapes for watching the leaves change color. Wondering which parks have the best showing? Try Tallulah Gorge, Amicalola, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, or Black Rock Mountain!

One of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Driving from the south, visitors pass through Neel Gap, a beautiful mountain pass near Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. Vogel is particularly popular during the fall when the Blue Ridge Mountains transform into a rolling blanket of red, yellow, and gold leaves. Hikers can choose from a variety of trails including the popular 4-mile Bear Hair Gap loop, an easy lake loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls, and the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail. 

Waterfalls © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Chase waterfalls

There is something magical about fallen red and gold leaves on the rocks of a tumbling waterfall. The beauty of Georgia’s waterfalls can lure even the not-so-outdoorsy types off the beaten path and into picture-perfect wilds. Waterfalls dot the landscape throughout North Georgia from Cloudland Canyon in the northwest to Tallulah Gorge in the northeast. Some are easily accessible by following paved paths and others require more advanced navigation skills.

Amicalola which is Cherokee for “tumbling waters” boasts seven cascades at Amicalola Falls State Park. At 729 feet, it is the tallest waterfall in the state. If you’re visiting Vogel State Park, stop at Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville to see these family-friendly falls. The Helton Creek Falls Trail is an easy 0.2-mile hike. Anna Ruby Falls, formed by Curtis and York creeks, are local favorites in Helen. It is one of the most visited waterfalls in North Georgia. Hike the easy-to-moderate half-mile trail from the parking lot to the foot of the falls, and you just might agree!

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Camp or glamp at a state park

Fall is made for camping under the bright stars, and Georgia’s state park system allows you to enjoy comfort and consistency across the state. 

Nestled at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest, popular Vogel State Park offers primitive and backcountry campers a variety of organized activities and events such as fishing rodeos, and festivals. Hiking nature lovers can choose from easy or challenging trails around the park. Rent pedal boats or kayaks to explore and fish the park’s lake. You can also entertain yourself on the seasonal beach, bike rentals, playing a round of mini-golf, or visiting the playground.

A scenic drive through the mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Road trip through the mountains

Slow your pace and travel Georgia’s back roads to fully immerse yourself in the colors and character of the season. North Georgia is literally rolling with peaks and valleys, so finding a good road trip isn’t hard to do. Just get in your car and start driving and likely you’ll stumble into some of the prettiest views in the state.

Follow the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway from Helen through the mountains or travel the Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway from Cohutta to Ellijay. In west Georgia, follow the Meriwether-Pike Scenic Byway and pull off the road in Woodbury for a photo op at the Red Oak Covered Bridge.

Corn maze © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Corn Mazes for Family Fun

Fall is a favorite time of year with cooler weather, the changing leaves, and all the fun fall activities—like corn mazes. Generally, you should plan between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete the maze. Most places have other farm activities too! You’ll find corn mazes, hayrides, bonfires, activities for the kids, and pumpkins.

A haunted house? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What could be better than combining two of the most popular fall activities, the Corn Maze and the Haunted House? If you like to be scared out in the middle of a cornfield, then consider visiting a haunted corn maze. Georgia has several that will chill your blood, as well as a few that rely more on simple darkness for a gentler spook. Whether you’re looking for a haunted house, spook walk, or other Halloween attractions, there are corn mazes that have it all.

Worth Pondering…

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.

—George Eliot

8 of the Best Leaf-Peeping Destinations! But is it the Season of Fall or Autumn?

Autumn leaves, autumn sneeze, fall breeze, and fall trees. Is it most accurate to say September 22 is the start of fall or autumn?

Both autumn and fall originated from Britain, according to Merriam-Webster. Autumn, however, was the first of the pumpkin spice season names to be invented back in the 1300s originating from the Latin word autumnus. It would take 300 years for fall to come into the picture. 

Applegate River Valley in southern Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After many poets began using the phrase “the fall of the leaves,” the word itself became associated with the season during the 1600s. As the English empire grew during this time period, so did its language. Eventually, the word fall made its way to the New World. 

“To put it more pretentiously, there was always something transient, unstable, mysterious, emotionally undefined about autumn and fall, unlike the other seasons which are so well defined,” said Tony Thorne, a lexicographer at King’s College London. “Maybe that’s why people could not easily decide on one permanent name throughout our history.”

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The word autumn emigrated to America and simply changed to fall, like many other words that got mixed during the travel and independence of the U.S. Jumper in Britain, for example, is what sweater means in America.

Which term is used largely depends on whether the person is speaking British English or American English. While both used throughout the United States and Canada, fall has become the more popular term. From 1800 to the present, autumn has been more popular in Britain and the opposite can be said for America, according to Writing Explained. 

Northern Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Some think that it sounds more simple and honest and rustic, unlike the more formal autumn, some think that independent Americans wanted to consciously distance themselves from Colonial British ways of speaking,” Thorne said.

There is no real answer to why fall became so popular with Americans, but the main difference is that it is the less proper way of saying the autumn season has arrived. You may get a weird look or two if you say autumn over fall in the U.S. but both accurately describe the popular season.

Farewell flip-flops, hello pumpkin spice.

Regardless of what you call the season, watching lush greenery morph into a sea of warm hues that rival the sunset itself simply never gets old. And when it comes to fall foliage, New England is hard to beat—but there are plenty of lovely leaf-peeping locales in other regions of the U.S., too. Here are eight of my favorite spots from coast to coast.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Willamette Valley of Oregon

Fall colors in the Southern Willamette Valley are a special kind of show when the leaves of maples, magnolias, and oaks turn vivid shades of yellow and red, contrasting against Oregon’s signature evergreens. Use Eugene or Medford as a home base—both are home to quirky shops, restaurants, and stays. Enjoy the foliage with a climb up Spencer Butte, just a quick trip from downtown Eugene, or on a drive to explore the 20 covered bridges in Lane County. Better yet, pay a visit to one of the valley’s wineries—the vines also turn when the weather cools.

Southern Willamette Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience Jacksonville, dubbed “One of America’s Top 10 Coolest Small Towns” by Frommers. A short drive from Medford, life slows a pace or two in quaint, historic Jville. Steeped in history, the entire town is designated a National Historic Landmark. Explore the roots of the area from the days of the 1850’s gold rush to now through a variety of historical tour options including a self-guided walking tour as well as trolley, haunted history tours, walking tours, and more! A quintessential western town, you’ll find yourself enthralled in how things used to be!

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greater Zion

Autumn in Utah’s Greater Zion region is an unforgettable sight when the leaves on quaking aspens and Frémont cottonwoods at higher elevations change to striking golds and yellows. In Zion National Park, the leaves typically turn from September through October. Visitors can take the park shuttle service from Springdale during that time making it easy to pop into the park and hike routes like Canyon Overlook Trail, a fairly leisurely journey with rewarding views. To get farther from the crowds, visit nearby state parks instead including Quail Creek, Snow Canyon, Gunlock, and Sand Hollow

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from the northern part of Virginia near Shenandoah National Park, south to Cherokee, North Carolina, near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is truly one of the most stunning fall drives in the country.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a spectacular drive any time of year, but it’s exceptional during the fall. This U.S. National Parkway often called “America’s favorite drive” meanders 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. The drive connects Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s famous for being a slow-paced drive with views of long-range vistas, pastoral landscapes, and up-close glimpses of the local mountains.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe

Santa Fe is home to a transforming mountain landscape with crisp yet comfortable fall temperatures that range from the high-50s to mid-70s. The hillside between Hyde Memorial State Park and Ski Santa Fe is also covered in aspens whose leaves burst into fiery gold and crimson in late September. Ski Santa Fe opens its main ski lift exclusively on weekends and holidays from September through mid-October for aerial leaf-peeping and the Santa Fe National Forest is open for outdoor exploration like hiking and biking. 

Northern Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northern Georgia

North Georgia and its state parks and scenic byways are best visited in the fall when cool temps and beautiful colors take over. Can’t-miss foliage destinations include Tallulah Gorge State Park which is home to the Tallulah Gorge—two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet in depth—and a suspension bridge that sways 80 feet above the Tallulah River. Next, explore Black Rock Mountain State Park which is Georgia’s highest state park at an altitude of 3,640 feet for scenic panoramas. Those who would rather just sit back and enjoy the ride can take a train trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway which departs from Blue Ridge, Georgia, and takes riders on a four-hour journey through the nearby forests and Appalachian foothills as they burst with brilliant colors.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga, New York

Fall foliage in Saratoga County is a spectacular sight to see as the trees come alive with vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. This season is the ideal time of year to take a relaxing drive down country roads and to impressive overlooks and colorful forests.

Saratoga National Historical Park has public hiking trails and a Driving Tour Road that will take you to unique historic sites and scenic overlooks with wide-sweeping views of the fall foliage.

Saratoga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can finish the Driving Tour Road in about 30 minutes with no stops. If you visit each of the 10 wayside interpretive stops, the trip will last about 1.5-2 hours.

After you’ve passed the 10th and final stop, drive east to US-4 and then heading north to Schuylerville. When you arrive in the village, celebrate this leaf-peeping adventure with a craft beer at Bound by Fate Brewing or grab a bite to eat at a restaurant. The Basin Grill offers both outdoor and indoor dining and it’s right on the Hudson River shoreline. While you’re in Schuylerville this season, swing by Saratoga Apple for apples, cider, baked goods, and more farm products.

Fishlake National Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishlake National Forest

Fall doesn’t get as much love in Utah as other times of year but the changing colors make it spectacular. The deep oranges of canyon maples light up the Wasatch Front and quaking aspens in southern Utah turn bright yellow to contrast the deep red landscape. It’s the perfect opportunity to get out on weekends without the summer crowds and discover the hidden treasures that make Utah great. Not sure where to go? Here is one of my favorite fall getaways in the Beehive State.

Fish Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A perfect fall detour while visiting Capitol Reef National Park, this 13-mile road takes you along the northern edge of Fish Lake where you can stop at a picnic area for lunch with a view. The aspens in the Fishlake National Forest turn early thanks to the 9,000-foot elevation so you can get your foliage fix before heading to Capitol Reef. Enjoy uncrowded autumn hikes, incredible vistas, and arches carved into the landscape.

The Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef offers 71 sites with easy access to the many trails and scenic drives in and around the park. It’s open year-round and features flush-toilet restrooms.

Mabry Mill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mabry Mill 

One of the most photographed places in Virginia, this water-powered mill in the Blue Ridge Mountains was built by Edwin Boston Mabry. It catches the attention of thousands of visitors each year and has now become a community gathering place. Mabry Mill is somewhat close to Roanoke (and near small Galax) and is just great for taking some epic pictures full of the fall colors in Virginia. The area also features displays where you can explore and grasp an idea of what life was like here some 100 years ago. 

Mabry Mill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mabry Mill is particularly known for its restaurant. It serves a country-style menu, tasty pancakes, pot toasts, and many other meals in a very iconic and traditional environment. For amazing Mabry Mill and Blue Ridge Parkway-inspired souvenirs, clothing, as well as for some Virginia crafts and foods get to the gift shop nearby. 

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

10 Amazing Places to RV in October

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in October

October, a month that brings to mind fall festivals, leaves changing, and cooler weather is also a fantastic time for RV travel. Head to places like the Bavarian village of Helen or the New River Gorge for Bridge Day where fall foliage is at its best during this time of year. If you’d rather escape the sometimes chilly weather and head someplace warmer such as Savannah or Tucson.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in August and September. Also, check out my recommendations from October 2020.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helen, Georgia

A Bavarian-inspired village with alpine charm in spades, Helen has heaps of character and enchanting architecture. Given its Germanic roots, you’ll be hardly shocked to learn that Oktoberfest is hugely popular. Vineyards, breweries, and an array of shops attract year-round travelers. For a sweet treat, stock up on confections at Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen. Speaking of food, the köstlich (German for delicious) and authentic dining scene also deserves a shout-out. Nearby Unicoi State Park offers 53 acres of forested trails plus numerous campsites and a lake.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sabino Canyon, Arizona

The saguaro-draped foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson harbor countless scenic ravines but two of the prettiest are Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon, ten miles northeast of the city center. Both feature a stream that forms seasonal pools and waterfalls, steep-sided slopes bearing many cacti, and other Sonoran Desert plants with rocky peaks rising high above. Of the two, Sabino is more developed and more visited having a paved road running 3.8 miles up the lower section along which are various picnic sites, trailheads, and viewpoints.

Sabino Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trams leave the visitor center every 30 minutes for the journey into Sabino Canyon, stopping at nine places along the way. The full trip takes about 45 minutes, crosses the creek nine times on sturdy stone bridges, and is made to the accompaniment of narration from a tour guide who gives details of the local wildlife, plant life, geology, and history. The trams are certainly the most popular way to visit though some prefer to walk or cycle.  Bear Canyon and the Seven Falls trailhead can be explored by a relatively easy 5-mile round trip hike beginning at the end of the side road, reachable by tram—or 8.5 miles if starting from the visitor center.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The most-visited national park, this protected area spans more than 520,000 acres straddling North Carolina and Tennessee. Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts more than 850 hiking trails and is considered the most biodiverse park in the national park system. What’s more, it’s home to some of the tallest peaks in the eastern United States. One of those peaks is the 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome which wows visitors with 360-degree views of the Smokies (on a clear day, visitors can see for 100 miles).

Clingmans Dome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For more spectacular mountain vistas travelers can hike the 3.6-mile round-trip Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald which starts from the parking lot at Clingmans Dome. Boasting an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, Andrews Bald is the highest grassy bald in the park. For travelers who don’t want to rough it in one of the park’s campsites, there are full-service RV parks available in Bryson City and Cherokee, North Carolina, and Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Entry to the national park is free.

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fayetteville & Bridge Day

With the official designation earlier this year of America’s newest national park, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, neighboring Fayetteville has been buzzing. However, this laid-back, tight-knit community (named for American Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette) has long been a place where adventure reigns. The nearby New and Gauley Rivers offer world-class whitewater rafting and the Fayetteville area is home to some of the best rock climbing in the East. It’s also a prime spot for mountain biking.

Adventure pursuit aside, Fayetteville’s natural scenery is stunning with cascading waterfalls, scenic parks, and breathtaking views that overlook the New River Gorge. The region is also home to a wealth of Appalachian history including a Civil War Trail and nearby mining towns like Nuttallburg and Thurmond.

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downtown is chock full of quirky shops like Wild Art Wonderful Things where you can pick up Appalachian-made products like state-shaped embroideries and bottles of River Rat Hot Sauce. Fayetteville is home to the original Pies and Pints, a stone hearth pizza place with a decidedly cult following. (The gorgonzola and grape pie is a fan favorite.) The Wood Iron Eatery whips up made-from-scratch dishes in Fayetteville’s historic Ankrom-Dickerson House.

While the town’s landmark New River Gorge Bridge—an 876-foot-high single-span arch bridge that’s also one of the world’s longest—is impressive on any day, it’s especially so each third Saturday in October (October 13, 2021). This is Bridge Day, the only time that it’s legal to BASE jump in a national park (and professional BASE jumpers take full advantage of it). Bridge Walk offers a heart-thumping adventure of a different kind: guided tours beneath the bridge, along its 24-inch-wide catwalk.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

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. 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.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are several spectacular scenic vistas on the Tennessee side. Brushy Ridge and Turkey Creek overlooks are good picnic spots. You’ll pass the turn-off for Indian Boundary Waters which offers great camping and back road dual sport/jeep explorations.

On the North Carolina side, Huckleberry Knob (near MM 8) is one of the favorite stops for visitors. At 5,560 feet, it’s the highest peak in the Unicoi Mountains and Graham County. It’s an easy 2.4-mile roundtrip hike in the Nantahala National Forest with only a 400-foot elevation gain along a former forest service road.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston in the Fall

It’s leaf-peeping time in New England and you don’t have to go any further than Boston Common to see fall colors. Boston is at its most beautiful in the fall. As the leaves turn, Boston’s parks put on an unforgettable show complementing the historic architecture. While you’re there, walk the Freedom Trail to explore some of the city’s historic sites—walk the 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites. 

Two centuries separate the creation of the Boston Common and the Public Garden and what a difference that period made. In 1634 the Common was created as America’s first public park; it was practical and pastoral with walkways built for crosstown travel. In contrast, the Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. It was decorative and flowery from its inception featuring meandering pathways for strolling.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The annual Fall Pumpkin Float in the Boston Common Frog Pond is planned for Friday, October 15, setting the stage for Halloween with jack-o-lanterns and spooky activities. The Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event, will be held October 22-24. Since its inception in 1965, The Head Of The Charles Regatta has attracted hundreds of thousands of rowers to the banks of the Charles River. The Boston Marathon returns on October 11 with a reduced field of 20,000 runners.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park, Georgia

One of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Driving from the south, visitors pass through Neel Gap, a beautiful mountain pass near Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. Vogel is particularly popular during the fall when the Blue Ridge Mountains transform into a rolling blanket of red, yellow, and gold leaves. Hikers can choose from a variety of trails, including the popular 4-mile Bear Hair Gap loop, an easy lake loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls, and the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail. Cottages, campsites, and primitive backpacking sites provide a range of overnight accommodations. RV campers can choose from 90 campsites with electric hookups.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah’s Squares

The best way to see Savannah is to set out on foot to walk its squares. Each one of these lush green spaces comes complete with businesses, homes, and churches. Some of these neighborhoods are tiny; others are huge. Some rest amid urban bustling while others sit quietly, disturbed only by the occasional thrasher or mockingbird.

Savannah’s squares are an invitation to stroll or simply relax and listen to the breeze stirring the oak trees and the clippity-clop of horse-drawn carriages wending around the roads. They’re the ideal jumping-off places to explore the walkable historic district.

First Baptist Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I love Chippewa Square. It sits adjacent to the First Baptist Church and among beautiful townhomes. I never tire of seeking out its architectural secrets such as the charming fish-shaped caps on the downspouts that grace the homes facing the square.

Be sure to seek out the different squares and find a favorite of your own. There you may simply want to sit and let the lovely green park envelop you with its whisperings of centuries of life in this delightful city.

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sand Surfing Monahans

As a winter sport, snowboarding is particularly ill-suited to the Texas climate. But if you’re willing to use a little imagination, you may find the next best thing waiting for you in the deserts of West Texas. True, there’s no white powder but powder-soft sand abounds at Monahans Sandhills State Park, the perfect place for sliding downhills. With entrance fees an affordable $4 per adult, it’s a lot cheaper than a ski lift ticket.

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t have your own gear? No problem! You can rent a sand disc at the park’s head­quarters. There are endless sandhills to climb, jump or surf down. Pick a few and have fun! Boarding or sledding the dunes is more fun on the cool sand, so mornings and evenings are best. Midday, picnic at one of the park’s covered shelters or build a sandcastle, the Monahans equivalent of a snowman!

After playing in the sand all day, rinse off at one of the park’s watering stations before heading to your RV in the 26-site campground. Each site offers water and electric hookups, a picnic table, shade shelter, and a waist-high grill. Each site rents for $15 nightly plus a daily entrance fee.

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where the Past Touches Your Soul

The Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, Tennessee, is a living history museum where you can “let the past touch your soul.” Visit a pioneer farm village that channels the voice of the South Appalachian folk through the artifacts and stories they left behind. Roam the 65-acres of picturesque land and experience a rural Appalachian community complete with 35 log cabins, barns, farm animals, churches, schools, and gardens. Discover a vast collection of folk art, musical instruments, baskets, quilts, and Native American artifacts.

John Rice Irwin collected artifacts and buildings over the course of 50 years assembling a typical early Appalachian village with barns, homes, and businesses. Musicians play traditional music, and a restaurant serves Southern home-style meals with ingredients from the museum’s gardens.

Worth Pondering…

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

―L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Fall foliage won’t wait and neither should you

Every year, Mother Nature sets the hills ablaze with vibrant hues of red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple. Autumn is a special time of year. The air begins to cool and the leaves start to change color. It’s the season to admire the magic of nature at a slower pace.

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is a great time to head out in the RV. Crisp days, cool evenings, and an amazing show as the leaves turn vibrant colors! Fall signals the change from summer to winter. It’s the time when we change from the relaxed, carefree attitudes of summer to the more serious and introspective energies of fall.

Did you know: we’ve been calling this season “fall” since the 17th century. Before then it was simply “Harvest” but as more people moved away from agricultural locations, fall became the more common word for this fantastic season (because leaves fell!). Fall and autumn are interchangeable but you’re likely to hear “autumn” more frequently in Britain while “fall” is more common in America.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best time to view the fall foliage is typically late September to late October but timing varies according to region, elevation, and weather.

This autumn, take advantage of cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage by planning a fall drive through some of the country’s most scenic regions. With a dozen routes through the most picturesque states around the country, you’re bound to find a perfect autumn getaway. From coast to coast, these fall road trips offer amazing views and unique things to do.

Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont

The Green Mountain Byway travels from Stowe to Waterbury between mountain ridges. Along the route are Little River, Smugglers Notch, and Waterbury Center state parks, and Mount Mansfield and Putnam state forests. Stowe is a premier four-season resort destination particularly known for its alpine and Nordic recreation, mountain biking, and hiking. Here, the Von Trapp family (of Sound of Music fame) attracted worldwide attention more than 50 years ago. Along with beautiful scenery, a large variety of attractions for all ages and tastes including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and Vermont Ski Museum.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains offer one of the most colorful and longest-running fall leaf seasons. One of the many reasons for this is the varied elevations which show prime fall colors for more than a month. Fall colors begin at the highest elevations in early October and work their way down to the lower elevations in early November.

The Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This National Parkway often called “America’s favorite drive” meanders 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. It is truly one of the most stunning fall drives in the country. Everyone should complete this trek at least once in their lifetime! While you drive, you’ll pass split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows, and scenic overlooks. Stop along the way at the numerous hiking trails or visit a local farm to grab some autumnal produce.

Heritage Driving Tour near Goshen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heritage Driving Tour, Indiana

The 90-mile Heritage Trail Driving Tour winds through Amish Country taking you down rural highways, country lanes, and charming main streets. Stop in Shipshewana to stroll the shop-lined streets where you’ll find handcrafted items, baked goods, and the Midwest’s largest flea market. Enjoy a delightful Amish meal at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury or Amish Acres in Nappanee.

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots in the Smoky Mountains National Park and it’s not hard to see why. Visitors can explore hiking trails, historic sites, and an auto tour. During the fall season, Cades Cove comes alive with gorgeous colors and becomes an even more magical place to visit. But be aware that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper especially on weekends. Late October into November is when the gorgeous fall foliage can best be seen in Cades Cove. Be sure to bring your camera when you visit—there are plenty of picture-perfect opportunities throughout Cades Cove!

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway climbs up Parowan Canyon’s white, gold, red, and yellow rock pillars and cliffs, traveling between its two town anchors, Parowan and Panguitch. As you travel this rolling route through varying elevations, note the distinctive combination of colorful scenery and ancient history. For a relaxed afternoon, go fishing in Panguitch Lake from which the byway gets half of its name. As you continue along your way, a section of the route brushes the top of Cedar Breaks National Monument, an amphitheater canyon eroded out of the western edge of the Markagaunt Plateau. Dixie National Forest is home to Brian Head Peak, which reaches 11,315 feet and gives the byway the other half of its namesake.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile journey along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. The landscape is spectacular in the fall with trees transforming into every shade of yellow and red imaginable and piles of crunchy leaves lining the drive like confetti. Skyline Drive’s nearly 70 overlooks give you practically endless opportunities to soak up the scenery.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Fish Lake Scenic Byway (SR-25) bookends Fishlake National Forest, an often-missed oasis featuring three mountain ranges broken up by desert canyons. Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, scenic drives, trails, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing. Fish Lake, Utah’s largest natural mountain lake lies in a down-faulted valley (technically known as a graben) at an elevation of 8,843 feet. The 5.5-mile-long lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state attracting as many as 7,000 visitors on summer weekends.

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newfound Gap Scenic Byway, North Carolina and Tennessee

Autumn is both a beautiful and a busy time in the Great Smoky Mountains. The annual show of fall colors attracts huge numbers of sightseers especially during the last three weeks of October.

With more than 130 tree species, many of them deciduous, the Great Smoky Mountains put on quite a show as summer starts to fade. If you’re looking to take a scenic drive through the Smokies, Newfound Gap is the perfect route! As the lowest pass through the mountains, there are plenty of spots along this road to see the gorgeous fall foliage. As you drive along Newfound Gap, you’ll reach an overlook that’s a great place to get some pictures of the views.

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Gold Rush Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California Highway 49

Throughout its length, the Gold Rush Trail winds through many of the towns that sprung up during the Gold Rush as it twists and climbs past panoramic vistas. Rocky meadows, oaks, and white pines accent the hills while tall firs and ponderosa pine stud higher slopes. The old mining towns along the Trail retain their early architecture and charm—living reminders of the rich history of the Mother Lode. Placerville, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphys all retain their 1850’s flavor.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

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. 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.

Fall is a beautiful time of year on the Cherohala Skyway. Cool weather arrives and the changing leaves are spectacular. The leaves begin changing color as early as September in the higher elevations and continue through mid-November in lower elevations. The dogwoods, poplars, and sourwoods are some of the first to transform. The red oaks, hickories, and white oaks change later and often hold their leaves until late fall.

Roaring Fork Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Tennessee

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a favorite among visitors to Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is a 5.5-mile, one-way loop that includes views of rushing mountain streams and old-growth forests. There are a number of historic log cabins, homes, and buildings that have been preserved along with grist mills. The trail is narrow and winding, so make sure to go slow and take your time exploring the sights. Right before you get to the motor nature trail, take some time for a quick stop at the Noah “Bud” Ogle self-guiding nature trail which offers a walking tour of an authentic mountain farmstead and surrounding hardwood forest.

Worth Pondering…

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.

—George Eliot

Finding Fall Color along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Beyond

Check out these leaf-peeping tips for a spectacular fall visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Tens of thousands of people visit the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Georgia each year to see the beautiful fall foliage and autumn colors. The Blue Ridge Mountains offer one of the most colorful and longest-running fall leaf seasons in the world.

One of the many reasons for this is the varied elevations which show prime fall colors for more than a month. Fall colors begin at the highest elevations in early October and work their way down to the lower elevations in early November.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will the Parkway leaves stop producing chlorophyll and change to their wardrobe of fall colors? If you’re wondering when the peak Blue Ridge Parkway Fall leaf season will be this year, you’re not alone. It’s usually in October which is often the busiest month along the Parkway. But there are many factors that influence the timing and intensity of the color including when and how much rain falls, how late in the season the sun shines with intense heat, and how cool the nights are. So your best bet to see peak autumn color is to incorporate as many of these elements into your trip as possible.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elevation: Travel a longer section of the Parkway to see a variety of elevations. Leaves change color at higher, cooler elevations first. The elevation along the Parkway ranges from over 6,000 feet at Richland Balsam in North Carolina to just under 650 feet at the James River in Virginia. You can also continue into Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks on either end of the Parkway for additional opportunities to view fall color. Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the state high point of Tennessee and Mount Mitchell, located along the Parkway at Milepost 355 is the state high point for North Carolina and either would be a good choice.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aspect: Which direction a slope face determines its temperature and the type of plants that grow there. Leaves change color first on cooler, wetter north-facing slopes and later on warmer, south-facing slopes. View a variety of aspects to see different plants and different phases of color change.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distance: Since overlooks with distant views reveal a variety of elevations and aspects you are more likely to see leaf color. Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the state high point of Tennessee, and Mount Mitchell, with access at Parkway at Milepost 355, is the state high point for North Carolina; either would provide a long-distance view. But many Parkway overlooks also provide long-range views, so there are lots of options besides the tallest peak in the state.

The bottom line is, don’t expect to pick one spot on one day on the Parkway and see the perfect combination of colors—instead, travel a longer distance and you’re likely to meet all the criteria above and see a variety of stages of color change.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here, then, is the general progression:

  • Leaves at the highest elevations (Clingmans Dome, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, and Waterrock Knob) change from late September to early October
  • Mid-October provides good color along most of the Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park including Boone and Blowing Rock in North Carolina and Wytheville and Fancy Gap in Virginia
  • Next, the lower elevations provide good color (Pisgah National Forest, Linville Gorge, Nantahala Gorge, and Maggie Valley in North Carolina and Roanoke, Lynchburg, Lexington, Waynesboro, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia)
  • The lowest elevations (Asheville, Brevard, Waynesville, Cherokee, Gatlinburg, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure) provide the final color display if the weather has cooperated and there are still leaves on the trees
Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2021 Fall Color Forecast for the Blue Ridge Parkway, by week

September 27-October 7: At the highest elevations, close to 6,000 feet there is some color but it’s often very spotty and muted. The views from these locations will be mostly green since the areas viewed are lower elevations. Areas that turn early in this date and elevation range include Graveyard Fields (Milepost 418.8) and Rough Ridge Trail (Milepost 302.8).

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October 1-10: Peak time for areas above 5,000 feet. This would include Clingmans Dome, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Waterrock Knob (Milepost 451.2), and Graveyard fields (the first location on the Parkway to turn) and higher elevations of The Blue Ridge Parkway (between Asheville and Cherokee) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October 10 – 20: Peak time for elevations from 4,000-5,000 feet. This would include almost all Blue Ridge Parkway locations and the majority of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well. Included in this elevation are the Boone and Blowing Rock areas.

October 18-26: Peak time for lower elevations, from 3,000-4,000 feet. This would include places like Pisgah National Forest which includes Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls, Dill Falls, Wildcat Falls, and many other waterfalls.  Other areas include Linville Gorge (Milepost 316.4), Nantahala Gorge, Maggie Valley (Milepost 455.5), and Cataloochee Valley.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

October 24-31: Peak time for elevations from 2,000 feet-3,000 feet. This would include The cities of Asheville, Brevard, Waynesville, Cherokee, and many others. Places of interest include Dupont State Forest and Biltmore Estate, and Cades Cove.

October 26-November 8: Peak time for remaining elevations including Gatlinburg (Tennessee), Chimney Rock (North Carolina), and remaining lower elevation mountains. This includes Chimney Rock (State Park) as well, a great place to see fall color.

Please note: These timeframes are estimates based on prior years and current weather and soil conditions. Actual peak times may vary some from this forecast.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Information and Trip Planning

The Parkway’s unique features such as limited sight distances, blind curves, and elevation changes offer driving challenges, especially for recreational vehicles. Stay alert and watch for other motorists, wildlife, and bicyclists.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping: Be sure to make advance camping reservations. The Parkway’s eight campgrounds were built years ago and do not currently offer RV hookups. Most Parkway campgrounds have at least some sites that will accommodate sizeable recreational vehicles. There are many private campgrounds in communities available just off the Parkway with full RV hookups and amenities.

Tunnels: Know the height of your RV in comparison to the heights of the 26 tunnels along the Parkway. The top of each tunnel is curved with the maximum height above the center line and the minimum height at the road shoulder.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parkway Detour: From May 2021 to spring 2022, a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Expect a closure by Roanoke due to a serious slope failure there. The National Park Service will be completing repairs on the Roanoke River Bridge at Milepost 114 and also repairing a road hazard at Milepost 127.9 that was caused by heavy rains and landslides. As a result, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed from Milepost 112.2 (Route 24 near Vinton) to Milepost 136 (Route 221 on Bent Mountain) for through-travelers. You can take US 221 around the closure from Parkway Milepost 135.9 to Milepost 106 (about a 27-mile detour).

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular destination for vacationers who RV. Nothing beats a beautiful, wooded drive in your home-away-from-home!

Worth Pondering…

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
Take me home, country roads.

—John Denver

4 Epic Places to Watch the Leaves Change

Leaf-peeping season is coming

All the leaves are changing, the temperature is falling, and the sky is gray… well, not yet. I’m just mentally preparing for fall. I love the crispness in the air perhaps because it triggers a snowbird response in me that tells me it’s time to start packing the RV for travel to warmer climes. Georgia O’Keefe said, “I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again,” and while that’s not really the whole story of what I did this summer (I’m guessing Georgia O’Keefe wasn’t dealing with back-to-back years of a COVID pandemic), it’s pretty close!

Cooler weather is around the corner and with it comes the changing of the seasons and the changing of the leaves. Here are four epic places you can usher in autumn and her sea of color.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

The Omni Mount Washington Resort is the quintessential New England four-season luxury resort. Plan a fall foliage visit where you will be wrapped in the White Mountains red, orange, and yellow canvas. The resort offers a number of outdoor activities where you can experience the best White Mountain vistas.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The resort is set amidst nearly 800,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest offering the opportunity to enjoy any number of outdoor activities including mountain biking, horseback riding, disc golf, hiking/walking, fly-fishing, rock climbing, and just plain exploring.

The Omni’s Donald Ross-designed course offers golfers spectacular mountain views that are particularly gorgeous during the fall foliage display. Enjoy a scenic ride on the Bretton Woods Skyway Gondola for breathtaking views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range. The 12-minute ride up takes you to the new Rosebrook Lodge. For the adventure seekers, a Bretton Woods Canopy Tour can literally immerse you in the gorgeous autumn foliage.

Omni Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whatever road you choose to travel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, you’ll find easy driving, fabulous scenery, and a wealth of recreation. Nearby scenic attractions include Mount Washington Cog Railway, Crawford Notch State Park, Franconia Notch State Parkway, and Mount Washington Auto Road.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina and Tennessee

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. 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.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is a beautiful time of year on the Cherohala Skyway. Cool weather arrives and the changing leaves are spectacular. The leaves begin changing color as early as September in the higher elevations and continue through mid-November in lower elevations. The dogwoods, poplars, and sourwoods are some of the first to transform. The red oaks, hickories, and white oaks change later and often hold their leaves until late fall.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are several spectacular scenic vistas on the Tennessee side. Brushy Ridge and Turkey Creek overlooks are good picnic spots. You’ll pass the turn-off for Indian Boundary Waters which offers great camping and back road dual sport/jeep explorations.

On the North Carolina side, Huckleberry Knob (near MP 8) is one of the favorite stops for visitors. At 5,560 feet, it’s the highest peak in the Unicoi Mountains. It’s an easy 2.4-mile roundtrip hike in the Nantahala National Forest with only a 400-foot elevation gain along a former forest service road.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brasstown Bald. Northeast Georgia Mountains

Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest peak, so take note to visit early. The colors will change sooner on this peak than in other places in the Georgia Mountains. The Brasstown Bald Visitors Center sits atop Georgia’s highest mountain at 4,784 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, its cloud-level observation deck offers stunning 360-degree views of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and valleys. On a clear day, one can see four states.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unique circular building is home to an 8,000 sq. ft. museum featuring interactive cultural and natural history exhibits. A short film about the dramatic weather and changing seasons at Brasstown Bald plays regularly in the mountain top theater. The summit can be accessed from the parking lot by shuttle service or hiking the half-mile Summit Trail. Additional hiking trails are also available. A gift shop offers forest-related merchandise including locally made goods. A small fee is required for park entry and the shuttle bus. Enjoy picnicking, hiking, and scenic views.

Additionally, the surrounding areas of Blairsville offer Vogel State Park and several fun waterfalls.

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston in the Fall

It’s leaf-peeping time in New England and you don’t have to go any further than Boston Common to see fall colors. Boston is at its most beautiful in the fall. As the leaves turn, Boston’s parks put on an unforgettable show complementing the historic architecture. While you’re there, walk the Freedom Trail to explore some of the city’s historic sites—walk the 2.5-mile red line leading to 16 nationally significant historic sites. 

Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two centuries separate the creation of the Boston Common and the Public Garden and what a difference that period made. In 1634 the Common was created as America’s first public park; it was practical and pastoral with walkways built for crosstown travel. In contrast, the Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. It was decorative and flowery from its inception featuring meandering pathways for strolling.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Fall

Fall into something different

Here comes fall and while some RVers are no doubt lamenting the end of summer there are many reasons to be excited about autumn’s arrival. If you’re looking to take advantage of the season but in need of a bit of inspiration, consider kicking off shoulder season in one of these under-the-radar small towns.

Urbana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Urbanna, Virginia

Turn off the main road or cruise up the Rappahannock River from the Chesapeake Bay to the charming and friendly historic Colonial port town of Urbanna. Home of Virginia’s Official Oyster Festival (November), more boats than folks and laid back innkeepers, shopkeepers, chefs, and townspeople. You will see where tons of tobacco were loaded into ships to sail back to Europe and the Famous Mitchell map is displayed at the visitor center located in the James Mills Scottish Factor Store.

Waterboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walterboro, South Carolina

For those reminiscing about the warmth and familiarity of an authentic small town, Walterboro provides the perfect opportunity to step back through time. Nature lovers can take advantage of South Carolina’s year-round balmy weather and enjoy the quiet solitude of the ACE Basin and Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly Great Swamp Sanctuary) which is accessible from downtown. Visitors are reminded of the town’s early days as a summer retreat—tree-lined streets where quaint homes with broad porches and beautiful churches date to the 18th century. Treasure-hunters love scouring the village’s dozen antique shops, finding everything from high-end antiques to fun vintage souvenirs, or shopping the Colleton Farmers Market for farm-fresh produce and delicious homemade food products.

Wetumpka © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetumpka, Alabama

The name is a Creek Indian word meaning “rumbling waters” describing the sound of the nearby Coosa River. The Coosa River flows through the middle of the city dividing the historic business district from its residential counterpart. Bibb Graves Bridge, a focal point of the City was built in 1937. Proceeding across the Bridge to the largely residential west side discover a number of historic and beautiful homes and churches within a five-block area mainly on Tuskeena Street. On the largely historic business district east side, the Wind Creek Casino overlooks the beautiful Coosa River.

Stowe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe makes for an enjoyable spring or summer vacation (thanks to its outdoor offerings and events), a fun fall trip (thanks to its kaleidoscopic foliage), and a great winter getaway (thanks to its ski slopes). This quaint Vermont town is set in a valley and backed by mountains which means exploring Mother Nature by foot, bike, ski, or zip line is the top priority for most travelers. When it’s time to wind down, visit one of the area’s breweries.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone is a notorious, historic boomtown. Originally a mining hotspot, Tombstone was the largest productive silver district in Arizona. However, since that was long ago tapped dry, Tombstone mostly relies on tourism now and capitalizes on its fame for being the site of the Gunfight at the O.K Corral—a showdown between famous lawmen including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and the Clanton brothers. East Allen Street is worth exploring: its boardwalks are lined with shops, saloons, and restaurants. Visit the Cochise County Courthouse and gallows yard which is now a museum.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helen, Georgia

The year was 1969, and Helen, Georgia, once a thriving lumber town, had fallen into decline. Jobs were scarce and the desolated main street did little to attract the attention of new investors and residents. Just when things were at their bleakest, three local businessmen hatched a scheme to renovate the business district to inject new energy into the town. They called on a local artist who recast the town in a new alpine light and within months many of the old buildings had new German-inspired facades that began to inspire the imagination of tourists. Almost 50 years later, Helen is the third most visited town in the state of Georgia, and yet this little piece of Bavaria in Appalachia is home to little more than 500 residents.

Berea © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Berea, Kentucky

In Berea, you can celebrate Kentucky crafts by visiting dozens of artist’s studios, galleries, and stores. The Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is ranked among the top art communities in the U. S. Nestled between the Bluegrass region and the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, Berea offers visitors over 40 arts and crafts shops featuring everything from handmade dulcimers and homemade chocolate to jewelry stores, art galleries, quilt-makers, and even glassblowing studios. Sculptures of mythical beasts, vibrantly painted open hands, and historic architecture are a few of the delights as one wanders the town and college. Berea is a growing, unique, and creative community—a place where it can indeed be said that the—Arts are Alive!

Whitehall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whitehall, New York

With stunning views from land and water, you will definitely need your camera when you visit Whitehall. Located just outside of the Adirondacks, Whitehall sits on the southern end of Lake Champlain. Its strategic location on the New York-Vermont border allowed the town to become the “birthplace of the US Navy”. Take a trip up to The Skene Manor, affectionately known as “Whitehall’s Castle on the Mountain.” This symbol of turn-of-the-century wealth overlooks the harbor and offers additional views of the region that can be missed at lower elevations.

Moab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moab, Utah

This eastern Utah town serves as a gateway to the otherworldly rock formations found in Arches National Park and the numerous canyons and buttes in Canyonlands National Park. One of the top adventure towns in the world, Moab is surrounded by a sea of buckled, twisted, and worn sandstone sculpted by millennia of sun, wind, and rain.

Placerville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Placerville, California

At its incorporation in 1854, Placerville was the third-largest town in California after San Francisco and Sacramento. Originally named Old Dry Diggins and later in 1849 as Hangtown, Placerville became an important supply center for the surrounding mining camps. Today the town is significantly tamer and its historic Main Street is an antique collector’s dream filled with stores carrying furniture, rusty old mining tools, and other products from bygone eras. Placerville is just minutes from over 50 farms and ranches of the Apple Hill area as well as award-winning wineries.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

Best Places for RV Travel this November

The best destinations in America for RV travel in November

Winter has officially arrived in the northern states and Canada which means getting up and going home in the dark usually in the cold and blowing snow. It is snowbird season time to head south until the sunlight finally peeps through again around March or April. Happily, Palm Springs and the Desert cites are basking in a mellow, pre-Christmas glow.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

September, October, November, and December are where the names that derive from gods as people end and numeric-naming conventions begin. Thanks to the Roman rearranging the numeric names don’t correspond when the actual month appears on the calendar. Novem is Latin for the ninth month.

But in 46 B.C., the beginning of the Julian calendar bumped each of those months backward to create the calendar we all know and use today. Good thing the Roman Empire fell so they could stop moving months around.

Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And if you want to see how winter is really done, leave behind the bone-chilling cold and epic white-outs for the sunny and warm southern states.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in August, September, and October. Also check out our recommendations from November 2019.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama

There’s more to Alabama than college football. The state has a variety of terrain that stretches from the white sandy beaches lining the Gulf of Mexico to the surprisingly rocky mountains that make up the last gasp of the Appalachian chain in the state’s northern reaches. In between, you have biking trails, tumbling waterfalls, boulder fields that punctuate the tops of mountains, and caves that run for miles beneath the surface.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Feel the Beauty and Serenity of an Ancient Forest

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Ashton Villa, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I Still Dream of Galveston

Strung along a narrow barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston is a beautiful blend of graceful Victorian and early 20th-century mansions, bungalows, and cottages, along with a stunning historic downtown lined with tall palm trees and shady live oaks.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon

There’s nothing more dazzling than the firework-bright lights of The Strip at night. And nothing more tempting than the red and black flashes of a spinning roulette wheel. And what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Then get the hell out of Vegas on a road trip from here down to New Mexico through the canyons of Utah via the awesome Grand Canyon.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail

Louisiana’s prairies, marshes, and shores teem with wildlife and a drive along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road gives visitors a chance to experience nature’s bounty up close. In fact, signs along the route mark favorite spots for alligator crossings. The beauty of this remote terrain, often referred to as Louisiana’s Outback, is readily accessible and includes four wildlife refuges as well as 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches. Other features include untouched wetlands, small fishing communities, and ancient cheniers—sandy ridges studded with oak trees, rising above the low-lying coasts. Bring an ice chest—you’ll find lots of places to buy (or catch!) fresh shrimp, crabs, and other seafood.

Hunting Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Climb to the top of Hunting Island lighthouse to survey the palm-studded coastline. Bike the park’s trails through maritime forest to the nature center, fish off the pier, and go birdwatching for herons, egrets, skimmers, oystercatchers, and wood storks.

Myakka River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Seven miles of paved road wind through shady hammocks, along grassy marshes, and the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake. See wildlife up-close on a 45-minute boat tour. The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The park features three campgrounds with 90 campsites equipped with 50 amp electrical service and water; some sites also have sewer hook ups.

Bosque Del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Established in 1939 to protect migrating waterfowl, Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 350 species of birds. Tens of thousands of Snow Geese and Sandhill Crane winter in the refuge as well as Ross’s Geese and many species of duck. Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge host a Festival of the Cranes in November (weekend before Thanksgiving) that includes events, classes, and even a photography contest. A 12-mile auto tour and numerous hiking trails are the primary means of exploring the refuge.

Worth Pondering…

And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.

—Roy Bean