We know many folks think of New England for their fall foliage road trips, but don’t forget there are many great stops in the south to see nature’s paintbrush while competing with fewer crowds. Consider one of these fabulous destinations in Utah, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina that can be enjoyed in the offseason.
Mid-September to mid-October (and even into November) is a terrific time to see the splendor of the great Southwest. Not only have the daytime temperatures come back down to a reasonable level, but Utah’s wide array of national forests and parks provide a diverse foliage spectacle.
The range of elevation allows you to visit in early or late fall and still enjoy the breathtaking colors courtesy of the canyon maples, quaking aspens, scrub oaks, and hawthorns to name a few. Utah has so much to offer, it is hard to recommend just one location but if you only have time for one choose Zion National Park.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of visiting Zion National Park, in particular, is the opportunity for great hiking with fewer crowds and more reasonable temperatures. Start with the regularly-scheduled shuttle bus along the six-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which travels along the North Fork of the Virgin River through some of the park’s most outstanding scenery.
Even better you can enjoy it through the month of October and into November. If you want to hit the road yourself, try the 54-mile (one way) Zion Park Scenic Byway which will provide you with plenty of opportunities to pull off the road and take all the photos your heart desires.
Stay at the Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground just thirteen miles from Zion National Park. This beautiful facility offers a wonderful place to rest between your sightseeing adventures. When you’re ready to head to the park, they offer a shuttle to Springdale for only $7.
Texas is such a large, diverse state you could travel around it the entire year and not see all it has to offer. However, this fall I recommend you pay a visit to the Texas Hill Country in the center of the state. Known for narrow canyon walls along the Guadalupe River, visitors can enjoy a wide array of vibrant fall foliage as Mother Nature turns the Sumac’s red, the Cottonwood’s yellow, and the Sycamore’s orange.
Combine these with the Bigtooth Maples at Lost Maples State Natural Area where you can enjoy over 10 miles of hiking trails, including a loop that takes you along the top of a 2,200-foot cliff.
If you’re visiting with the family, you’ll be happy to know that Texas State Parks offer a Junior Ranger Program similar to the National Park Service. Just pick up a Junior Ranger activity journal at the headquarters and complete the required activities for a badge. Lost Maples State Natural Area has the added benefit of a monthly dark sky program when visitors can explore the night sky.
If you’re looking for a fabulous RV resort to call home during your visit, look no farther than Buckhorn Lake Resort in Kerrville, Texas. The drive from Kerrville to Lost Maples is an hour and a half of some of the most scenic byways in the state.
The sunshine state doesn’t always come to mind when planning a fabulous fall trip, but let me tell you why it should. For starters, fall is when the weather is still warmer than many locations, but the humidity has dropped to a comfortable range. That means you can leave the cooler confines of many states to the north and still enjoy days and nights outdoors with jackets.
A benefit of heading here in the fall is the chance to see manatees. As the water in the Gulf of Mexico cools, these warm-blooded mammals gravitate towards warmer spring-fed waters. Be sure to take the 45-minute riverboat tour along the Wakulla River. It takes visitors on a two-mile loop downstream and back among the bald cypress trees, wading birds and alligators.
Only 15 minutes away is Wildwood Golf & RV Resort. As the name implies, it is home to an 18-hole championship golf course. Even if you’re not a golfer, you will enjoy its proximity to St Mark’s Bike Trail. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy this 16-mile stretch of converted railway that let’s bikers and hikers go from Florida’s capital to the Gulf of Mexico.
Tennessee – North Carolina
I would obviously be remiss if I covered fall camping in the south without mentioning the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Beginning in mid to late September, glorious autumn colors develop above 4,000 feet.
This display usually reaches a peak at lower elevations between mid-October and early November. Basically, that means you can experience the reds and yellows of the changing leaves light up the Smokies for an entire month as the change moves down the mountainsides from the highest elevations to the foothills.
Yes, the weather is cooler here. You’ll definitely need a coat at night, but it sure does make for a fabulous campfire! And everyone knows that cool weather makes comfort food even better. Another great benefit of camping in the Smokies in the fall is the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival. This 3-month long celebration of the fall season lasts from early September through the end of November 25.
Pine Mountain RV Park in Pigeon Forge is the perfect base for your Smoky Mountain adventures. Located close to the national park as well as the tourist towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, there are plenty of activities for everyone.
What do you think of the suggestions above? Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below!