People love fall, and with good reason: The crisp air invigorates and the landscape pops with explosive red, yellow, and orange as trees prepare to shed their leaves for winter.
Autumn is the perfect time to visit the Dan River region along the North Carolina/Virginia border. Because the region stretches east from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the rolling hills of the Piedmont, there’s a broad window to appreciate the seasonal transition.
Here are some suggestions for experiencing the leaf season in our area:
Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Fall colors along the ridges of the Blue Ridge Parkway deserve their reputation for showy brilliance. Trace the parkway through Patrick County, Virginia, from the wine country near the Meadows of Dan southwest to Carroll County.
Because the numerous microclimates along the road can result in wide variation in foliage color and timing, it’s probably best to plan to drive a bit rather than selecting a single destination.
Explore the varied terrain of Hanging Rock State Park.
The drive to Hanging Rock alone can be a journey through color, and once you arrive at the state park, find a variety of ways to explore the season. Take a hike on one of the park’s many trails, rent a canoe on a stocked lake, or hike to Moore’s Knob for a 360-degree view of the surrounding country.
View fall foliage from the water.
The Dan River pours through the region, traversing the state line and offering looks at a variety of landscapes. The river will pull you effortlessly through changing terrain, offering looks at plant and animal life you won’t get on land.
One writer in 2015 put it this way: “when that crisp breeze of fall hits you when you’re on the water and the trees are alive with bright changes, it makes these things much more colorful.”
Take a driving tour along the base of the Blue Ridge.
Franklin County stretches from the steep slopes of the Blue Ridge Plateau down to former tobacco fields and eventually the resort-style luxury of Smith Mountain Lake. That dramatic shift in elevation makes for electrifying leaf looking. The Virginia Department of Forestry proposes a specific driving tour of the county, which you can customize to include local attractions.
Hide out in the Knight-Brown Nature Preserve.
The Knight-Brown Nature Preserve is one of the Dan River region’s hidden jewels, a 186-acre property with a wooded valley, two gently rippling streams, many different types of ferns, spring wildflowers, and the rare eastern leatherwood shrub. Tucked away in Rockingham County, North Carolina, you can explore three miles of trail through a pair of ravines full of bright hardwoods.
A word about timing:
The fall foliage season begins in the mountains, sometimes as early as September but more often by early to mid-October, before sweeping east into the foothills later in the month. Each season is different, though, so if you are making plans to travel for leaf season, keep an eye on local reports.