Greenville, South Carolina.

The Least-Crowded Towns In The Southern United States To Catch Fall Foliage

The South, getting its blush on later than the northern states, gives you plenty of opportunity to catch the colors through the end of the traditional autumn months into the last days of November! The choices to seek various scenery are also wider in the South, home to state parks, prairies, mountains, and the islands where you can get a tropical pumpkin-spiced drink. These twelve towns, under clear skies and varying landscapes, feature the staple southern horizon, painted in gold, crimson, fuchsia, and burnt orange. Beckoning you with jaw-droppingly gorgeous foliage, the warm aura of the season embraces you along the scenic landscape over adventures on a vacation that really feels like one in these twelve southern towns in the US!

Amelia Island, Florida

Boardwalk leading to the beach in Amelia Island, Florida.
Boardwalk leading to the beach in Amelia Island, Florida.

Amelia Island, just off Florida's coast, gets the fall blush later than other towns here—worth waiting for each year. It offers a remarkable taste of the sea and land in autumn colors with postcard-like experiences like horseback rides along the beach, cycling waterside, and beautiful maritime forests for wistful hikes. You can still forego a tropical drink this time of year for a pumpkin spice latte, like at Amelia Island Coffee, overlooking the Amelia River from the banks.

Amelia Island harmonizes the season in a beautiful island symphony, with sights so vivid in its fall finery that it even puts New England to shame, which has already begun to fade. With warm temperatures and a slight autumn breeze, you can explore the historic Fort Clinch State Park on the northern end and watch the sunset by the Amelia Island Lighthouse in color while a rainy storm warning makes for a unique atmosphere along the coast. Welcome to a real vacation from the city and the mainland as you leave everyone behind in the dreary weather.

Black Mountain, North Carolina

Vibrant fall foliage in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
Vibrant fall foliage in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Some 15 miles from the bustling Asheville, the quiet Black Mountain, "the little town that rocks," feels like stepping into another realm. Welcoming the new and returning faces along the central square, you can feast through galleries, shop, and visit cafés that spotlight southern Appalachian cuisine. Just a hop over to Lake Tomahawk, the epicenter of falltime scenery, there's waterside picnicking and tons of hiking, biking, and birding trails from the lakeside.

You are still within a quick drive to the mountains with a multitude of trails, like the paved Point Lookout Trail, winding for just over 3 miles through Pisgah National Forest. Awash in color from mid-to-late October, it is also the perfect time to snatch a warranted vacation rental, from cozy cabins to palatial hillside homes, literally decked out for views of the dazzling mountainsides, or even the Hampton Inn at a fair price for a stylish stay!

Brooklyn, Mississippi

A bridge in Brooklyn, Mississippi.
A bridge across a river in Brooklyn, Mississippi. Image credit: Thomas Hawk via

This tiny town is a pretty famous getaway to the spectacular De Soto National Forest. Founded way back in the 1500s and named after a Spanish explorer, with a rich history of logging up to the 20th century and counter efforts of preservation, Mississippi's largest forest thrives today, vivaciously aglow in autumn. Spanning 518,587 acres with trails along the sparkling streams and pine-covered ridges, you can hunt for colors amid the deciduous trees stark against water, and the conifers within two vast, designated nature areas.

The Black Creek and Leaf River Wilderness offer hikes like the splendid 39-mile Black Creek Hiking Trail to take in sections from various trailheads like the Black Creek Trailhead or Big Creek Landing. The Black Creek River reflects diverse flora, while over 100 storybook bridges and boardwalks along the way offer spectacular shots or a backdrop for picnicking.

Cambria, California

Abalone Cove, Cambria, California
Abalone Cove, Cambria, California.

Cambria's beautiful year-round beachfront empties in the fall for your roaming pleasures, like long, romantic walks along the cliffs in Fiscalini Ranch. The ranch, with its idyllic falltime atmosphere and eight miles of winding trails, offers laidback strolls to scope out the colors of the season in the California backcountry. Housing a rare natural preserve, it invites solitude seekers with over 150 native plants, 430 birds, and Monterey pine forest for serene strolls through one of the world's five remaining native stands. Moonstone Beach features a mile-long boardwalk above the sand to stroll and absorb it all at sunset from a bench.

The tiny coastal town just south of the center of the state is also a shopping destination with boutiques and antique shops for those brisk days, like the famous Rich Man Poor Man Antiques with secret treasures. Stop by the Garden Shed for succulents, books, clothes, and gifts, while Spellbound stands out as a historic storefront with a beautiful garden for herbs and incense to create an atmosphere back home. Join the spooky Scarecrow Festival in October, when hundreds of locally handcrafted, whimsical scarecrows by artists, business owners, and students adorning all surfaces reveal Cambria's creative spirit.

Carson Valley Towns, Nevada

Carson Valley, Nevada.
Carson Valley, Nevada.

Spanning the four towns of Genoa, Gardnerville, Minden, and Topaz in Northern Nevada, Carson Valley boasts gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and a lustrous falltime view against the range. Blissfully quiet in autumn, like a magical wonderland, Mother Nature spilled a palette on the landscape of brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges at this perfect time for strolls and harvests. The trails from the doorstep meander along streams and alpine lakes, with plant species like maple, aspen, and cottonwoods painting the way.

With engagements for all, you can pick pumpkins at Corley Ranch in nearby Gardnerville and catch the Annual Scarecrow Festival right in the town's Heritage Park on October 3. The haze of the Sierra follows you on all-level hiking, cycling, and mountain biking, even to a bankside picnic. Choose a fabulous stay at Carson Valley Inn in Minden and come back to the valley next season for the Genoa Candy Dance along Main Street.

Greenville, South Carolina

Downtown Greenville, South Carolina.
Downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

It is not a secret that Greenville, a small upstate town in South Carolina, is the most beautiful one around, but it does remain on a "hush-hush" basis among the leaf peepers seeking a quiet escape. With plenty of green space like Cleveland and Timmons Parks, Greenville puts up one of the state's best color displays. The spectacular Swamp Rabbit Trail follows the stream from the town's zoo to the most popular Falls Park on the Reedy, complete with a cascade.

Among countless nature hikes and picnics from the doorstep, the serene Colonel Elias Earle Historic District is great for strolls parallel to fun fall-themed events in town. The appropriately named Fall for Greenville is a favorite festival, transforming downtown in mid-October with live music, wine, local delicacies, and family-friendly events. The unmissable Oktoberfest in NOMA Square takes place early in the same month, while the popular Cambria Hotel has plenty of room for falltime visitors.

Hermann, Missouri

Train Tracks along the Missouri River in Herman, Missouri
Train Tracks along the Missouri River in Herman, Missouri.

Some 80 miles or an hour and a half west of St. Louis, this small town reveals a grand personality in vibrant fall time nature and the German culture of rich, nearly two-hundred-year-old heritage. From breweries to distilleries, the Hermann Wine Trail, which runs along the river for 20 miles between Hermann and New Haven, is a particularly rewarding experience during this harvest season. Aglow with foliage to over some good-humored exercise, the six wineries along the way welcome tasters in a cozy atmosphere for Missouri's best.

Now is the time to pack, with the best color displays in mid-October, for scenic walks through the Daniel Boone Conservation Area, some 15 minutes from town. The historic district feels like a storybook, with brick buildings along a placid waterfront straight from Europe but along the Missouri River. With many fairly priced inns and B&Bs, call it a wine appreciation week to get out of work and choose the unique Cottage, "a bed-and-breakfast with altitude" in a private tree house.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Aerial View of Harbour Town and lighthouse on Hilton Head Island South Carolina
Aerial view of Harbour Town and lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

A remote island town in serene foliage amid the tranquil waters, anyone? The state's best-kept secret, indeed, Hilton Head Island is one of the hidden gems in the US for foliage hunters to get close and personal with Mother Nature. The brilliant autumn display of colors, vivid offshore, captivates you in a daze of hues on a stroll along the pristine beaches and picturesque trails for hiking and biking. With vibrant foliage reflecting on all water surfaces, and there are many, from streams to ponds and a rambunctious river, the coastal sunset and sunrise over the Atlantic are breathtaking.

From birdwatching, golfing, and shopping to strolls through the haze of golden and amber marshes and forests, the warm surroundings calm your soul on a getaway from the city. The incredible seafood scene is worthy of its own culinary trip with delicacies from the ocean, including shrimp, oysters, seabass, and crabs, while the Coral Sands Resort offers a memorable stay for every group regardless of their visit pursuit.

Julian, California

Beautiful fall landscape near Julian, California.
Beautiful fall landscape near Julian, California.

This town, spotlighting many lists perched above Diego County, indeed fits many perfect getaways, but none is better than a fall-themed escape to Julian from life as you know it. Sunny SoCal can be the most spectacular place in the fall for its foliage when you visit the high country, which is sensitive to autumnal changes—a Golden State, indeed. You can literally look down upon the beautiful beaches below with your nose high up, taking in the scenery and your head in a daze from the hues.

The beautiful preserves north and west, and the gorgeous Anza Borrego Desert State Park in the South surround you with colors you can see even over coffee. From apple picking to cafe hopping for all variations on the apple pie, Julian stays crowd-free in the autumn, some thirty minutes east of San Diego. Talk about a perfect vacation town with fall-worthy pursuits, one of the most beautiful city parks in the US, and incredible orchards!

Middleburg, Virginia

Main Street in Middleburg, Virginia.
Main Street in Middleburg, Virginia. Editorial credit: Kosoff /

Nestled in the foothills against the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Middleburg, the heart of Virginia horse and hunt country, is a perfect day trip or weekend escape from busy Washington, DC, under an hour away. With no crowds in the fall atmosphere, the idyllic town feels like another realm, going all out in its mid-Atlantic's fiery foliage display!

You can chase the changing leaves along the country roads with bucolic sights, vineyards, and wine tastings, as well as the 34-acre Salamander Resort & Spa, with its free grounds to explore via meandering trails. Middleburg offers plentiful budget stays like vacation rentals, farmhouses, quaint cottages, and cabins, while the nearby town of Warrenton is a great day trip at the expansive Whitney State Forest. For a real farm-fresh meal to your table, return to dine family-style at Goodstone Inn & Restaurant with a seasonal menu right from the inn's farm.

Tishomingo, Mississippi

Haynes Lake at Tishomingo State Park in northern Mississippi
Haynes Lake at Tishomingo State Park in northern Mississippi.

We bet you never heard of this quiet town in Mississippi, hidden within the state's largest Tishomingo State Park, and one of the most beautiful in the South to explore in the fall season. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, many hikes start right from Tishomingo, the town, after paying a laughable fee to enter the park, free for kids under five, to get access to all the epic rock formations, forested hillsides, and some 13 miles of nature trails for every hiking ability.

The crimson-red oaks scattered throughout the park, stark against the dominating population of yellow hickory species, create the beautifully contrasting fall foliage. Blending unique falltime scenery along various terrains, the 3-mile Flat Rock trail is a longer, rugged hike for views of the massive, mossy rocks and spring-fed streams, while the 0.74-mile CCC Pond Trail is a quick, smooth stroll around the pond that enchants with vibrant wildlife, natural springs, and foliage reflecting in the waters.

Wakulla Springs, Florida

A heron in the water at Wakulla Springs State Park.
A heron in the water at Wakulla Springs State Park in fall. Image credit: PixelAnarchy via Wikimedia Commons.

The list of hidden fall treasures of the South cannot go without Florida. This town just south of Tallahassee is a sanctuary of quietude, painted with an autumnal palette of reds, golden yellows, and subdued greens along the shores of the Wakulla River. Best of all, you still have plenty of time to catch the most vibrant foliage in the deep South from late October to early November.

Wakulla Springs emanates charm from every pore in nature and traditional Southern hospitality, while the golden maples instill a mystical aura around town. You can enjoy the scenery on a riverboat ride or stick with the hiking trails that wind through the woods. Florida's deepest freshwater springs house a vibrant habitat of native creatures, including alligators and manatees, which you can face without getting personal. A guided boat tour through the area's flora and fauna is a great way for families to get insights into the local ecosystem and enjoy the seasonal hues.

The cooler weather and autumn breeze feel like a reprieve after the scorching sun as you hike around the Blue Ridge Mountains or explore four towns within the Carson Valley. Grab the traditional pumpkin spice latte over an apple pie for breakfast in the high country town of Julian and a ginger beer on a crisp fall evening post-adventures. With low crowds and plentiful green spaces in town, you can chase the colors along the reflecting water surfaces, national forests, and state parks like Anza Borrego. But don't sit on it too long; Mother Nature, at her most vivacious artistry, is painting the set as we speak to welcome you for the leaf-peeping mission of your life this year!

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