autumn festivals in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

These Small Towns In North Carolina Come Alive In The Fall

Autumn is a uniquely stunning time of year, particularly in North Carolina. The state is a natural beauty. Home to a huge expanse of forest next to the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina is one of the most breathtaking places in fall. The forests turn dreamy shades of orange, red and yellow, transforming the Blue Ridge.

Some of the best places in North Carolina to experience fall are the State's charming towns. From the brilliant colored foliage of the Blue Ridge mountain forests in Blowing Rock, to charming fall festivals such as the Wooly Warm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina has several small towns to enjoy the allure of fall. If you are visiting North Carolina this fall, these are the towns to put on your itinerary.

Blowing Rock

Autumn festivals in Blowing Rock, North Carolina,
Autumn festivals in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Fall Festivals in the High Country ⋆ Blowing Rock

Beginning the list of North Carolina towns is Blowing Rock, known for iconic, picturesque fall views. Those looking for a quaint town surrounded by a natural paradise should visit Blowing Rock. The town has a population of 1397 people as of the 2021 census. Located in Watauga and Caldwell counties, the town is in the crest of the Blue Ridge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The town has two different landscapes, the part north and the part south of the Blue Ridge crest. The north part of the town is the most populated and is where the water drains into the Middle Fork of the New River to the Ohio River valley. Blowing Rock is one of North Carolina's most popular tourist destinations in the fall. The small town isunique in that it offers unobstructed panoramas of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. In autumn, the Blue Ridge Mounains have rolling hills of trees with their foliage changing color.

Family on autumn hiking trip enjoying beautiful views . Blue Ridge Parkway. Close to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, USA.
Family on autumn hiking trip enjoying beautiful views . Blue Ridge Parkway. Close to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, USA.

One of the best ways to enjoy the fall mountain views is on a hike. Some of the most popular, easy trails are the Price Lake trail and the Glen Burney Trail. Both trails show off the stunning colors of the landscape. 

If you want to enjoy the fall colors from the town, a walk around Blowing Rock Downton will show off the entire spectrum of colors in the fall season. The downtown has several cute shops to explore while enjoying the scenery. The Spice and Tea Exchange is a tea shop where customers can purchase a cup of hot tea. Martin House Gallery is a cute fine art shop and art gallery, showing local and international artists. 


Beautiful autumn street view in Linville, North Carolina
Beautiful autumn street view in Linville, North Carolina

Another iconic North Carolina town to visit in the fall is Linville. The community is technically unincorporated, and the town itself is tiny. According to the 2020 census, the town's population is 283. However, people don't visit the area to see the town, they visit to see the magnificent Linville Falls. The Linville Falls is the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains and gets it's name from the Linville River, flowing over the falls.

Linville falls begin in a twin set of upper falls, moving down a small gorge and ending in a 45 foot drop. The three tiered cascade then plunges into a surreal large pool below. The falls are unique since they have the highest volume of water out of any waterfall on the Northern Edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The waterfall is near Blue Ridge Parkway and the journey to see the actual waterfall is stunning. It takes about a mile and a half to reach the falls. There are several stunning viewpoints to stop at on the way to the falls. One of the views is of the steep gorge near the falls, known as the Grand Canyon of the Appalachians. From the gorge you get an awe inspiring view of the dense forest of pine, hemlocks, birch and oak trees. The waterfall surrounded by flowing hues of red and orange foliage is a dreamy sight to behold. 


Fall in Boone, North Carolina
Fall in Boone, North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Mountains is home to several beautiful towns. Boone is another one of these towns. Located in Western North Carolina, Boone is one of the larger towns on the list, with a population of 19,092 as the 2020 census. Boone is well known as the county seat of Watauga County and home to the Appalachian State University.

The name of the town comes from American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boon. Since it's founding, the town has been the largest community and economic hub in Western North Carolina. Today, Boone has become a haven for outdoor adventure enthusiasts and is one the most scenic North Carolina mountain towns.

If you love mountain top views, you will love Boone. The town has some of North Carolina's highest elevations. One of the peaks offering some of the most spectacular views is Howard's Knob. The peak is 4,396 feet above sea level and offers a stunning view of the surrounding forests foliage. In autumn, this is the perfect view point to see some of North Carolina's most brilliant colors. 

For hikers looking to explore the town and see more alluring views, Rough Ridge Trail is a great hike to venture one. The trail takes you to a mountain overlook above Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct. There are spots on the walkway that make the perfect photo stop to capture the scenic fall views.

Banner Elk

Grandfather Mountain State Park, Banner Elk, North Carolina
Grandfather Mountain State Park, Banner Elk, North Carolina

Those looking to enjoy both forest views and a fall paddle on a lake, should make the trip to Banner Elk. Sitting between Sugar Mountain and Beech Mount, the town is a hidden North Carolina gem. Wildcat Lake is a 13-acre lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains, accessed in Banner Elk. For lake lovers, there's no better way to enjoy the beautiful fall colors than by paddling around Wildcat Lake. Only kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and other nonmotorized boats can be on the lake. This makes a serene atmosphere at the lake.

From mid September to the end of October every year, the town comes alive with vibrant hues of orange, red and yellow as the leaves change color. Besides enjoying the colors from the lake, there are plenty of spots to enjoy the colors walking around town. In the fall, there is the Wooly Worm Festival that takes place in town. The festival is a tradition in Banner Elk that has happened for decades and includes food, entertainment, crafts and the famous wooly worm  races. This is a race of not worms as the name suggests, but caterpillars. The caterpillar from the Isabella tiger moth is informally known as the wooly worm. These are the caterpillars entered into the race. The winner of the race predicts the winter season ahead week by week based on the color segments of its body. Anyone who enjoys a fall festival is sure to want to visit Banner Elk this fall. 

Kitty Hawk

Wright Brothers National Memorial in the town of Kitty Hawk, via Michael Gordon /
Wright Brothers National Memorial in the town of Kitty Hawk, via Michael Gordon /

While Banner Elk is well known for it's fall festival and lake life, Kitty Hawk is a quiet beach destination. While visiting a beach in fall might sound strange, don't let this detour you from visiting the town. Kitty Hawk is a town in Dare County, North Carolina. It is part of the Outer Banks, a chain of barrier islands off the Carolina coast. In fall the beach is a space of tranquility since there are less tourists and prices drop. Many beaches are empty during the day, leaving opportunity to enjoy the area's serene nature. A peaceful walk on a beach in fall can b the perfect way to enjoy the cool, crisp air and feel rejuvenated. 

Beyond the peaceful beaches, Kitty Hawk is home to the famous sight of the first flight by the Wright Brothers. The town has  a rich history besides this historic site. The establishment of the town goes back to the 18th century. The name of Kitty Hawk is from the Algonquin word Chickenhawk, which means "a place to hunt geese". The town's historic charm, with cute historic, beach homes and tranquil surrounding nature, make it the perfect place to enjoy the serenity fall can offer.

Little Switzerland

Panoramic Autumn view of the southern Appalachian Mountains from Little Switzerland North Carolina off the Blue Ridge Parkway
Panoramic Autumn view of the southern Appalachian Mountains from Little Switzerland North Carolina off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Little Switzerland is a town , that as the name suggests, resembles the Swiss Alps. Considering it's name, you may already be able to guess why it's one of the best North Carolina towns to visit this fall. The town is in McDowell and Mitchell counties.  

Little Switzerland is off of Blue Ridge Parkway. Driving down the Parkway is one of the best ways to experience stunning fall views of brilliant colorful foliage. Some places in Little Switzerland to admire the beauty of fall include Mount Mitchell, Table Rock and the Grandfather Mountain. 

Beyond stunning, colorful foliage, nothing says fall like a fresh apple. Apple lovers should check out the Orchard at Altapass, a popular stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The orchard offers pick-your-own apples along with a general store of freshly made local goods and charming nature trails around the farm.

Fall in North Carolina

Learning about these North Carolina towns, it's no suprise to learn that the fall season is North Carolina's busiest time of year for tourists. Visitors can stop at Boone to walk to some of North Carolina's highest elevation points and get stunning views of Blue Mountain Ridge. Lake lifers will love a visit to Banner Elk's Serene 13-acre lake. And the Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland is the perfect stop for some fresh apples to enjoy the fall harvest. All these towns, display the vibrant colors of autumn and offer amazing views of North Carolina's nature. Whether you are a nature lover, or enjoy the charm of small towns, these North Carolina towns are worth a visit.

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