The colors of fall are coming through, but still patchy on the Blue Ridge mountains. That means you still have time to get out, catch the peak colors, and visit amazing waterfalls this season!
In Millboro, Douthat State Park is home to the Blue Suck Falls Trail, a three-mile moderate to difficult hike that includes a nice waterfall. One hiker proclaims, “Your long climb up the Blue Suck Falls is rewarded by one glorious vista after another.” Download the Trail Map
Falling Spring in Alleghany County is visible from the road, and an overlook provides information and a great view for photos. The spring waters keep this fall going year ’round, and its 80-foot drop is quite spectacular.
If you enjoy fall camping, reserve a space at Shenandoah Valley Campground in Verona before they close for the season in early November. They have their own on-site waterfall that pours into Middle River – a summer destination for tubing.
1. Apple Orchard Falls is accessed from MP 78.4 at Sunset Fields Overlook, just north of Peaks of Otter. The trail is considered strenuous at a steep 1.4 miles downhill hike (uphill on the way back!), but the 200′ falls are calling …
2. Fallingwater Cascades can be accessed from MP 83.1 and is a moderate 1.6-mile out-and-back trail. It’s also designated a National Recreation Trail - a designation given to existing trails that contribute to health, conservation, and recreation goals in the United States.
Crabtree Falls is a 1,200′ cascade and the highest vertical-drop cascade east of the Mississippi River. The lower falls is accessible to elderly and differently abled sightseers, making it an enjoyable outdoor experience for all. Over the course of the three-mile trail past the lower falls is a series of five major cascades and smaller ones. Access the trail from a fee-based lot at 11581 Crabtree Falls Highway, Montebello, VA 24464. And the view? Get a good glimpse from the top of the trail, or you can enjoy it from Crabtree Falls Highway up to/down from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In the same vicinity of Crabtree Falls is the Campbell’s Creek Waterfall on the Mau-Har Trail. A hand-built swinging bridge delivers you across the Tye River, where the 1.5-mile hike will yield the 40′ waterfall. From Route 56 at Crabtree Falls, drive east for 3-4 miles; watch for the Appalachian Trail crossing and a parking lot on the left.
If you’ve been following along for any amount of time, you might have caught on that we ask “the locals” for recommendations every now and again. This group has been helpful in identifying the best BBQ joints, the best breakfasts, and more. Today, we present to you their suggestions for the best places to enjoy the fall foliage in their area.
- “360 degree views of the Shenandoah Valley. Migrating birds can often be seen here in the fall, especially hawks.”
- “Take the trail up from the Humpback Gap parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the rocky ledges above for amazing 360 degree views on top of the slanted rock. Just north at Milepost 5.8 is the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center with a mountain farm exhibit.”
- “Enjoy a 2 1/2 mile hike up along the falls, with 4 overlooks to the cascading falls. You can hike further to the Appalachian Trail or head back down to relax for lunch at one of the picnic tables available next to the parking lot or view the Tye River from an arched wooden bridge that crosses over it.”
- “Just a few miles west of Crabtree Falls on Rt. 56 West is the Montebello State Fish Hatchery, the Montebello Country Store and Montebello Camping & Fishing Resort, and then just a few miles further is the Blue Ridge Parkway for panoramic fall foliage views!”
- “Kayaking, Canoeing, Hiking, FISHING!! Confluence Outfitters offers guided fishing through the gorge here and it is the most beautiful place to see the leaves changing and catch fish at the same time!”
- “Devil’s Marbleyard is close by.” (Devil’s Marbleyard is a 3-mile round trip hike that highlights boulders the size of cars.)
North Mountain Trail – Fire Road 447 off I-64, exit 43 in Rockbridge County. Drive in 6.7 miles to the parking lot at Route 770.
- “The trail features stream habitats, interesting rock formations, varied forest types, opportunities for wildlife viewing and panoramic views as it rises in elevation from 1,700 feet to 3,200 feet. At mile 3, narrow rock stairs descend between huge boulders. Once on the crest of the mountain, there are excellent views to the east of Lake Robertson and the Peaks of Otter.”
- “The 32 mile stretch of highway has several pull-over areas.”
- “The vistas are incredibly beautiful in the Fall. The colors are amazing. Wildlife is abundant.”
- “Watch for lots of sports cars and motorcycles. Dubbed “Back of the Dragon,” the winding curves extend over three mountains and 260 curves.”
- “On the north side of the Back of the Dragon (Route 16), the historic town of Tazewell is located. Travelers can enjoy the Historic Crab Orchard Museum, dine at places such as The Blue Dandelion, or Your Grate Escape is a treat. Cavitt’s Creek Park/Lake Jack Witten offers full service camping, fishing, paddle boat rides. On the south side of the Back of the Dragon is Hungry Mother State Park and the historic town of Marion, Virginia.”
- “Driving around the 12 mile “bowl,” there are several places to pull off. Public restrooms are located at the Community Center.”
- “Stop by the Lost World Ranch for a camel ride or sit on the Burke’s Garden General Store‘s front porch and enjoy a homemade piece of pie, or even have a sandwich with freshly baked bread. Go to the Appalachian Trail and take a hike.”
- “It is a fantastic hike with views for miles.”
- “The Channels itself is a sandstone rock formation.”
- “Near The Channels is Laurel Bed Lake, which sits atop the Clinch Mountain Range in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Area. On the drive up to Laurel Bed there are numerous waterfalls along Big Tumbling Creek as well as foliage and Mountain Laurel.”
- “As you are driving down Red Hill Road, entering the National Memorial to Patrick Henry you will be immersed in the colors of Autumn. The 525 acres consists of thousands of trees and scenic views of the Staunton River Valley. We have the nation’s largest Osage Orange tree on the property that towers over the reconstructed home of Patrick Henry. Guests have the option to walk down two trails that showcases an abundance of trees in their Autumn splendor. The views are absolutely breathtaking at Patrick Henry’s Red Hill in the Fall.”
- “There is a great winery just up the road, Sans Soucy Vineyard that has a beautiful tasting room and charming vistas. A unique and delicious option for lunch, the Drug Store Grill, is in the town of Brookneal about 5 miles away.”
- “The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is a treasure in the fall. You can bring food and have a picnic, walk the trails, bird watch, spot stunning florals and fauna, enjoy the peaceful new fountain feature, and more.”
- The entire space is worth a view! It encompasses 125 acres of urban botanical preserve. It provides an ideal combination of naturalized botanical gardens and forest.”
- “This area is great for hunting and fishing during the fall. There is a boat landing to launch your boat.”
- “Hiking is wonderful in this area but there are some steep grades so it is not for all ages. The elevation level is perfect to take in the mountain scenery and enjoy the breath taking views of SWVA.”
- “This wildlife area is an attraction all together with lots of different options for an entire day trip. It is truly located in the middle of nowhere but peace and quiet.”
- “The Winery is a wonderful place for a tasting while enjoying the wonderful landscaping with trees and the creek.”
- “The Virginia Creeper Trail is located near the winery. You can ride your bikes over to the winery for a tasting and lunch.”
- “The Alvarado area is also great for kayaking and canoeing down the creek/river. There is also a small general store located next to the trail that serves ice cream and snacks. This area is a gem hidden along the VA Creeper Trail.”
- “Take a picnic, hike, bike or ride a horse down the trail; geocache; visit the Brunswick Museum & Historic Society or downtown shops.”
- “The Colonial Center in South Hill. It is a beautifully renovated vaudeville theatre that has an art gallery and lots of great local talent starring in community theatre productions. Also, eat at the Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill. It got its name from being an old horse powered mill. Yummy twists on traditional diner food. Close to the Colonial.”
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is an 8,000-acre coastal habitat in southern Virginia Beach. Dunes, woodland, beach and marsh areas are home to loggerhead sea turtles, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and approximately 10,000 snow geese at peak fall migration.
Assateague Lighthouse has received a semi-extreme makeover. See her in all her fresh, red-and-white-striped glory this fall, along with a few sister lights, starting at New Point Comfort in Mathews.
New Point Comfort Lighthouse is the third oldest lighthouse still standing in the Chesapeake Bay and the tenth oldest in the United States. Appreciate it from the observation walkway at the southern end of Route 600, or paddle your way out for an up close and personal view.
Both Cape Henry Lighthouses in Virginia Beach can be seen at Fort Story military base with a government-issued form of identification for everyone aged 16 and older, plus the vehicle registration and insurance card. Admission to climb the old Cape Henry Lighthouse is $5 for 13 and older; $3 for 12 and under. Must be 42″ tall to climb; children may not be carried.
Finally, Assateague Lighthouse! It’s a beauty at 142′ tall. Visit anytime you wish, but if you enjoy celebrations, might I suggest October 5, 2013? The grand re-opening will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will include music, fun for the kids, free lighthouse climbs and more. The lighthouse will be re-lit at approximately 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Take your fun to the mountains this fall as you experience what is possibly the best of both worlds: state park to luxury resort.
Start at Douthat State Park in Millboro where the hiking and fishing are fine. Book a cabin or pitch a tent. It’s a great place to appreciate the beauty around you. Stay a night or two, then pack it up and go upscale at The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs.
The great outdoors are calling your name. You must climb, paddle, run, or ride. But where? Enter the beautiful season of fall where the mercury slowly dips to moderate numbers and the shorter days are loaded with excitement.
Leaf Peeping in Lynchburg
Lynchburg is serving up fantastic outdoor recreation and you really don’t want to miss out on it.
Next up could be a lazy kayak trip with James River Float Company. After all that strenuous mountain work, this might be the perfect attraction.
Since you’ve gotten up close and personal with the foliage on the trail and admired its brilliance from the water, where else to see it but from the air? Call up Precision Windsports, Inc. They’ll get you up and flying in a light sport aircraft for a unique leaf-peeping vantage point.
This beautiful mountain reprieve tucked away in Giles County is the 1986 filming location for the incredible (am I biased?) Dirty Dancing featuring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. While the urge to stay at “Kellerman’s” is a persistent annual draw, Mountain Lake Lodge & Conservancy has been revamped for a new generation of family fun.
South Boston is your destination and horseback riding at Shangrila Guest Ranch is your pleasure for these 48 hours. An all-inclusive ranch, you’ll be more than comfortable in their log cabin, old home place or packhouse. If you’d rather try another accommodation, they’ll still let you saddle up with their beautiful horses. Ride, regardless of experience, for an hour or all day … just make an appointment!
Explore South Boston and Halifax, but be sure to try the barbecue at Smokin’ Jakes. That definitely has to be on your list.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is pure outdoor recreation. Start anywhere you like and you’re golden. For this purpose, let’s shoot down near Meadows of Dan and make a plan.
Blue Ridge Tree Climbing
Pick things up with Blue Ridge Tree Climbing, LLC. Instructor Bob Wray is inspiring, stating, “If you cannot remember the meaning of childhood magic, or do remember and want to get it back, then I suggest you simply climb a tree again.”
Find rest in a cozy little cabin nestled among Christmas trees at River Walk Cabins, or delight in the views from Woodberry Inn, where there’s a restaurant on site.