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Can You Go Fall Leaf Peeping in the South?

While the Northeast has earned a reputation for unbeatable leaf peeping, plenty of destinations in the South offer stiff competition. You’ll find fiery hues from Texas to the Atlantic once the weather turns cool. 

Ignore the nay-sayers who think the only decent fall foliage is up north. We’re here to prove them wrong.

Today, we’re exploring the top places to catch colorful autumn leaves south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Let’s go!

Beautiful Fall foliage on Giant Cypress Trees Reflected in the Clear Waters of the Frio River at Garner State Park, Texas
Garner State Park, Texas, offers incredible fall foliage!

Why Search for Autumn Colors in the South?

The northeastern part of the US is famous for its beautiful fall foliage. But did you know the South is also a destination for leaf peeping?

Despite their hot summers, most southern states enjoy gorgeous autumn leaves every year. The foliage in this part of the country looks a bit different from the northeast. While states like Maine or Delaware get bright orange, gold, and yellow leaves, you’ll find shades of amber, deep red, and violet in places like Alabama or Virginia.

Trees in the South start changing later than the trees up north. Colors shift halfway through September in some states but may take until early November in others. If you plan carefully, you can go leaf peeping from north to south over a period of several months.

Great Fall Leaf Peeping Spots in Texas Hill Country

Texas is one of the South’s top leaf-peeping locations. You can’t go wrong with a visit to Hill Country, which sits in the middle of the state. This region is chock full of rolling hills, big skies, and fantastic foliage.

If you’re looking for a hike with stunning scenery, Hill Country has you covered. Check out Lost Maples State Natural Area, a park with its own collection of rare maple trees. You can also explore Guadalupe State Park and its vast forests of sumac, cypress, and cottonwood trees.

Scenic drives are another great option for seeing the Lone Star State’s fall foliage. You could cruise the Devil’s Backbone Scenic Drive, which stretches from Wimberley to Blanco. But the Garner State Park route between Leakey and Camp Wood holds the title for most scenic in Texas. On this drive, you’ll spot mesquite, oak, and persimmon trees.

Hill Country offers plenty of walk-up opportunities to watch the leaves turn. Visit Enchanted Rock or Pedernales Falls and enjoy the easy trails filled with fall colors. After all, there’s nothing better than a relaxing stroll in the crisp autumn weather.

Head to Georgia for Spectacular Leaf Peeping in the South

Georgia isn’t just famous for peaches and sweet tea. It’s also one of the best leaf-peeping locales in the South. Every year the state’s northern half explodes with red, gold, and purple hues.

Most folks agree the Blue Ridge Mountains are the premier place to find fall foliage. This region is packed with national forests and state parks. You’ll find hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails.

You’ll often find Georgia’s autumn leaves near spectacular natural areas. Amicalola Falls State Park boasts the tallest waterfall in the American Southeast and stunning yellow foliage. Tallulah Gorge State Park has a 1,000-foot-deep canyon flanked by fiery reds and oranges.

Explore one of Georgia’s scenic routes for incredible sights from the comfort of your car. The Russell-Brasstown and Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byways are peak drives for leaf-lookers. Or you could drive up Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest mountain, which offers breathtaking views of foliage across four states.

Is it too early in the South? Head north for some excellent foliage: Discover the 5 Best Fall Foliage Destinations in the Midwest.

The Best Leaf Peeping Near Greenville, South Carolina

South Carolina is another hotspot for some of the South’s top leaf peeping. The Palmetto State enjoys incredible golden-orange foliage every fall. And while you’ll find these gorgeous colors all over, Greenville is one of the finest places to catch them.

Greenville sits in the center of upstate South Carolina. This midsized city hosts several autumn events, including Oktoberfest and the Hagood Mill Native American Celebration. And it’s a prime jump-off point for your pre-winter adventures.

Dozens of parks near Greenville offer fantastic leaf-spotting opportunities. Check out Caesars Head State Park and its stunning trails, scenic overlooks, and waterfalls. Or visit Table Rock State Park, where you can join an open bluegrass jam every Saturday during peak foliage. Try walking or biking all 22 miles of the Swamp Rabbit Trail for a big adventure.

If you’d rather relax or have a picnic, drive to Campbell’s Covered Bridge. It’s the last of its kind in Georgia, surrounded by a babbling creek and blazing leaves in autumn. You could also check out Falls Park or the Rock Quarry Garden for incredible photo opportunities inside city limits.

Plan your trip through the South with This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States.

A curving country road through gorgeous fall foliage. Scenic drives are an excellent way to go leaf peeping in the South.
Scenic drives are an excellent way to go leaf peeping in the South

Fall Leaf Peeping Along the Natchez Trace Parkway

For unbeatable leaf peeping in the South, visit the Natchez Trace Parkway. The stretch of road is nearly 450 miles long and spans Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. 

While the drive itself is incredible, you’ll find plenty of reasons to stop and explore.

The road begins in Natchez, Mississippi, and stretches all the way to the state’s northeast corner. You’ll find countless leaf-spotting opportunities in the Magnolia State, including Tishomingo State Park and Jeff Busby Park. Check out Emerald Mound or the French Camp Historic District for a side of history to go with your fall leaves.

Natchez Trace Parkway crosses the northwest corner of Alabama near Florence. While passing through the Yellowhammer State, stop at the Freedom Hills Overlook. Here you can hike a short trail and reach the highest point on the route. You could also follow the Rock Spring Nature Trail, an easy path surrounded by autumn foliage.

The last stretch of the parkway sits in central Tennessee. Old Trace Drive is a wildly popular spot, thanks to the hardwood forest surrounding the road. Take a leisurely hike along the Fall Hollow or Meriweather Lewis trails to get a better view of the leaves. If you prefer a longer journey, hike the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail near the end of the parkway.

Explore additional excellent leaf-peeping areas around the country: 7 Best Places to See Fall Leaves in the USA.

Where Will You Go to Catch Fall Colors in the South?

You don’t need to go to New England to enjoy the gorgeous colors of fall. Leaf peeping in the South is just as abundant and fun as it is in the Northeast. We think you’ll enjoy the warmer weather and seeing the hues change much later in the year.

Start planning your fall foliage getaway now!

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