RALEIGH, N.C. (Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012) — With the arrival of fall, the leaves are beginning to shade North Carolina in hues of burgundy, burnt orange and golden yellow. Starting with the lofty peaks in the north, color spreads to the south and east in a painterly wash before slowly fading into winter.
It’s an orderly progression, yet the timing is tricky. In any given area, the weather can rush or delay the peak, prolong the glory or cut it short. To help travelers map the season’s trips, regional experts report on the foliage from the mountains to the Piedmont in weekly postings at VisitNC.com. And if your idea of fall color is red drum and bluefish, you’ll find weekly reports on coastal fishing with photos to back the boasts of a big catch.
Here are nine creative ways to experience the season across the state from now to mid-November.
Rooftop Touring: After gazing at the vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway, exit at U.S. 25 North in Asheville, N.C., for a different vantage point: the rooftop of America’s largest home. This sight to behold is the high point of Biltmore’s hour-long Architecture Tour.
Bear Hunting: As the harvest sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain, a bear-like shadow emerges from the colorful canopy for 30 minutes every evening from mid-October to early November. Catch the “Shadow of the Bear” from Rhodes Big View Overlook near Cashiers, N.C.
Ballooning: Drink in the view from hundreds of feet above ground. Carolina Balloon Fest takes place Oct. 21-13 in Statesville, N.C., and individual operators such as Carolina Balloon Adventures take fliers soaring over vibrant woodland hills.
Farmers Marketing: Farmers markets offer distinct insights into regional flavors with selections of pumpkins, apples and greens. And the local color is dazzling at Wilmington’s popular Riverfront Farmers Market.
Fishing: Cast a line along the coast at sunrise for a double photo op — one for the coral-colored sky and one for the giant red drum or speckled seatrout you could land.
Paddling: Go stand-up paddle boarding in the salt marshes along the barrier islands. The sport has an easy learning curve and big rewards with scenes of golden cordgrass set against the deep blue sky.
Whitewater Rafting: Under the leafy forest canopy, the Nantahala River Gorge creates lasting impressions. Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, N.C., operates a world-class whitewater canoe and kayaking program.
Wine Tasting: Fall harvest presents a reason to celebrate and sample North Carolina wines. In the flourishing Yadkin Valley wine region, Childress Vineyards and Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery are among the wineries offering tours, tastings and picnic spots with splendid scenery.
Ziplining: Experience fall color up close on a canopy tour. Choose from a dozen or more in the North Carolina mountains or opt for an unlikely destination: Fayetteville, N.C., at the edge of the Sandhills. ZipQuest features eight ziplines, three sky bridges, three spiral staircases and a 150-foot-wide waterfall.
For more information on visiting North Carolina and the state’s fall color reports, go to VisitNC.com or call 1-800-VISITNC.