Looking for a great place to hike this fall within a couple hours of Winston-Salem? If you ask anyone in the Triad where the best places for a fall hike would be, they’re likely to say Hanging Rock State Park and Pilot Mountain State Park. While these places are certainly beautiful, where else can we go!? Here’s our list for the best fall hikes excluding those two local favorites! Happy hiking!
1.) Rough Ridge Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway
One of the most impressive short hikes off of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the trail to the Rough Ridge overlook. It’s about 1.2 miles out and back from the parking lot to the top, but you could continue hiking if you desire, as this is part of the 13 mile Tanawha Trail. The trail doesn’t disappoint with beautiful panoramic views of the parkway and areas like Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct. Be sure to spend some time taking it all in, from the beautiful boardwalks to the many rock outcroppings. There are plenty of spots to stop and take photos or simply bask in the beauty of the Blue Ridge. During the fall season, this trail can get pretty busy. Arrive early if you can, as parking is limited. Colors should peak in mid-October, but don’t worry if you miss peak at the highest elevations. You can look down and see colors creeping down the mountains every week until the end of October!
2.) Morrow Mountain Loop Trail and Fall Mountain Trail – Morrow Mountain State Park
These two trails at Morrow Mountain State Park are great for fall hikes. The Morrow Mountain Loop Trail can be found near the parking lot of the scenic overlooks and is a .8 mile loop around the highest point in the park. The hike is relatively easy, but be prepared for somewhat rugged terrain. Don’t forget to stop at the overlooks and look across the valley to see the beautiful colors on display from mid October to early November. You can catch a wonderful sunset here, as well.
Fall Mountain Trail is a 4.1 mile trail that starts off in the parking lot by Lake Tillery. You traverse through many different habitats along this trail. This is a moderate hike, so be prepared for multiple terrain surfaces from boardwalk to natural surfaces. Most of this hike is in the forest where you’re surround by beautiful trees. In the fall, the forest here can feel quite magical. Never fear if you come once the trees have dropped their leaves, though, because you can see views of Lake Tillery from the top without all the leaves!
3.) High Shoals Falls Loop Trail – South Mountains State Park
This 2.7 mile trail crosses the Jacob Fork River and reaches the High Shoals Waterfall one mile from the parking lot. The trail is gorgeous but a bit strenuous, and we highly recommend going early in the morning. You’ll see multiple smaller waterfalls along the trail before ascending the steps to the big falls, which are incredible. The stairs can be quite steep, so be sure to take breaks and exercise caution. Once you make it up the stairs, the trail crosses the river again above the waterfall. Turn right at trail intersections and return to the parking lot via the “backside” of the loop. This part of the hike takes you through the beautiful forest. Some hikers may choose to do this hike counterclockwise and start at the forest and end with the waterfall and a descent down the stairs. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed!
4.) Stone Mountain Loop Trail – Stone Mountain State Park
This 4.5 mile trail, labeled moderate, takes you across the summit of Stone Mountain, by the Hutchinson Homestead, and past a 200-foot waterfall. You can choose to go to the waterfall or the summit and back without having to do the entire loop so it’s entirely up to you how you’d like to take in the fall scenery! From the summit, you’ll see the sprawling mountains and the colorful leaves of the season. But at the waterfall you’ll see the beauty of the crystal clear water flowing down the side of the mountain and be engulfed by the the forest. For a treat, take the entire loop. It’s such a beautiful trail with much to offer.
5.) Lake Shore Trail – Lake Norman State Park
This trail is a 6 mile scenic route that traverses the shores of Lake Norman. This is a relatively easy hike, but it does have some ups and downs along with rooted paths in some spots. After a storm, it may be muddy in certain areas, so prepare accordingly. Along this trail you’ll walk a mostly shaded path with beautiful views of Lake Norman along the way. There are many chances to see wildlife and explore the forest and sandy shore lines along the way. There are benches placed along the trail where you can rest, meditate, or have a snack as needed.