Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Finding the perfect views to catch peak foliage in the Boone Area is easy. These scenic drives below will help you choose the best places to see nature's display.
Blue Ridge Parkway -- Along "America's Favorite Drive" in N.C.'s northern Blue Ridge Mountains, you'll experience both the region's early history as well as its scenic beauty. From E. B. Jeffress Park (milepost 272) to Linville Falls Recreation Area (milepost 316) and beyond, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers beautiful photographic spots, and opportunities to hear the leaves rustle underfoot as you hike to historic log structures, lakes, and waterfalls. Accessible from mileposts 277-294, Boone is at the heart of the Blue Ridge Parkway's Highland Region.
North Carolina Scenic Byways --
• U.S. Hwy. 421 (Doc & Merle Watson Highway) - (8 miles) This section of Hwy. 421 spans from the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge in Deep Gap, near the home of the late Doc and Merle Watson, to the town limits of Boone, at the South Fork of the New River, one of the first American Heritage Rivers. Views along the way include those of Snake Mountain and Elk Knob, part of the Amphibolite Range.
• Mission Crossing - (17 miles) If you follow Hwy. 421 N. through Boone and toward Vilas, you will come to the intersection with N.C. Hwy. 194 S., near the Vilas Post Office. Turn onto 194 and head toward Valle Crucis, N.C.'s first Rural Historic District and the home of the Original Mast General Store. From Valle Crucis, 194 S. will continue up a narrow, winding two-lane highway past the historic Holy Cross Episcopal Church (ca. 1842) climbing toward Matney, Banner Elk and Elk Park in the Elk River Valley.
• Little Parkway - (18 miles) U.S. Highway 221, or the old Yonahlossee Trail as it was once called, parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway between Linville and Blowing Rock. Nearby features include Linville Falls, Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Linn Cove Viaduct, historic Westglow Resort, and Moses Cone Estate.
• New River Valley Byway - (32 miles) From Hwy. 421 just east of downtown Boone, turn onto Hwy. 194 N., also known as Jefferson Highway. Follow 194 through the New River Valley to the communities of Meat Camp and Todd. Nearby features include Snake Mountain and Elk Knob State Park. America's oldest river, the New River, begins near Boone and is considered by scientists to be one of the world's oldest rivers, second only to the Nile. In Todd, what once was a bustling railroad town is now a popular fishing spot, especially in spring and fall. Continue to follow 194 to Hwy. 221 and the towns of West Jefferson and Jefferson, settled in 1803 and named for then President Thomas Jefferson. The byway route resumes north of Jefferson, on Hwy. 88 toward Laurel Springs. From there you can return to Boone by driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Visit N.C. Scenic Byways for more information. Go to www.ncdot.gov.
Follow any one of these, or all of them, and you are guaranteed to see glorious fall color along the way. Fall leaf-changing season in Boone is generally October 5th through the 25th, with peak color occurring October 10-20. Highest elevations near Grandfather Mountain and near Elk Knob change first. Weekdays are good for less crowded times. For more ideas, visit ExploreBoone.com.