8 Great Fall Weekend Adventures in the Southeast

With summer squarely in your rearview mirror, it's time to explore adventures waiting among the vividly-colored forests of the Southeastern U.S.

By: Paul Cox

Photo By: Tony Berwald

Photo By: TJ Kearns

Photo By: Bren Dendy

Photo By: Alexandra Simone

Photo By: Courtesy of Piedmont Tree Climbing

Photo By: chrisncami

Photo By: Corey Nolen

Grab a Paddle and Hit the Water

Grab a paddle and enjoy a river trip during the fall, when mild temperatures make a downstream float even more relaxing. Head to Fayetteville, W.Va., about an hour southeast of the West Virginia capital of Charleston, where you can enjoy views of the expansive New River Gorge Bridge (above) from a trail along the rim of the gorge and embark upon a must-do run down the New River or the Gauley River. Outfitters such as Class VI are plentiful. Making North Carolina your destination? Then you'll find the Nantahala River to be a family-friendly paddling destination. The Nantahala Outdoor Center, nestled deep within the lush Nantahala Gorge about an hour west of Asheville, N.C., can help you plan an adventure on the Nantahala or other nearby paddling destinations.

Stay at a Hike-In Lodge

Take the easy-to-moderate, five-mile trail from beautiful Amicalola Falls to the Len Foote Hike Inn, tucked amid the beautiful mountains of Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest less than three hours north of Atlanta. The rustic inn offers soft beds in their 20 guest rooms, showers and two meals a day in the dining hall. And perhaps most welcoming is the wrap-around porch offering a chance to relax after a full day of hiking the trails flanked by lush stands of rhododendron and mountain laurel. For a full-day of hiking, trek out to the nearby Benton MacKaye and Appalachian trails. Reservations are required.

Book a Mountain Bike Trip

"Everything here is catered around the bike," says Kate Gates, co-owner of Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way in Ellijay, Ga., about two hours north of Atlanta. From Mulberry Gap, riders can embark on iconic Georgia rides such as the Pinhoti and Bear Creek trails. The crew at the inn can help with trip planning, offer shuttle services and rent bikes. After your ride, return to the inn for a dip in a hot tub then a family-style meal, and finish the day by sharing stories of your epic adventures (and crashes) with other riders around a campfire. Not a mountain biker? There are plenty of trails to explore and streams to cross in the surrounding mountains, and the quaint town of Ellijay is famous for its annual fall Apple Festival.

Go Fly Fishing

Jackson County, N.C., offers 4,600 miles of streams and is home to the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail. Popular destination towns along the Tuckasegee River include Sylva, Dillsboro and Webster, all about a two-hour drive northwest of Greenville, S.C. The Tuckasegee is home to brook, brown, rainbow trout and more. Not a fly fisherman or want help finding the best spots? Several guide services and outfitters are available.

Go Rock Climbing in Southeast Tennessee

With the cool temperatures and brilliant foliage, fall is peak climbing season in Southeast Tennessee. The Chattanooga area is an East Coast climbing hotspot, with cliffs and boulder fields presenting opportunities for climbers of various skill levels and interests. Find details on popular climbing spots within an hour of Chattanooga at SoutheastTennessee.com. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition offers more resources and contact information for local climbing experts.

Climb a Tree

Views of the surrounding forest canopy from the top of a tall, Southeastern hardwood are best in the fall when there are fewer leaves on trees, says Patrick Brandt, who runs Piedmont Tree Climbing from his home base in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. Haven't climbed a tree since you were a kid? Not a problem. In his weekend public and private tree climbing excursions, Patrick teaches basics like how to use ropes to climb safely, how to tie knots and how to move around in the limbs as they sway in the breeze. In the Atlanta area, you could contact Dancing With Trees, which offers introductory group climbs as well as private courses with more detailed instruction for up to two people. In Southwest Virginia, Blue Ridge Tree Climbing offers private lessons for one or two climbers, which you can book directly or through a stay at nearby Primland Resort. Get more info on recreational tree climbing from Tree Climbers International.

Cycle the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina and offers cyclists challenging climbs and dramatic views, particularly during the fall. The National Park Services offers safe travel advice and general route information if you're planning a trip yourself. Consider a series of day trips based out of key areas where you can find supplies and lodging. Or, you can opt for a fully-supported, guided experience with a service such as Black Bear Adventures, which will plan routes, provide local knowledge and provide meals.

Register for a Trail Run

Do you regularly pound the pavement or run in a local fall 5K? This season, try getting off the road and run among the changing leaves by registering for a trail race. Check the American Trail Running Association's directory of races in the Southeast and across the country. Distances vary from 5Ks to ultra-distance events of 50K and longer.