Tag Archives: blue ridge parkway

Best Autumnal Scenic Drives

Watching the leaves change color is a special part of the year that any outdoor enthusiast can enjoy, whether its from the comfort of their car or with the accompaniment of a cozy pair of hiking boots. It’s as if nature understands that once Labor Day passes, autumn and its gorgeous foliage is pretty much here to take over. Well we’re standing here with our arms wide open to welcome to much-needed end of the heat! Here are some scenic drives that you can take this fall to watch nature do it’s thing and enjoy the leaves as they change color.

Hudson River Valley, New York

Leaves changing in the fall at Hudson River Valley with bridges in the background.

Explore the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. [Image: https://goingplacesnearandfar.files.wordpress.com/]

Rolling hills, access to New York’s serene beauty, and a bird’s eye view of the expansive Hudson River makes a drive through Hudson Valley a worthwhile autumn treat. Extending 150-miles out of the edge of Manhattan, you’ll be able to see a range of the state across ten counties (Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Albany, and Rensselaer). Along the way, find a local farm to enjoy some apple or pumpkin picking!

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Changing leaves in Harpers Ferry with two bridges.

Fall foliage in Harpers Ferry is a must-see. [Image: http://travelchannel.sndimg.com/]

West Virginia is well known for how it transforms come autumn. Knowing this, there are multiple tours that visitors can partake in to explore the state’s unique look. The Golden Gateway Tour traverses through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to showcase its autumnal beauty. Once there, guests can take a dip in the mineral rich water at Berkeley Springs State Park or travel further to truly escape reality at Cacapon Resort State Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Leaves changing around a parkway.

A serene drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is just what the doctor ordered. [Image: http://www.blueridgeparkwaydaily.com/]

Known to some as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway spans from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia 469-miles into Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountain chain along this beautiful highway and features more than 100 different species of tree.

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Changing leaves around a moss-covered highway.

Let the Columbia River Highway take your breath away this fall. [Image: http://www.buckyandhisbike.net/]

The 75-mile Columbia River Highway was built in 1913 to highlight the natural beauty of the Oregon area. Not surprisingly, it’s an especially perfect place to visit to see the changing foliage. From the 900-foot cliffs it winds through, it overlooks expansive valleys and a lulling river. While there, make sure you check out the breathtaking 620-foot Multnomah Falls from Ainsworth State Park!

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

A road leading into a beautiful town in New Mexico surrounded by changing leaves.

Get away from reality at the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in New Mexico. [Image: http://www.davidmixner.com/]

If you have a preference for stunning aspens, then you might want to head to Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, which loops 83-miles to and from Taos. Follow this route around New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak, and watch the leaves change from yellow to dark orange.

Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to explore the changing fall foliage near you. But be quick, because autumn slips into winter suddenly and quickly!

Beautiful Wildflower Hikes

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/379850549794553932/

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/379850549794553932

Wildflowers are to spring as snow is to winter. When we’re hiking along, wildflowers often surprise us with their abundance— such a rare sight, almost refreshing, after a long ungodly winter. Typically wildflowers last from March to August, sometimes year-round in warmer climates. They exist in all their purples, blues, reds, pinks and yellows. The term “wild” comes from their exotic quality, since they grow without human care, but spread thanks to the birds and the bees. We’ve gathered a list of beautiful wildflowers hikes from lesser known national and state parks with great views, but smaller crowds. That means more space to frolic and dance near the wildflower fields—but be careful not to trample on them.


Monkshood [Image:orums.steves-digicams.com]

Monkshood [Image:orums.steves-digicams.com]

Ozark National Scenic Riverways is home to some of the rarest wildflowers. About a dozen plant species are unique to Ozarks. Just last year they discovered a rare wildflower never seen in Missouri, called monkshood. Wildflowers can be seen from the first spring blooms to the last blooms in November. For beginners, some of the most common and easiest wildflowers to spot are the purple coneflowers, fire pinks, larkspurs, and columbines. One early bloomer to keep in mind is the Ozarks Wild Crocus, not found elsewhere, and seen from April to May in heavy forested areas, near rivers and tributaries. The rein orchid is another beauty of greenish yellow flowers, appearing from June to July, reaching two feet in height. From the name alone we can tell, the showy lady’s slipper is a magnificent beauty. This orchid is visible from May until early June, and is usually found on the bottom of limestone bluffs along small streams and in ferns.

North Carolina

Craggy Gardens in Blue Parkway [www.randmcnally-temp.s3.amazonaws.com/pois/images/28bb1174e74d4c99bfeba708c60bcbb4.jpg]

Craggy Gardens in Blue Parkway [www.randmcnally-temp.s3.amazonaws.com]

The flora of Blue Ridge Parkway is not to be missed. This world-renowned park is home to 1,400 species of plants and diverse micro-habits. Due to a wide range in elevation from high to low, visitors can enjoy a variety of wildflowers from March to October. But the best time to see an array of species is early April to May when the canopy trees start to leaf out. Summer wildflowers are blooming in the valleys while spring wildflowers bloom in the high peaks. Some dazzling early bloomers include the dandelion, dwarf iris, spring beauty mayapple, and the birdfoot violet among others. From May through August you can find the turk’s cap lily, pink lady’s slipper, evening primrose, Bee balm, and fire pink. A portion of the parkway is also located in Virginia, which naturally blooms earlier due to lower elevation. Here is the bloom schedule for more info. Blue Ridge Parkway also passes through the Great Craggy Mountains, famous for its high peaks and distant views. Take the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, a 20-minute walk that includes a 360-degree view from its summit, tunnels of rehododendron, twisted birch trees, and wildflowers spreading from beginning to end.


Crows poison [www.allthingsplants.com/pics/2012-02-29/Horntoad/24e251.jp]

Crows poison [www.allthingsplants.com/pics/2012-02-29/Horntoad/24e251.jpg]

Texas is one of those states where you can’t go without seeing wildflowers, and we mean ever. You can find the famous bluebonnets in Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site part of the 450 wildflower species in the park, including the Mexican hat, White Prickly Poppy, Blue-Eyed Grass, crows poison, among others. Also see the Indian paintbrush in Lake Whitney State Park. During spring about 40 species of wildflowers cover the roadsides and landscapes. Here you’ll get to see some animals prancing around: raccoons, foxes, bobcats, among others. Daingerfield State Park is another gem known for its wildflower hills of dogwoods, redbuds, and wisteria vines. If you’re in the mood to celebrate check out the nearby Wildflower Trails Festival, happening April 16.


Prairie Coneflower and Bergamont. [Image: www.audubonofkansas.org/tag/roadside-wildflowers-2/]

Prairie Coneflower and Bergamont. [Image: www.audubonofkansas.org/tag/roadside-wildflowers-2/]

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, one of the last remaining among its kind, is a vast prairie landscape of 10,000 acres. Enjoy its wild colors from spring to autumn. Twirl around as the wildflowers and tall grass dance to the wind. There are over 350 species of wildflowers, shrubs and other plant types. Some of the April bloomers include the Prairie Iris, grey bindweed, wild strawberry, and more found in the bloom schedule, The four dominant wildflower species in Tallgrass Prairie are little bluestem, big bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass. We hear the Southwind Nature Trail is the ideal hike to see rolling hills and streams lined with cottonwood and hackberry trees, and a variety of grasses and flowers. Along the trail spot insects, birds, and mammals that call the prairie their home.


Turks Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) [Image: NPS]

Turks Cap Lily (Lilium superbum) [Image: NPS]

Shenandoah National Park displays wildflowers for the length of the growing season, beginning in early spring (late March) as the hepatica and bloodroot push their way out. When the days warm up, purple and yellow violets flower, the large trillium and wild geraniums will appear within the forest. May is the time for pink azaleas to bloom in the forest, and along Skyline Drive, followed by the white flowers of mountain laurel in June. There are 862 plant species, and they appear in spring at lower elevations, also along streams: South River, Hughes River, Rose River, and Mill Prong. Later in the season, the banks of Skyline Drive and the Big Meadows area ideal great places to see summer and fall wildflowers. (For more specific dates, check out the park’s bloom schedule.) Seek out Dark Hallow Falls, Mill Prong, and Franklin Cliff Stroll— all well-known for their variety of wildflower exhibits.

For more info on wildflowers viewings, download our Pocket Ranger® State or National Park Apps.