Fall color season is upon us and the hillsides are dotted with the reds of maples, sourwoods and sumac and the yellows of birches and yellow poplars. But even after the trees are bare, these routes offer sites worth visiting- they promise to tickle your taste buds, enthrall your eyes and enchant your ears. There are trails to suit every traveler, taste, social distancing requirement, and location from Tennessee to Virginia. As a reminder, unless your trail is completely outdoors, it would be a good idea to call ahead and confirm current availability and hours.
A food and beverage trail is a great place to start. There are craft beer trails and wine trails with stops in scenic spots off the beaten path. Spirits, wines and brews made in small batches right here in our region are just waiting to be sampled. If you’re in the Asheville area, you could even pair a spirits trail with the WNC Cheese Trail. In Shenandoah County, Virginia enjoy local craft beer, distilled spirits, ciders and the highest concentration of wineries in the Shenandoah Valley on the Shenandoah Spirits Trail. There are endless edible (and drinkable) possibilities!
North Carolina and Virginia also play host to music trails which celebrate the heritage music of the region, from gospel to blues, ballads, bluegrass and more! The Blue Ridge Music Center, located directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 213, seasonally celebrates the music and musicians of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Crooked Road, however, and the Blue Ridge Music Trails of NC and VA are year-round destinations where you’ll find traditional music and dance in a variety of venues.
If you like crafts, there are also artisan trails scattered throughout the region. For some outdoor eye candy, try the Appalachian Mural Trail which includes murals in Tennessee, western North Carolina and Virginia, or a quilt trail, available in several areas near the Parkway. The quilt squares mounted to barns and buildings represent local artisans and each have their own meaning. Plus, it’s a perfect way to social distance in the great outdoors. In Asheville, North Carolina, the Folk Art Center is a showcase for regional artisans and heritage crafts, but it is just one gem in the necklace of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area’s Craft Trails that are located throughout the region. The Shenandoah County Artisan Trail is a collection of artists’ studios, agri-artisan farms, art-related venues, restaurants, and points of interest that are locally owned and offer some authentic, artisan handcrafted ties to the County’s rural culture.
For something a little more active, you could play golf up in the clouds. The Blue Ridge Parkway Golf Trail features courses with beautiful waterfalls, fishing streams winding through lush fairways, hiking trails, and boulders imbedded by mother nature much larger than your golf cart. Golfers can play public and semi-private courses in higher elevations from Sequoyah National near Cherokee, North Carolina all the way to the northern end of the Parkway near Waynesboro, Virginia. For a more educational walk, check out these urban walking trails: Wytheville’s Historic Walking Tour—a 64 page PDF is available for viewing and downloading on their website—or Asheville’s Urban Trail which follows a path to 30 sculptural trail stations scattered around downtown. Historic Fincastle, Virginia is part of Virginia’s Blue Ridge; find a self-guided walking tour map on their website so that you can follow in the footsteps of explorers Lewis & Clark. For an urban stroll, check out the Waynesboro, VA Street Arts Trail highlighting the town’s murals and other public art in the form of a scavenger hunt. Lynchburg, Virginia offers an Architectural Walking Tour and a Historic District Walking Tour to help you discover the history hidden in the downtown architecture.
If you just want to experience the journey, a driving route is the perfect choice. Curves and views can be appreciated by all, not just the motorcyclist or sportscar enthusiast. With names like Tail of the Dragon, Claw of the Dragon, The Diamondback and The Jagged Edge, the pull of the blacktop is hard to resist. If you need some destinations along your driving tour, two of Robert Childress’ stone churches are located in Patrick County, Virginia. The remaining three historic stone churches are located nearby; all five can be viewed on a three-hour driving tour. Sevierville, Tennessee also has several driving routes that point out local historic sites.
To usher in the holiday spirit, consider these holiday lights tours where you can either drive or walk through brilliant light displays. Winterfest is the driving tour of holiday lights in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville & Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The NC Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina has reconfigured their usual holiday lights stroll to a drive-thru display for 2020 to help protect visitors and staff. If you’re in Roanoke, Virginia, you can experience Illuminights, the half-mile illuminated walking trail (and additional winter time fun activities) at Explore Park.
Wherever your trail, tour or route takes you this year, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable journey!