Fireworks of Fall
This year is slated to be one of the best in recent history for glorious fall colors and the gold leafed hickories are already an outstanding opening act. The great thing about our area is that elevation changes mean that the colors peak during a 2-3 week window, so make sure you take some time to seek out the fireworks of fall.
One of my favorite places to watch the colors change is at Mountain Lake Lodge. Nestled up in the mountains, it feels a world away but is a close drive for anyone in the
NRV. You can book lodge rooms or cabins for the whole family, and there are activities for everyone. If you want to get out in nature, be sure to check out the conservancy trails to get away from everyone. The famous disappearing lake is now refilling, so you should definitely cruise up there to get some picture of the trees reflected in the water.
If you're looking for a staycation, they offer themed weekends. October 23-25 is Dirty Dancing Weekend, to celebrate the movie that was filmed there (yes that movie). They offer all the fun of Kellerman's with clay shooting and an artist will walk you through, step by step, to paint a keepsake picture of the iconic gazebo. And if that weekend doesn't work, the next one offers a Murder Mystery package to enjoy Halloween. Even after the trees have peaked, the fall celebrations continue with Thanksgiving and Christmas packages, all packed with covid safe activities the whole family will enjoy.
Mountain Lake isn't the only spectacular place to view the fall colors. We're lucky to have the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway on our doorstep. If you're looking for a quiet drive, head up to the parkway and pull off to have a picnic with the family. It's a wonderful feeling to get away from the noise of everyday life and head up to a place where cell service is spotty. The drive itself is worth the visit, but if you're looking for some light hiking to get to new overviews, there are a few that can't be beat. Rocky Knob is one stop you don't want to miss. There are several trails that lead from the ranger station, with a variety of distances and overlooks all around. But the single most photographed place on the Parkway is Mabry Mill. The iconic waterwheel has been restored and is back to grinding wheat and one the weekends there are demonstrations of handicrafts from the time period that would've been a part of daily life on the settlement. The restaurant at the Mill is offering boxed lunches to eat on the lawn or along the short nature loop.
If the BRP feels crowded and you're really looking for some alone time, you haven't seen fall until you see it at sunset from the top of Buffalo Mountain. Head to the Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve. There are 10 spots in a gravel driveway and when that's full, the preserve is full. There are a couple steep, half-mile trails along the ridge that can be strung together to make a loop that will take you to the peak of the mountain, with a expansive view around you.
If you haven't gotten your fill of leaf peeping close to home, Roanoke and Bedford change about a week later, so take a trip and enjoy the spectacular Mill Mountain as it changes. It's gorgeous viewed from the Taubman Museum and you can drive to the top and see the fields and forests changing across the valley. In a day trip down 460, you can also visit the Peaks of Otter. There are hikes of varying difficulty to the mountain peaks around or just enjoy a nice meal at the restaurant and admire the trees changing along Abbott Lake. Wherever you go to enjoy it, this should be a fall for the ages.