The scenic byway winds its way through South Carolina's northwest corner, known as the Upcountry. This 112-mile road was the route used by the Cherokees, the English and French fur traders.
Discover SC's Highway 11
Fall Leaf Report
If you want outstanding fall color in South Carolina, you have to head to the Upcountry.
What’s happening with the color of the trees? ”Decreasing amounts of daylight and lower temperatures will continue to slowly usher the foliage towards its brilliant peak around the end of October," says Scott Stegenga, a South Carolina Park's Interpretive Ranger. " A few tulip poplars here and there have begun to show some yellow and the reds of the understory dogwoods and sourwoods are the main sources of color now. The highly anticipated change will eventually gain momentum as the days of October slip away.” Beginning the first week of October, Scott will provide week-by-week status report on fall colors. And you can watch the colors change LIVE from the Table Rock webcam.
Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, says, “The fall color in South Carolina occurs in mid- to late-October in the mountains. Head for the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway (S.C. 11) — it's about 115 miles long — and much of the highway runs along the escarpment and through South Carolina peach orchard country. Views include steep drops, deep mountain coves, waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet and broad vistas.
Caesars Head State Park is part of South Carolina’s Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, and it also includes Jones Gap State Park. You can enter the park off the Cherokee Foothills Byway, and it includes a five-mile drive through mountain valleys and coves where you can view small, pastoral farms and steep mountains. The park has a small river through a mountain cove where you can have great views of fall and enjoy trails that lead up the mountain to Caesars Head.”
Why do certain leaves turn certain colors? Why do they turn at all?
The pattern of weather conditions during the year, combining with the biological and chemical characteristics of each species of tree, produces a unique color display each time the fall season arrives.
But, really, when should we go?
Clemson Cooperative Extension says, “Although everyone looks for a "peak" when the colors are at their best, there is a long season for enjoying the colors. Anyone making travel plans to see the fall colors can begin visiting the higher elevations of the Carolinas in late September. By early October most mountain roads are crowded with cars. Motel rooms become scarce during October, so you need to call ahead if you can. If your travel schedule can be flexible, watch the weather reports for an approaching cold front. After these pass through our area, the haze is cleared away and visibility is ideal. So if you can, keep a bag packed and watch the weather reports for your best leaf-watching trips. And if you have to plan ahead, anytime in October can be a treat.” Read more about trees that make the color.
You could easily spend a couple days exploring the area. While you are out and about, stop in at Aunt Sue’s for icecream. If you more of an adrenaline junkie, whitewater rafting with Nantahala Outdoor Center or Wildwater Ltd. Rafting will fit the bill. Or try zipping through the trees with Chattooga Ridge Canopy Tours to get up close and personal with the leaves. When its time for a rest, Foxfire Mountain Cabins, Laurel Mountain Inn or The Red Horse Inn will provide a great place to spend a night or two. Here are other suggestions on where to stay and where to eat along the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway.
Want more? We’ve got seven side trips off the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway to add to your adventure. Here's a 3-day itinerary by SC Insider Marie McAden if you want to slow down and take lots of pictures for the folks back home. Love State Parks? We do, too. Check out our list of Best State Parks to View Fall Color.