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Make leaf-peeping fun for all

Pumpkins and apples and bright red maples – oh my! It’s time for fall fun and family memories against a backdrop of nature just showing off. Experts say that this year’s leaf season could be gorgeous, but not all ages appreciate a slow drive up the mountain to look at trees, no matter how colorful they are Plan ahead, know your audience and when all else fails, be sure you bring snacks.

·      Make it a destination trip. Plan your family’s leaf peeping around an activity. There are plenty of ticketed events going on this month, including a train ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City, N.C. October features rides on the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch Express ( Check out our daily adventures calendar for more ideas, including free activities. 

·      Bring the necessities. Don’t head out for adventure, even the mild variety, without some essentials. Yes, the 10 essentials list is designed for hardcore outdoor activities, but families need to consider their own version. Be sure to have navigation, lighting (the sun is setting earlier), sunscreen, a first aid kit and extra food, water and clothes. A traditional list from REI is online at, but be sure to adapt this to your family’s needs. 

·      And don’t forget the extras. Snacks for the road and the trail can help keep frayed nerves at bay. Bring a few boredom busters for traffic delays, which are not uncommon at prime viewing sites. Even finding a parking spot can take some extra time on busy park days. Travel games and family-friendly audiobooks lend themselves to good fun and great memories, even when the road gets long. 

·      Hike (or carry) for some of the best views. If hiking is new for your little ones, start with easy-to-navigate and less intense trails, like the educational loops at Lake Conestee Nature Park or the beautiful but family-friendly easier treks at Table Rock State Park and Paris Mountain State Park. Some trails are great for strollers, but others decidedly are not. Be sure to check park websites or call rangers directly before heading out. Try out backpack carriers around the neighborhood before setting out for adventure. Consider signing up a guided hike, many of which include kid-friendly activities as part of the fun. For park details, visit, and

Talk about it before and after. For pre-writers, consider pulling the brightest fall colors from the crayon box and drawing leaf pictures together. Talk about the colors that you will see in the trees, as well as any wildlife, waterfalls and other natural treasures. Use the five steps of the Palmetto Basics ( to bring the day to life, both before and after you go. Big kids can look at trail maps online and learn what to expect along the way. They can journal or draw – or sing or create a show – after. Check out the “What Tree is This?” guide from the South Carolina Forestry Commission at