Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage

October 19-24, 2020 • 6 Days • $2600

Small Group Tour * Max 7 Travelers per Van!

The delightful North Carolina city of Asheville provides an outstanding base from which to explore the surrounding lush Appalachian and Blue Ridge region, with its diverse forests, vibrant fall colors, rushing mountain streams, plunging waterfalls, and eye-popping scenic drives.

Reserve your spot with a refundable $100 Registration deposit!

Smoky Mountains Video Overview

Take a virtual tour of the Smoky Mountains!

Welcome to the third installment of a brand-new series we are calling “Close-to-Home”. Though out-of-staters are more than welcome to join us on this new Adventure, these trips are specifically designed for locals who would rather drive to the start/finish of the tour than hop on an airplane. Itineraries are crafted as loops that return to the same point allowing convenient return to your car or pick up by a friend or relative. Because we have local walkers in mind, in addition to the more familiar must-see sights, we have invested extra effort into featuring the great outdoors and finding the off-the-beaten-trail highlights of each state.

The Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina offer a treasure trove of outdoor delights that can be enjoyed during any season of the year. Autumn in the Smokies especially brings out the vibrant personality of this lush Appalachian region, with its fantastic fall foliage. Asheville, nestled in the middle of this wonderland, serves as an excellent venue for a six-day Adventure. Within the town itself are numerous art museums, delectable culinary choices, and the magnificent Biltmore Estate, which is a 250-room French chateau built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s.

Within close driving range to Asheville are a host of other terrific destinations to explore, including the dazzling Blue Ridge Parkway, rugged Linville Gorge, Moses Cone Memorial Park, Smoky Mountains Railroad, Chimney Rock, and the wonderful waterfalls of DuPont State Forest. All of this, and much more, will be explored from our home base in Asheville, where you can unpack and unwind for five nights of fun during our Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Adventure!

This Close-to-Home Adventure promises to be a visual feast and an excellent way to finally get back on the trail after the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hotel partner is practicing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols and other safety measures to ensure a delightful and worry-free experience. WAI guides will also follow beefed up hygiene and wellness protocols to foster both good health and good spirits as we explore this magical state together!

Unique Aspects of this tour

Traveling in only one state (North Carolina) simplifies the logistics of our tour. We will be offering this tour as a small group tour only, using a 15 passenger van to ferry our way through the highlights of the Smoky Mountains area. We’ll allow 7 travelers max on this small van, in addition to your WAI guide! If we fill a second van, we’ll be staggering the arrival and departure times of each, to keep each small group separate.

It’s a good idea to bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots and walking sticks; some of our trails have sections that will be more challenging.

Including:

Pricing is based on double occupancy.

  • All land travel as outlined
  • All five nights at a superior tourist class hotel in Asheville
  • 6 meals: all breakfasts and 1 lunch as denoted (BL)
  • 4 walk routes as listed
  • Walking fees for 3 walks for those collecting AVA walk credit (if AVA sanctions approved)
  • WAI guide service throughout
  • Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $650. We also provide a roommate matching service for those interested.

Visits to/Admission Fees:

  • Biltmore Estate and Winery (largest privately-owned house in the USA)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (one of America’s most scenic drives)
  • Linville Falls
  • Moses Cone Memorial Park
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Waterfalls of DuPont State Forest
  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian
  • Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and Park
  • More fun stops than we can list!

Optional Excursion:

  • North Carolina Arboretum Walk and Asheville Food Tour (Day 1)

“WAI always takes you to interesting places, tours are well planned, tour guides are exceptional, and volksmarchers generally make good traveling companions…Another great WAI Adventure!”

-John F; Anchorage, AK


“Well planned – Good operation and office staff and guides show much care and concern for the traveler.”

-Jim L; Port Orange, FL


“Great combination of education and exercise, augmented by congenial travel companions…Great venue, personable, knowledgeable guides.”

-Mary Jane R; Orchard Park, NY


“Excellent pre-planning, reasonable cost, knowledgeable tour leaders, good group size, friendly intelligent participants.”

-William R; Orchard Park, NY


“We were very well informed during the tour, Scott did a wonderful job with the information he provided.”

-Al & Sharon M; Ellicott City, MD


“Organized, thoughtful people, lovely traveling companions!”

-Rowena M; Bedford, IN

Adventure Pace

Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5

Important Info

Group Size

Small group tour * 7 travelers per van

Hotels

Superior Tourist Class hotel for 5 nights in Asheville

Meals

6 meals: all breakfasts, 1 lunch as denoted (BL)

Airfare

Not included. Travelers will fly into and out of the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Travelers will be met at our hotel in Asheville, NC.

Transportation

We will use a 15 passenger van, with a group size of 7 passengers max, in addition to your driver guide.

Traveler Age

Our travelers usually range from 50–75 years of age. All ages welcome!

Your Guide

Walking Adventures Guide Scott IsomScott Isom has had a passion for the outdoors ever since his childhood days spent exploring the waterfalls and outstanding hiking trails of the Columbia River Gorge with his family. Scott has led tours on all 7 continents and is one of WAI’s busiest guides and on-site Adventure planners. Scott will be your driver/guide on this small group tour!

Itinerary

Click on each day to reveal more details. BL stands for meals included, Breakfast, Lunch.

Day 1-Oct 19: Arrive Asheville, North Carolina

You arrive today into Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), where you transfer on your own to our hotel in Asheville, one of America’s most welcoming and vibrant cities.  This thriving mountain town serves as our base for all five nights of the Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Adventure.  Feel free to enjoy the eclectic and artsy vibe of Asheville’s downtown area. Our first group activity is a welcome reception this evening after you’ve had dinner on your own.

North Carolina Arboretum Walk and Asheville Food Tour: Consider arriving into Asheville a day early and join us on an Optional Day 1 North Carolina Arboretum Walk & Asheville Food Tour. We enjoy a full day of fun that includes a sanctioned walk (5 or 10 km, rated 2B) at the well-reviewed North Carolina Arboretum, followed by lunch on our own and an afternoon Asheville Food Tour, which visits seven to eight handpicked downtown restaurants, offering a wide variety of food and beverage tastings.  Asheville is becoming well-known for its superior culinary scene.  Estimated price: $135 per person (includes all transportation, entry and walk fees)

Day 2-Oct 20: Activities from Asheville (B)

Biltmore Estate Walk – 7 km, rated 2B

Delight in the grand and gracious grounds of Biltmore, America’s largest home (250 rooms!), during a morning walk and afternoon guided tour of this impressive estate. Stroll through Frederick Olmsted-designed gardens, a newly renovated conservatory, and along Biltmore paths and trails that aren’t normally seen by visitors, finishing with an impressive walk through this massive chateau built by George Vanderbilt at the end of the 19th century.  In addition to soaking up the wonderful hues of autumn, you also have time to visit Biltmore’s historic winery before we return to our hotel for dinner on your own.

Day 3-Oct 21: Activities from Asheville (BL)

Blue Ridge Parkway Walk – 7 km, rated 2C

Today we drive one of our country’s most scenic roads, the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a 469-mile radiant route that links Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our day-long journey covers some of the most delightful sections of the Parkway as we enjoy a spectacular loop that also includes stops at dramatic Linville Falls, Moses Cone Memorial Park, and the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct. Walking among these gorgeous vistas will provide plenty of wow moments!  Along the way, we treat you to a bit of Appalachian culture and cuisine with an included lunch at Woodlands BBQ.

Day 4-Oct 22: Activities from Asheville (B)

Chimney Rock & DuPont Forest Walk – 10 km, rated 2C

Prepare for more jaw-dropping scenery today amidst the truly spectacular waterfalls and granite formations of Chimney Rock and DuPont State Forest.  The fabulous footpaths and stunning landscapes of these North Carolina locations have been featured in the film “The Hunger Games” as well as the 1992 movie “Last of the Mohicans” (starring Daniel Day-Lewis). Transylvania County, home of DuPont State Forest, is known as the “Land of Waterfalls” and boasts over 250 cataracts scattered throughout its deciduous forests, including Triple Falls and High Falls, two of today’s featured stops.

Day 5-Oct 23: Activities from Asheville (B)

Smoky Mountains Walk – 3 km, rated 1B (unsanctioned)

This morning we enjoy one last Smoky Mountains riverside stroll before discovering the region’s rich Native American history and culture at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  Then it’s all aboard this afternoon as we embark on a train ride in Bryson City, savoring the delights of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, set amidst the picturesque Nantahala Gorge.

Day 6-Oct 24: Depart from Asheville (B)

Like the wonderful hues of autumn, our short seasonal Adventure comes to a colorful close. Following our final breakfast, feel free to arrange your transfer back to hometown reality via the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Thank you for sharing the history, culture, and spectacular scenery of our Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Adventure!

More Details

Click on each heading for more details.

How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?

To save yourself a spot on this Adventure, contact us to register with a refundable $100 deposit for the tour. Our group size for this particular adventure will be no more than 7 travelers per van, accompanied by 1 driver/guide.

General Tour Conditions and Registration Forms

To finalize your official registration, a completed and signed copy of the Registration Form is necessary. Please be sure to read all the fun stuff (the fine print) in the General Tour Conditions!

No Traveler Discounts

No traveler rewards or discounts are available for this tour.

Optional Excursion

One optional excursion is available during this Adventure: the North Carolina Arboretum Walk and Ashville Food Tour (estimated price:  $135). If you would like to participate in this excursion, we have limited space available.  To guarantee your place, please let us know your decision at the time you register.

Travel By Van

While we have made this adjustment to our Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage tour to abide by North Carolina state guidance at this time, we are excited to take advantage of some of the new options van travel will allow.

By using a van instead of a bus, our small group tour will be able to:

  • Offer more flexibility in the day’s schedule, making additional stops along the way available!
  • A smaller group will improve restroom stops and allow us easier entry into restaurants and grocery stores.
  • A smaller vehicle such as a van will also give us easier access to turn-outs and highways, allowing us to take the scenic option rather than the freeway, more often than not!

How is airfare arranged?

The official start/finish point for this Adventure is in Asheville, North Carolina. Travelers will fly into and out of the Asheville Regional Airport (airport code AVL).  Transfers are not included in the tour price but you should find it easy to take a taxi to our hotel. More details about flight arrangements and recommended travel agent contact information will be provided by email after you register for the Adventure.  Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!

What about the walks?

We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Because these are guided group walks, the success of the walks is predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness in order to ensure we are walking at a somewhat similar pace. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.

We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:

INCLINE

1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.

TERRAIN

A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.

Travel Insurance

WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. This is now especially true in the era of COVID-19, which is typically treated like any other illness for travel insurance purposes. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler and Sharon Mitchell of World Travel Inc. are travel agents who provides air travel and insurance services to many WAI travelers.

Check out Insurance Tips from World Travel for a short introduction to travel insurance. (NOTE: WAI receives no commission or financial remuneration from World Travel Inc.).

As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the squaremouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.

Other options include:

  • Allianz
  • Betins
  • Travel Guard
  • Travel Insured International

NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). Travelers interested in purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage should be careful to check pricing and terms BEFORE they register for a tour. Recent changes in the international travel landscape has caused changes in the policies of some insurance companies, and made the purchase of this particular type of policy even more time-sensitive.

COVID-19 Policies and Procedures

This COVID-19 Policies and Procedures document identifies and explains Covid-19 mitigation policies and procedures WAI is using as a starting point for our fall 2020 tours. Because the knowledge base about COVID-19 changes daily, we review these policies and procedures on an ongoing basis, and will, of course, notify travelers on tour of updates as we approach the departure date of your tour.

Contact our office with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].

COVID-19 Travel Waiver

During this age of COVID-19, WAI evaluates worldwide reports and conditions on an ongoing basis. Please read our COVID-19 Policies and Procedures document before signing the COVID-19 Travel Waiver. Participation in this tour requires your signature on the COVID-19 Travel Waiver.

Contact our office with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].

Tour Cancellations

Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel this tour departure with fewer than 5 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received. This refund policy contains one exclusion related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many suppliers require non-refundable deposits as a condition of booking services. Unforeseen circumstances linked to the virus can force us to cancel a tour. Due to these supplier’s non-refundable policies, WAI intends to retrieve as much of these deposits as possible, but cannot guarantee a 100% refund. In cases where full refunds cannot be obtained for a cancelled tour, we will do our best to transfer unrefunded money as traveler credits to be applied to a future tour to that destination.

View our full Coronavirus FAQ for more details.

What happens next?

Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter and initial invoice. An email with critical information on flight arrangements will be sent soon after, with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email. About 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.

Take a few minutes to peruse the enclosed itinerary. The splendor of autumn in the Smoky Mountains is unique. The fall foliage of the Blue Ridge Parkway, waterfall wows, granite grandeur, forested trails, Native American history, Biltmore Estate, and the comfort of lodging all five nights at one hotel in charming Asheville all add up to a great excuse for an Appalachian holiday.  In the end, we think you will agree that walking is still and always the best way to experience our world. Give us a call and talk to one of our Adventure Consultants about how to join us for this unforgettable Walking Adventure program in October 2020 as we explore Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage!