This was originally published in 2010. The advice still applies and you may find it useful in planning any "leaf peeping" expeditions to the Southern Appalachians.
If you are planning a trip to the Southern Appalachians for the fall color season and want to stay in hotel or lodge accommodations, have reservations in advance. Many times I have seen travelers on the Blue Ridge Parkway during October thinking that they would just take a leisurely drive and find a motel room at the end of the day. In many cases they would find no room at the inn. I have seen people drive seventy five miles or more away from the park to find a vacant room.
October is the peak visitation season for this region of the country and a pretty weekend can see huge crowds in the parks and surrounding communities. Many small towns and rural areas will be hosting festivals and art events that draw hundreds if not thousands of people.
October is also college football season. Colleges also sponsor their family and alumni weekends durng the beautiful fall weather. Such events can fill hotels for miles. You can check college web sites for their schedules. Some of the key colleges that may affect hotel availability are:
The University of Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Washington and Lee University
Appalachian State University
University of North Carolina At Asheville
Competition for hotel rooms can be almost as exciting as some of the football games.
Traffic in prime viewing areas may also become congested which will result in slow downs and delays. So make sure your plans for the distances to travel are reasonable and attainable. Allow a cushion of time in your planning for heavy traffic. Come the end of the day you do not want to be hundreds of miles away from your planned stop for the night.
When ever possible travel during the week. Weekends are always the peak traffic times. Hotels rooms are also more easily obtainable on weekday nights.