North Carolina offers stunning fall foliage and color from the first weeks of October through early November. The annual show of vibrant reds, orange and gold begins in the higher elevations, such as Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain, and works its way down the mountains, to the foothills and then the Piedmont.
Predicting “Peak” Color Times
Due to our record high temperatures this summer, it is difficult for fall foliage color forecasters to predict an exact time for “peak color” for the most vibrant fall leaf viewing. However, spotty color is already being reported in higher elevations and this weekend there were a few red leaves at Pilot Mountain.
Best Fall Foliage Color Drives
Blue Ridge Parkway
From Winston-Salem, the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct is a popular one for fall leaves that will not disappoint. Asheville boasts a 5,000-foot elevation change within 50 miles of the city, making the Blue Ridge Mountain range one of the longest lasting fall foliage color displays in the country.
Bakersville to Roan Mountain – Appalachian Trail
Another great fall color drive, according to Fall Color Forecaster Dr. Howard Neufeld, is to drive “up NC 261 from Bakersville/Spruce Pine to Roan Mountain.” Where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road there, you can hike in the forest and see spectacular views.
Suggested 2012 Fall Color Viewing Schedule
October 2-9: Highest elevations north of Asheville above 5,000 feet, such as, Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain and Rough Ride areas.
October 6-15: Color should reach the 4,000 feet mark, in such areas on the Blue Ridge Parkway as Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, Devil’s Courthouse, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard Fields; and areas in the Highlands such as Whiteside Mountain (don’t miss their waterfalls!); and also the Great Smoky Mountains area including Alum Cave and Chimney Tops.
October 12-22: Vibrant color should be plentiful at the 4,000-3,000 ft elevation marks in mountains surrounding Asheville. Visit areas like Pisgah National Forest and hike to Cradle of Forestry or Looking Glass Rock; or visit Linville Gorge and hike to Table Rock or Hawksbill Mountain.
October 18-28: During this time, the city of Asheville (and Biltmore Estate there) has historically shown the brightest fall foliage colors, as well as areas around Brevard and Hendersonville, NC. Try a waterfall hike in DuPont State Forest or a walk to the NC Arboretum.Or even Translyvania County for some Halloween-inspired trails.
October 23-November 2: As the colors make a final showing, visit the Chimney Rock area, or consider a boat tour on Lake Lure. A walk around local Salem Lake will showcase the finest in fall color as it reflects off the shimmering waters.
Resources: www.visitnc.com, Fall Color Guy Facebook page, www.romanticasheville.com