Asheville is fortunate to have one of the most dramatic displays of fall foliage in the country. Extreme elevations, and more than 100 species of deciduous (leaf shedding) trees, give the Blue Ridge Mountains one of the longest and most vibrant leaf seasons (see what we mean with this cool 3D satellite flyover).
Fall foliage lures many leaf peepers to the mountains to take in the stunning array of colors, but what constitutes a great fall color year, and how do experts predict peak times to see color? Scientists are beginning to unravel the mysteries of fall, and what they've discovered may surprise you.
2014 Fall Color Forecast: Experts See Red
According to Dr. Howard S. Neufeld, professor of biology and "fall color guy" at Appalachian State University, red is often the color perceived as the one that makes for a spectacular fall season. And according to Neufeld and other experts, fans of the crimson hue may be in luck.
"Cool, clear sunny days bring on lots of photosynthesis and this makes for brilliant red colors," said Neufeld. "The beginning of the fall season will be punctuated with varying shades of red from maples, sourwoods, dogwoods, black gums and burning bush. The last splash of color will come later with scarlet and red oaks. Red really stands out, even against an already-beautiful fall landscape."
The weather over the next few weeks plays the most important role in fall's color intensity with cool nights and sunny days being the recipe for a bold season.
"For the summer as a whole, Asheville was slightly cooler than average and near average for precipitation," said Jake Crouch, climate scientist at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville. "The precipitation is nothing compared to last summer when Asheville had its wettest summer on record. That makes me think we can expect a more vibrant autumn this year."
Sign Up For Updates Beginning in October, we will be speaking weekly with local fall foliage experts to report the most current locations where fall color is most prevalent in the mountains. Be sure to bookmark this page for the most current fall updates and advice on the top drives, hikes and deals each week, or sign up for color reports in your email inbox using the form to the left.
A Blue Ridge Parkway fall colors scenic drive from Blowing Rock to Asheville offers the best fall foliage spots, great walks and the renowned craft shops of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Price Lake, Blowing Rock North Carolina
This is one of the premier fall color tours in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. Partly because there are so many things to see and do along the way, and mostly because the parkway traverses so many different elevations that there are almost always great displays of color throughout the fall foliage season. Moses Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Flat Top Manor, Blowing Rock, North Carolina Start at Moses Cone Mansion just south of Blowing Rock and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile post 293.5 for a look at the fine crafts of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild, and then take a few minutes to enjoy the wonderful view of the autumn colors spread across the mountains from a rocking chair on the porch. A few miles further along this Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive is Price Lake. At the height of fall colors, this is one of the prettiest spots in the mountains. The lakeside trail is a great choice for an easy walk 2.3 mile round trip walk with dazzling autumn colors overhead, all around and dancing reflections of the fall foliage on the surface of Price Lake. Two short walks just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive lead to spectacular fall color views. The first is at the top of Grandfather Mountain, exit the parkway at mile post 305.1, where a short walk crosses the mile high swinging bridge to an overlook with fall foliage views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fall colors scenic views from the middle of the mile high swinging bridge are as breathtaking as they are from the scenic overlook. If you are in the mood for hiking, this Blue Ridge Parkway fall colors scenic drive passes three great hiking areas: Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell (the highest peak in the east) and Craggy Gardens with a short 20 minute hike to spectacular Craggy Pinnacle. Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway, North CarolinaAnd if you just want to enjoy the incredible autumn scenery along the Blue Ridge Parkway fall colors are seen all along the drive and from the many look offs. The parkway autumn forest boasts many colors as Maple, Oak, Sumac, Sourwood and Tulip-Poplar all contribute various shades of red, bright orange and glorious gold to the autumn color palette. Even the rocky mountain sides are resplendent with bright red Virginia Creeper. Be sure to pull off at the parkway overlooks for incredible views of waterfalls, individual trees at the height of fall color and even fall blooming flowers like Queens Ann Lace and Astor. Another stop worth making is the Historic Orchard at Altapass where you can buy many varieties of North Carolina apples, enjoy autumn activities and hear mountain music. The parkway fall views of Linville Cove Viaduct, mile post 304, and Grandfather Mountain, mile post 305.1, are sublime, and there are plenty of other parkway autumn look offs and stopping places to enjoy. The Blue Ridge Parkway fall scenic drive is often busy, with cars driving slowly along this popular scenic drive as leaf peepers enjoy the profusion of fall colors..
Best of all, Asheville, with all its fine shops and restaurants is at the end! But before you leave the Blue Ridge Parkway you may want to stop and see the acclaimed Folk Art Center and the premier craft shop of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.