The fall leaf color show in the North Carolina mountains attracts visitors from around the world. With the 5,000-foot elevation change within 50 miles of Asheville, our lush Blue Ridge Mountain range puts on one of the longest-running autumn leaf color displays in the country.
Blue Ridge Parkway & Mountains Fall Foliage Forecast 2017
Limited time: Enter to win a fall getaway through Sept 10th.
Forecast: The number one question is: “When is the peak color?” No matter when you plan an autumn visit, in October or early November, you can take a short drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway or other mountain roads to find the best fall leaves color. Elevation and weather are the biggest factors in the color show. Leaves begin their color change at the highest peaks and gradually work down to the lowest elevations. An early frost speeds up the show and warm weather prolongs it.
Where to Find Color Week-by-Week 2017
- October 3-12: Highest elevations north of Asheville (above 5,000 feet) show the most color, especially in the Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain, Rough Ridge, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard Fields areas.
- October 10-20: Color will increase in elevations greater than 4,000 feet, including the areas near Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam and Devil's Courthouse southwest of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will also be peak color in the Cashiers area, including Whiteside Mountain with the Shadow of the Bear and plenty of waterfalls to enjoy, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- October 18-25: Many of the surrounding mountains around Asheville show plenty of color, especially in the 3,000-4,000 foot elevation range. Take the Parkway north or south from Asheville or drive the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. A great hike in Pisgah National Forest would be Looking Glass Rock or Cradle of Forestry. North of Asheville, head to Banner Elk and Linville Gorge, with hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain. West of Asheville, Bryson City and Fontana Lake areas will peak.
- October 22-30: The city of Asheville (2,000 feet elevation) shows the brightest colors, including Biltmore Estate, along with areas around Sylva and Saluda. This is the perfect time for a waterfall hike in DuPont State Forest or a leisurely walk at the NC Arboretum.
- October 27-November 5: The color show fills the Hickory Nut Gorge at Chimney Rock (elevation of 1,300 feet). Take a boat tour on Lake Lure. Also explore Lake James and South Mountains State Parks.
- November 1-8: The foothills around Rutherfordton and the Tryon Foothills Wine Country will conclude the color show.
There are many festivals and events tor enjoy in September and October. See our 40 Favorite Fall Festivals.
Pic: Dry Falls
Are you planning a trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina to view fall foliage this autumn? If so, this map, put out by the department of biology at Appalachian State University, could be an incredibly helpful planning tool.
Maps claiming to predict the arrival of fall foliage come a dime a dozen this time of year, but the App State map incorporates multiple variables such as elevation change and latitude, making it more accurate than similar leaf peeping predictions.
“We constructed the map using the following assumptions,” writes Michael Denslow of the Department of Biology at Appalachian State University who created the graphic.”First, we assumed that fall color would start earlier at higher elevations. We then figured (guessed!) that for each 1,000′ increase in elevation, peak fall colors would occur about one week earlier, with the exception of those areas near the coast, where we divided the elevation into 500′ sections.”
According to the map, fall will come first to areas like Boone, Mount Mitchell, and Grandfather Mountain, with peak season arriving around October 1, while Asheville won’t experience peak viewing conditions until mid-October.
The 2017 Fall Foliage Map is the ultimate visual planning guide to the annual progressive changing of the leaves. While no tool can be 100% accurate, this tool is meant to help travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak color each year.