Fall Foliage

Great Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage 2014

The fall foliage 2014 forecast for the mountains of North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains is out.  Biologist Kathy Mathews of Western North Carolina reports a wet spring and summer in the mountains this year may mean duller colors this fall for the annual fall foliage show. But tulip poplar trees like it wetter than average  so their colors of yellow and gold may last longer this year. The pretty red colors this year maybe less than normal due to the wet spring and summer. But if the month of September is dry the red colors of the sourwood, red maple and dogwood trees may still happen when the fall foliage show arrives. This coming fall foliage show may be extended and last longer than usual due to the possible above- average temperatures forecast for this fall. It’s a complicated equation but regardless a Great Smoky Mountains fall foliage show is always beautiful, some years better than others, but still beautiful!

Things to know about where to view the approaching fall foliage show in the Great Smoky Mountains

The highest elevations above 4,000 feet peak first about the first 2 weeks of October. Elevations in the 2000-3000 feet range peak about mid to late Ocotober
or even early Novermber. But the Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers such a large area of land there is always somewhere at peak or near peak. Great
Smoky Mountain National Park mountain ranges have elevations from just over 875 feet to 6,643 feet. So a trip to view the fall color show anytime in October
will reward you with a spectular show of color.

Some popular spots to view the fall foliage show in the Great Smoky Mountains are:
Cades Cove
Foothills Parkway
Clingman Dome
Newfound Gap Road
Blue Ridge Parkway


iStock 000011187931XSmall 150x150 Fall FoliageThe changes start at the higher elevations about the middle of October and will work its way down to the lower elevations in late October to early November. Best places to see color are: Newfound Gap Road, Cades Cove Loop Road and Little River Road. Great hikes to see the show are: Albright Grove and Sugarland Mountain Trail and Andrews Bald or Mt. LeConte at the highest elevations.

Due to the varied elevations in and around the NC and TN mountains you can always find the best show of color somewhere in the fall months starting in late September, October and lasting through November. The biggest factors involved in the changing colors of the foliage are elevation and weather. The warmer the weather the slower the progression but an early frost will speed up the color change show.


The typical best times to plan a trip to view Tennessee’s peak fall foliage would be:

● Northeastern Mountain Regions – Last Two Weeks of October
● Color Across Tennessee – Peaks from East to West Mid October to Late November


The typical best times to plan a trip to view North Carolina’s peak fall foliage would be:

● Western North Carolina Highest Elevations – (Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell)- Late September to First 2 weeks of October
● Western North Carolina – (Asheville area)-2nd or 3rd week of  October
● Western to Central North Carolina – Mid October to Late October
● Central North Carolina – Late October to Early November


Fall foliage and the effects of elevation:

Normally about the very last of September or the first or second week of October the leaves start changing in the highest elevations (above 5000 feet). The second to third week elevations above 4000 feet start the change. Mid October the show is well underway and include the 3000-4000 feet elevation areas. By late October and early November the lower elevations of 1300 feet are changing. By the second week in November the peak season and the show is all but past for the mountain regions of North Carolina and Tennessee.


A General Guide to the Fall Foliage Season for the Great Smoky Mountains

October 4-10

North of Asheville in North Carolina in the highest elevations above 5,000 feet is where the fall foliage show begins and is where the most color typically occurs. These areas include Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Grandfather Mountain and Rough Ridge.

October 8-18
Fall foliage color will then start to appear in elevations greater than 4,000 feet. Areas including the Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, Devil’s Courthouse, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard Field.  Peak color also occurs in  this time period for the Highlands area, including Whiteside Mountain and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

October 15-24
In the surrounding mountains of Asheville there is plenty of color in the 3,000-4,000 foot elevation range. A ride north or south on the Blue Ridge  Parkway from Asheville will be a beautiful site about this week. A ride thru the Pisgah National Forest (Looking Glass Rock or Cradle of Forestry) normally is a great trip. North of Asheville Linville Gorge (Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain) would be a nice fall foliage hiking trip.

October 20-30
The city of Asheville  at the 2,000 feet elevation have the peak colors during this time period, as well as areas around Hendersonville and Brevard. DuPont State Forest or the NC Arboretum are great places to enjoy the fall foliage colors. The Biltmore Estate in Ashville is also at peak leaf color during the later part of October.

October 24-November 5
The color show nears its end in the Chimney Rock area with an elevation of 1,300 feet. Visit Chimney Rock and Lake Lure for a last look at the beautiful fall foliage season in the North Carolina mountains for 2013.


If you miss the fall foliage show this autumn the good news is you can catch it next year

since it happens every fall in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains!

Photos from past fall foliage seasons in the Great Smoky Mountains.







































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