Great Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage
The annual Great Smoky Mountains fall foliage show starts in late September and spreads across The Great Smoky Mountains towards early November. While traveling in the Great Smoky Mountains in the autumn there will always be an opportunity to view scenes of leaves changing colors somewhere. This area is fortunate to have about 4-6 weeks in the autumn to undergo this show of nature as the warm days of summer transition into the cold days of winter. Each year the mountains puts on a beautiful show and with all the different elevations in the different mountain regions of North Carolina and Tennessee there are a lot of areas to travel to during October to see the beautiful fall foliage show that nature provides.
8/24/2015 Fall Foliage Predictions For 2015!
The predictions are out for the fall foliage 2015 season. Kathy Mathews, a Western North Carolina associate professor of biology, predicts this season to be full of color thanks to the dry summer this year. She said it could even be the best in a long time. Apparently there was just enough rain in late spring to keep the trees healthy but since then there has been little rain. Dry conditions result in more red colors Mathews stated in her prediction. And she continued to state that with little chance of a hurricane for the Southeast US there should be no windy conditions that result in premature leaves falling before peaking.
The key to the start of peak color changes is when the first frost occurs. Peak colors happened just days after the first frost in any elevation. Frost occurs in the highest elevations first and then progress down to the lower elevations as the month of October progresses. So peak color times happen in the highest elevations (over 4000ft) and work down to the lower elevations. Color changes can start in late September and continue into early November depending on the elevation and the weather.
The Great Smoky Mountains fall foliage 2015 weekly reports by Great Smoky Mountains Guide will be coming in September for this year’s fall foliage season. Check back often.
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 October or even early November. 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 spectacular show of color.
Some popular spots to view the fall foliage show in the Great Smoky Mountains are:
Cataloochee (elevation of 5,400 feet)
Mt. LeConte (elevation of 6,593 feet and the third highest summit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
Clingman Dome (elevation of 6,643 feet and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
Newfound Gap Road (elevation of 5,048 feet)
Blue Ridge Parkway
The changes start at the higher elevations (above 4,000 ft.) 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 of the Great Smoky 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 – First of October to mid October
● Color Across Middle and Western 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 (above 4,000 ft) – (Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell)- Late September to First 2 weeks of October
● Western North Carolina – Asheville area ( 2,000-3,000 ft)-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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.