NC Fall Foliage
Summer is almost over and the fall season is fast approaching for 2014. The fall foliage show in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee starts in early October each year.
The changes start at the higher elevations and will work its way down to the lower elevations in mid 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 color change starts in the higher elevations and gradually work down to the lower elevations. 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
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.
The typical best times to plan a trip to view North Carolina’s fall foliage based on the past years would be:
● Western North Carolina Highest Elevations – Late September to Early October
● Western North Carolina – Early to Mid October
● Western to Central North Carolina – Mid October to Late October
● Central North Carolina – Late October to Early November
North of Asheville 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 for 2013.
If you can’t make the trip this fall season the good thing 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 and National Park.