October 2, 2012 Asheville Fall Color Update: Recent clouds and rain slowed the color change, so there’s only spotty color in the higher elevations. Sunny skies and cool nights return tomorrow, the perfect combination for the best colors. By this weekend, best color will be above 4,500 feet, including Beech Mountain, Craggy Gardens and the highest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make your reservations NOW for lodging and outdoor adventures since many are reporting the busiest fall in many years and almost booked up especially on weekends.
With the 5,000-foot elevation change within 50 miles of Asheville, the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountain ranges have one of the longest-running autumn leaf color displays in the country. No matter when you visit in the last three weeks of October, you can find great color. Peak color begins in the highest elevations and gradually moves down to the lowest elevations by early November. Since the Blue Ridge Parkway changes elevation from the ridgetops to the valleys, it’s the best place to find the best color. Other great ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors are zip line canopy tours, whitewater rafting, hiking and waterfalls.
Here’s the forecast for when and where to find peak color:
October 4-11: Highest elevations north of Asheville above 5,000 feet show the most color, especially in the Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain areas. Other great spots include Roan Mountain and Mt LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains.
October 9-17: Color increases in elevations greater than 4,000 feet, including the Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, Devil’s Courthouse, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard Fields, southwest of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will also be peak color in the Highlands area, including Whiteside Mountain and the Shadow of the Bear, with plenty of waterfalls to enjoy.
October 14-23: 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. A great hike in Pisgah National Forest would be Looking Glass Rock or Cradle of Forestry. North of Asheville, head to Linville Gorge with hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain or to Linville Falls.
October 19-28: The city of Asheville (2,000 feet elevation) shows the brightest colors, along with areas around Hendersonville and Brevard. This is the perfect time for a waterfall hike in DuPont State Forest or leisurely walk at the NC Arboretum. This is also the peak leaf color for Biltmore Estate.
October 24-November 2: The color show concludes in the Chimney Rock and Lake Lure area (elevation of 1,300 feet).