“When is peak fall color in the North Carolina mountains?” “Where are the best views?” To answer these burning questions and to help with vacation planning to the Asheville area, we at www.RomanticAsheville.com have updated our annual fall color forecast, along with the best places to see brilliant colors. After record rainfalls in the mountains this year, most trees are very green and lush so the color season could be longer than usual. Timing of peak color depends on the weather. We are excited to see an improved weather forecast for the next week with lots of sun. Ample sunshine in September and October will create the most color. And chilly nighttime temperatures help much. Last year, an early snow compliments of Hurricane Sandy added a blanket of white on top of the color. See photos from last fall: http://www.romanticasheville.com/fall_2012_photos.htm.
With a 5,000 foot elevation range within 50 miles of Asheville, our area has one of the longest lasting fall color shows in the country. Peak fall color begins in the highest elevations and progresses down the mountains to the lowest valleys during a four week period. Here is the fall color timeline forecast for Asheville and the surrounding mountains:
- Early October: The color show begins at the highest elevations such as Beech Mountain, Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain, with best color in elevations above 4,000 feet, such as Mount Pisgah and much of the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville during the second week.
- Mid October: Find the most color above 3,000 feet elevation, which includes much of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, along with Linville Gorge.
- Late October: Color is best in the city of Asheville, including the Biltmore Estate and the North Carolina Arboretum.
- Early November: Best color is in lowest elevations and the foothills, including Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.
Here are the Top 10 Places to enjoy the fall color show in the western North Carolina mountains:
1. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the country’s top scenic drives! Drive 170 miles of it in the Asheville area. Stop at many overlooks, picnic and explore hiking trails. With the big elevation change in the Asheville area, the Parkway’s mountain views may be completely green in one area and bursting with color a few miles down the road. See our Parkway guide at http://www.romanticasheville.com/BlueRidgeParkway.htm.
2. Hikes abound for all fitness levels, with many of them along the Parkway or in the national forests. See our Top 50 Hikes near Asheville at http://www.romanticasheville.com/hiking.html.
3. A waterfall framed by the fall colors is a photographer’s dream. One of the most photographed waterfalls in the country is Linville Falls. And don’t miss DuPont State Forest and Looking Glass Falls. See our Top 40 NC Waterfalls at http://www.romanticasheville.com/waterfalls.htm.
4. There is plenty of the great outdoors to explore at the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate by car, foot, bike, horse, river raft or Segway. In addition to colorful leaves (especially in late October), see the stunning fall gardens. See our Biltmore guide at http://www.romanticasheville.com/Biltmore.html.
5. For an exciting view of the colorful tree canopy, zoom down zip lines in the Great Smoky Mountains, Nantahala Gorge and the courses near downtown Asheville.
6. Since Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Rockies, it boasts the first colors of the season. Enjoy panoramic views from the observation deck. Take a jacket, since it’s always cooler there.
7. Graveyard Fields often has the most brilliant colors. Enjoy roadside views or hike through highland valley with two waterfalls is surrounded by 6,000-foot mountains.
8. Drive the beautiful Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (US 276) through Pisgah National Forest from Brevard to the Blue Ridge Parkway, with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls, Looking Glass Rock hike and the Cradle of Forestry Discovery Center.
9. Stroll through the gardens and forest trails at the North Carolina Arboretum, attend the Chrysanthemum Show, and see the tiniest color show on Bonsai trees. Garden shrubs contribute fall color, too, in combination with grasses and perennials.
10. Go to the top of Chimney Rock for 75-mile views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. Fall color often extends into early November in this area.
For more details on these and the latest fall foliage week-by-week forecast (and great autumn events) for Asheville and the North Carolina mountains, go to www.romanticasheville.com/fall.htm.