Fall Color Forecast 2018, Asheville & NC Mountains
The fall foliage show in the mountains and foothills surrounding Asheville in western North Carolina brings a kaleidoscope of leaf colors for many weeks. Our Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains have one of the longest autumn color seasons in the country, thanks to our many 6,000-foot peaks (highest in eastern USA), deep valleys and varying micro climates. Experience a 5-week span of color that slowly descends from the tallest ridges down to the lowest valleys. During the past 15 years, we’ve tracked the foliage peak times and best places to see. Get details below! Photo: Hike to High Shoals Falls
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the top place to see the autumn show. See our 20 Parkway Top Fall Stops .
Blue Ridge Parkway & Mountains Fall Color Forecast 2018
Leaf peepers ask: “When is peak color?” The great news is that we usually have many weeks of autumn color in our mountains and foothills. Find the areas of best color by driving the Blue Ridge Parkway or other scenic roads up and down the ridges. Elevation is the biggest factor for time of color change. An early frost speeds up the color change and warm weather prolongs it. Below is our prediction.
Peak Foliage Color Timeline 2018
September Last Week: Spotty color begins at 6,000+ feet elevation, including Mount Mitchell and two lofty places along the Parkway, Rough Ridge at Grandfather Mountain and Graveyard Fields. Views into the valleys from this spots peak 1-2 weeks later.
October First Week: Color peak above 5,000 feet elevation. The leaves in the highest mountains north of Asheville turn first, especially on the Parkway north of Craggy Gardens and Beech Mountain. South on the Parkway, head to Waterrock Knob and Black Balsam areas. Hike & picnic atop both Max Patch and Roan Mountain on the AT.
October Second Week: 4,000-5,000 feet elevation. Best colors really pick up steam, including Mount Pisgah and Devil’s Courthouse areas south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mountains surrounding Waynesville and Cashiers peak, including Whiteside Mountain with the Shadow of the Bear. Also, see colorful highest ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and drive the Cherohala Skyway. Camp at Lake Santeetlah.
October Third Week: 3,000-4,000 feet elevation. The ultimate week for the most color including large sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This also includes much of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Drive the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. Top hikes there include Looking Glass Rock or Cradle of Forestry. North of Asheville, best color will be Banner Elk and hikes to Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain at Linville Gorge. West of Asheville, head to Maggie Valley, Cherokee and Bryson City.
October Last Week: 2,000-3,000 feet elevation. The city of Asheville, French Broad River and Biltmore Estate show their best color, along with many of our small towns including Sylva and Saluda. It’s a great time for a waterfall hike in DuPont State Forest or a stroll at the NC Arboretum.
November First Week: 1,000-2,000 feet elevation. Color fills the lush Hickory Nut Gorge at Chimney Rock. See the fall reflections on Lake Lure. Also hike and camp at Lake James and South MountainsState Parks east of Asheville. The leaf progression concludes in the foothills around Marion, Rutherfordton and Tryon Foothills Wine Country.
Note: We tweak this forecast depending on weather patterns and our observations. Please remember that locations for peak color are estimations based on previous years. Also, areas at the exact same elevation often change at different times, depending on sun exposure, soil conditions and more.
This Fall Forecast and beautiful photography is brought to you compliments of Mark File from romanticasheville.com. For the most up-to-date information regarding this year’s fall colors, be sure to check out romanticasheville.com on a regular basis throughout the season.