Where is the best spot for leaf color right now?
That is often a tricky question. It depends on the elevation. Within 50 miles of Asheville, leaf watchers can experience elevations that range from about 1,300 feet at DuPont State Forest in Transylvania County to over 5,000 feet at Mount Pisgah. The leaves are turning color later than normal this year, due to dry weather, but luckily the colors are just as vibrant as ever! If you have not been out to see them yet, you are in luck – experts say that warmer temperatures are resulting in colors that are lasting longer than usual.
Fall is a spectacularly beautiful time in the southern Appalachians. Leaves begin their colorful show at the highest elevations, over 5,000 feet, and the show continues down the mountains. Over the next week or two, peak color will be at its most beautiful at 3,000 to 4,000 foot elevations. One easy way to find just the right spot is by driving either north or south along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A combination drive and hike might make a great day of fall fun.
Sunrise over the Mills River Valley from the Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 404.5 Photo credit: RomanticAsheville.com
Drive north from Asheville toward Linville Gorge and Banner Elk for great hiking opportunities, including Table Rock. West of Asheville, Fontana Lake area and Bryson City will be looking perfect in the coming week or two.
Colors will liven Asheville’s landscape as the month draws to a close. Asheville sits at about 2,000 feet above sea level. The Biltmore Estate is especially lovely at this time of year, and so are lower elevation hiking locations like the waterfall hikes in DuPont State Forest.
The NC Arboretum, located on Highway 191 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Bent Creek Overlook is gorgeous all year, but the trees put on a spectacular show in the fall.
It is best not to hike alone, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays beginning at 1 p.m., April through November, the Arboretum hosts a free guided trail walk for visitors and members. Trained volunteer guides lead small groups along woodland trails and through a variety of forest types. Walks last 1.5 – 2.5 hours, depending on the interest of the group, and are approximately one to two miles in length. Walks begin in the Baker Exhibit Center lobby, and space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you have missed the colors by the end of the month, there is still time! The Hickory Nut Gorge at Chimney Rock and Lake Lure are at about 1,300 foot elevation and colors should be bright there until early November.