North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage

North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage 

The North Carolina mountains fall foliage season is a beautiful show each and every year, The fall leaf color changes start in the higher elevations of the Western North Carolina mountains about the first week of October and will work its way down to the lower elevations of the mountains in mid November. Due to the varied elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains you can always find the best show of color somewhere in the fall months of September, October and November. The biggest factors involved in the changing colors of the foliage are elevation and the weather. The warmer the weather the slower the progression of color.  Cooler temperatures and an early frost will speed up the leaf color change show. 

NC Mountains Fall Foliage Reports and Weekly Updates for 2016


10/31/16 Fall Foliage Report and Updates:Peak colors are over for the higher and mid elevations of the North Carolina mountains but the lower elevations below 2000 ft are still peaking in many areas. A ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway this week will still offer some pretty views of the fall foliage. The overlooks that have a long range view will be a great place to stop and get some pictures. The Blue Ridge Parkway in the Asheville area and Biltmore Estate located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are just starting to show fall colors. There is still plenty of time to get in a trip to view this year’s fall foliage show on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Dupont Forest and Lake Lure are showing pretty colors. Chimney Rock State Park is a great place to visit now with the lower elevations starting to peak at the end of October. The weather for the rest of the week is forecast to be sunny with little rain and above average temperatures in the western part of the state. Enjoy the last few days of the fall foliage season before the holiday season arrives! The Christmas Tree on the grounds of Biltmore Estate in Asheville is going up this Wednesday! 

WSPA Biltmore Live Web Cam Shot 10/31/16

WSPA Biltmore Live Web Cam Shot 10/31/16

10/25/16 Fall Foliage Report and Update: The colors have really taken off this past week. The mid elevations (at 3000 ft) are now at peak color in all the different areas of the NC mountain ranges. Grandfather Mountains and Linville Gorge are past peak over the 3000 ft elevation level, but the mid elevations are just beautiful. The Blue ridge Parkway north of Asheville is reported to be very pretty, as is Cashiers and Highlands. The Great Smoky Mountains are also very pretty and are at peak colors in the 3000 ft elevations. The lower elevations (under 3000 ft) have about 60% colors now with peak predicted to take place in the next week. It is a very busy time of year in the North Carolina mountains with lots of people visiting to see the fall foliage colors at peak. The weather has been just perfect. Although Mount Mitchell did receive a little snow and ice this past weekend. The highest elevations are well past peak with the recent frost and freeze in the highest of elevations. But there is still plenty to see in the mid and lower elevations for another 2 weeks! The Blue Ridge Parkway is at peak in the mid elevations with about 75% color showing in the lower elevations (2000 ft). The fall foliage show will continue in the NC mountains well into the first week of November!

10/17/16 Fall Foliage Report and Update: The fall foliage display of colors are really taking off in the areas north of Asheville such as Grandfather Mountain, Boone, Blowing Rock, Linn Cove Viaduct, Craggy Gardens, Waterrock Knob, and Devil’s Courthouse. All the different types of trees are showing some very pretty shades of red, maroon, gold and yellows this year. Many are saying this year’s display of color is much better than past years. There is a lot of vivid colors showing now.  In North Carolina areas on the Blue Ridge Parkway that will peak soon are Mt. Pisgah, Chimney Rock State Park, Blowing Rock, Linville. Also near peak are the areas of Cashiers and Highlands south of Asheville. The lower elevations (<2000 ft) are just beginning to show a little patchy color. These areas include Lake Junaluska and the Dupont State Forest. Asheville and Biltmore are still about 2 weeks away from peak colors because they are located in the lower elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The mid elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains are really showing a lot of vibrant colors now with peak in about 7-10 days away. The lower elevations (Cades Cove and Cataloochee are showing some patchy color and will not peak for another 2-3 weeks. The weather for the next two weeks should be great for a fall foliage trip to the mountains of NC or the Great Smokies. Cooler temperatures are in the forecast for this weekend. But the warmer than usual weather is prolonging this year’s fall foliage show. Tourism reports for the number of visitors to the area are on the increase for October.

10/12/16 Fall Foliage Report and Update:Colors should peak this weekend at Grandfather Mountain. Linville and Linville Falls is also reported to be showing some great colors. Next week the areas of Boone and Blowing Rock should be very nice to view some colorful fall foliage. This year’s fall foliage display is about 5-6 days behind schedule compared to past years. The weather into next week should be mostly sunny days and there is little rain in the forecast. Day time temperature are still in the 60-72 degree range into next week. For the next several days there should be some pretty show of colors to see in the highest elevations. Some color (about 10%) is starting to appear in the mid range elevations. Reports of color of red, gold and yellow are showing at locations of Craggy Gardens and Graveyard Fields in North Carolina in the dogwood trees, sourwood trees, birch, beech and black gum. In the next week West Jefferson should start to display some color as well as Highlands and Waynesville. At the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway the Great Smoky Mountains are showing peak colors in the higher elevations with color in the mid elevations starting to spread. The next 10 days should be quite colorful. But the lower elevations (below 2000 ft) are still green in the GSMNP.

10/4/2016 Peak Colors This Week Near Boone:This week will be the week for peak colors in the higher elevations (those above 4500 ft) along the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville. There are reports of some great colors showing in the area of  Watterrock Knob at MP 304 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC.  A ride on the parkway near Linn Cove Viaduct this week should also offer some peak colors. This week a trip to Boone, Blowing Rock, Banner Elk and Grandfather Mountain would be ideal to see some beautiful fall foliage. Hurricane Mathew appears to be headed towards North Carolina. It’s a large and powerful hurricane. It may bring the rain and strong winds to the state. If it’s path takes a more westward approach bringing rain and wind to the mountains of NC this would be bad for the fall foliage season. The trees would drop their leaves due to the high winds before the beautiful colors could develop.

9/29/2016 Fall Foliage Report and Updates: Fall colors are starting to make an appearance in the mountains north of Asheville in the highest elevations. Grandfather Mountain is showing color in the elevations above 5000 feet. Grandfather Mountain is always the first area in the mountains of North Carolina to show color due to the elevation. The longer nights, the cooler nightie temperatures and the sunny days are all ideal conditions to get the fall foliage color changes started. Night time temperatures are now in the forties. The recent rain showers will prevent early loss of leaves due to dry conditions. More leave of the trees means more leave to show colors. The are also reports of the mid elections starting to show a hint of color. 

Areas with elevations between 5,500 ft and 6,000 ft are almost at peak already! Black Balsam Knob (elevation 6214 ft) offers quite a view down below. Most ranges with elevations above 6000 ft have few trees but the view of the colors in the trees below are worth the hike. The areas that will be showing color first are the mountains north of Asheville. Others areas showing color changes are Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Rough Ridge. In the next week fall foliage colors will continue to spread and progress in the areas of Craggy Gardens (MP 364 on the BRP) , Beech Mountain, Graveyard Fields(MP 418 on the BRP) and Watterock Knob (MP 451 on the BRP).

Autumn in the North Carolina Mountains

Autumn in the North Carolina Mountains

9/14/2016 Fall foliage predictions are in! 

The fall foliage experts are predicting this year’s fall foliage season will last longer than usual with peaks occurring later than usual by about a week. The fall foliage show always start in the highest elevations of the North Carolina mountains in late September after the first frost and continue to spread down into the  lower elevation mountain ranges about the first week or two in November.

The Great Smoky Mountains and the North Carolina Mountain ranges have a wide variety of elevations. These varying elevations spread out the fall foliage show over a 4-6 weeks period. But this years fall foliage show is predicted to last even longer due to the hot and dry summer. Biologist and fall foliage forecaster Dr. Beverly Collins from Western Carolina University reports “some trees may respond to drought conditions by slowing photosynthesis and making way for red, orange and yellow pigments earlier than normal, while other species that aren’t as drought sensitive may wait to begin to turn.”

Other expects are predicting a duller show of color this year as compared to last year with less vibrant colors as well as a delay to the start of the changing colors. To get a vibrant display of fall foliage cool temperatures are needed during the month of September with sunny days with some rain. Too little rain and dry conditions make the trees drop their leaves too early before the colors appear. Too much rain and wind will also have a detrimental effect on the fall foliage show. But this summer and so far this month the temperatures have been above average. And the forecast outlook is calling for above average temperatures.

The fall foliage predictions and weekly reports are coming soon!

The annual fall foliage show put on my Mother Nature is just weeks away. 

Check back often for fall foliage weekly reports and updates for the North Carolina mountains!

North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage Guidelines and Tips For Viewing

North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage 2016

North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage 2016

The North Carolina mountains fall foliage show starts each year after the first frost and in the highest elevations of the North Carolina mountains.That will be in mountains that range over 4000 feet. Mid level elevations are 3000-4000 feet and typically peak in mid October. The lower elevations below 2000 feet will peak last near the end of October and into early November. The southern mountains in North Carolina are in the lower ranges-areas such as Chimney Rock, Lake Lure and the piedmont area of North Carolina.



Whiteside Mountain

Whiteside Mountain


2016 Peak Color Time Table

Here is a typical schedule for peak colors per elevation for the North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage

  • First week of October (about October 1-10) highest elevations of 4,500’ at peak
  • Mid October (about October 10-16) mid elevations of  4,500’ to 2,500’  at peak
  • Last week of October (about October 16-31) in the Asheville area  lower elevations 2,500′ – 2,000’) 
  • Late October and early November (about October 24- November 5) areas south of Asheville such as the Chimney Rock area with elevations at or below 1,500′ at peak

Typically the start of the North Carolina mountains fall foliage color change start to take place after the first frost usual in late September in the highest elevations of the NC mountains those areas north of the Asheville area. Look for the color show to begin in the elevations above 5,000 ft such as  Clingmans Dome,  Mt. LeConte, Cataloochee and Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains. Grandfather Mountain and the Boone area will start to show color in the highest elevations as well as Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, and Rough Ridge along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 The First Frost Starts The Show

The key to the start of peak color changes is when the first frost occurs. Peak colors happened just days after the first frost in any given elevation. Lowest temperatures/frost occurs in the highest elevations first and then progresses down to the lower elevations. So peak color times happen in the highest elevations (over 4000ft) first and work down to the lower elevations. Color changes can start in late September and continue into early November depending on the elevation and the weather.

Linn Cove Viaduct near near Boone a great NC fall foliage trip.

Linn Cove Viaduct near near Boone a great NC fall foliage trip.

The North Carolina Travel  webcams page has some nice webcam links to Asheville, Biltmore and Boone that shows some pretty fall foliage views during the fall months.

Where to go to view NC mountains fall foliage:
  • Great Smoky Mountains
  • Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Grandfather Mountain
  • Highlands and Cashiers area
  • Asheville area
  • Mt. Mitchell
  • Boone, Blowing Rock and West Jefferson areas
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Chimney Rock State Park
A typical North Carolina mountains fall foliage season

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). Then 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 but in the lower elevations across the piedmont to the coast the fall foliage show can last thru last November.

NC Fall Foliage Map by the Depart. Of Biology at Appalachian State University Showing Typical Peak Colors Time Table
NC Fall Foliage Map (Conceived by Howard Neufeld and Michael Denslow, Map Constructed by Michael Denslow)

NC Fall Foliage Map (Conceived by Howard Neufeld and Michael Denslow,
Map Constructed by Michael Denslow)

Great places to view North Carolina fall foliage would be:

Clingmans Dome off US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains (between Cherokee and Gatlinburg) Elevation of 6,643 feet.

The Blue Ridge Parkway where overlooks offer long-range panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Craggy Gardens at Milepost 365.

Mount Mitchell –  in Yancy County, NC. Has an elevation of 6,684 feet and is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

Grandfather Mountain – near Linville, North Carolina. Has an elevation of 5,946 feet. Just south of Boone.

The typical best times to plan a trip to view North Carolina Mountains fall foliage by regions and 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


If planning a trip to view the NC mountains to view fall foliage here is a general guide and timeline by week:

October 4-10

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 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain and Rough Ridge.

October 8-18

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.

October 15-24
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.

October 20-30
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 Asheville is also at peak leaf color during the later part of October.

October 24-November 5
The fall foliage 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. In late October and early November the fall foliage show makes its way across the piedmont region such as  Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point, Raleigh and then spreading to Eastern North Carolina. The North Carolina coast has few hardwood tress so there isn’t much color change in the coastal region of the state.

Why North Carolina is a great place to view fall foliage

In the mountains of North Carolina the annual fall foliage show starts in late September and spreads across the state into early November. If traveling in North Carolina in the fall there will always be an opportunity to view some lovely scenes of leaves changing colors somewhere in the state. North Carolina is lucky to have about 4-6 weeks in the autumn to undergo this fall foliage show of nature as the warm days of summer slowly change into the cold days of winter. 

Falls colors video in the Asheville area…