Fall Colors In North Carolina

Fall colors in North Carolina will start appearing in late September in the Great Smoky Mountains and the North Carolina mountains. The annual NC fall foliage show starts in the higher elevations in Western North Carolina and in the Great Smoky Mountains in late September. The colors spreads east across the state into the lower elevations all the way through November. If traveling in North Carolina in the autumn there will always be an opportunity to view the changing fall colors somewhere in the state. North Carolina is fortunate to have about 4-6 weeks in the autumn to undergo this show of nature as the warm days of summer transition into the cold days of winter.  Each year the North Carolina mountains puts on a beautiful show of fall colors and with all the different elevations in the different mountain regions of Western North Carolina there is a lot of areas to travel to during October to see the beautiful fall foliage show that nature provides.

NC Mountains Fall Foliage Reports and Weekly Updates for 2016

10/25/16 Fall Foliage Report and Update: The fall colors have really taken off this past week in the mountains of North Carolina.  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 5000 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, Franklin 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. There have been lots of tourist to the North Carolina mountain this past week and weekend.  The weather has been just perfect for taking a ride in the mountains to see the beautiful colors.  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 next several days will still be fine to take a ride on the parkway to see the fall foliage. 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. That would include Grandfather Mountain, Boone, Blowing Rock, Linn Cove Viaduct, Craggy Gardens, Waterrock Knob, and Devil’s Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  All the different types of trees are showing a wide range of color  like red, maroon, orange, russet, gold and yellow this year. Many are saying this year’s display of color is much better than the last several years.  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. Chimney Rock, 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.

10/4/2016 Peak Colors This Week Near Boone:Colors will be at peak this week 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.  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 the US and North Carolina. It’s a large and powerful hurricane. It may bring 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. Before planning any trips this weekend please pay attention to the weather reports for North Carolina.

9/29/2016 Fall Foliage Weekly Report: Fall colors are finally starting to make an appearance in the mountains north of Asheville. Grandfather Mountain is showing a lot of color in the elevations above 5000 feet. Grandfather Mountain is one of the first areas in the mountains of North Carolina to show color due to its high elevation. The longer nights, the cooler nighttime temperatures and the sunny days of recent are all ideal conditions to set the fall foliage season in motion.  Night time temperatures are now in the forties in the mountain regions. The recent rain showers will prevent early loss of leaves caused by dry conditions. More leaves equal more color. 

North Carolina Mountain Fall Colors
North Carolina Mountain Fall Colors

Areas with the highest elevations (over 5,500 are reported to be almost at peak already! Black Balsam Knob (elevation 6214 ft) offers quite a view. 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 North Carolina mountains will be in areas north of Asheville. These areas include Boone, Banner Elk and Blowing Rock. 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). There are also reports of the mid elections starting to show a hint of color. So the fall foliage show in the North Carolina mountains are well underway!

 9/14/2016 Fall foliage predictions are in for the North Carolina Mountains! 

The fall foliage experts are predicting this year’s fall foliage season in North Carolina  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.

NC Fall Foliage 2016 Reports
NC Fall Foliage 2016 Reports

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!


NC Fall Colors
NC Fall Colors

The key to the start of the fall colors is when the first frost occurs. Peak colors happened just days after the first frost in any given elevation. Lowest temperatures/frost occur in the highest elevations first and then progresses down to the lower elevations. So peak color happens in the highest elevations (over 4000ft) first and then work down to the lower elevations. Color changes usually start in late September and continue into early November depending on the elevation and the weather. In North Carolina there is usually a 4-6 weeks window of opportunity to few the fall colors due to the varied elevations in the NC mountains.


The Travel NC web cam page has some nice webcam links to Asheville, Biltmore and Boone

that shows some pretty fall colors during the fall months. Take a look!

Great places to view North Carolina fall colors would be:

Clingmans Dome off US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains (between Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN) 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 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 weather. The warmer the weather the slower the progression but an early frost will speed up the color change show.

Boone, Blowing Rock and Banner Elk– north of Asheville. The Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 304 is the most photographed site on the parkway.

Chimney Rock State Park – located at Chimney Rock in Rutherford County, NC. Near Lake Lure and just 25 miles south of Asheville.

Whiteside Mountain– between Cashiers and Highland in Jackson County, NC. Whiteside Mountain is part of the Nantahala National Forest. Has an elevation of 4,930 feet.

Jefferson and West Jefferson – located in Ashe County and situated in the Appalachian Mountains. Mount Jefferson has an elevation of 4,665′. A view from the top of Mount
Jefferson offers a beautiful view of the towns of Jefferson and West Jefferson down below.

NC Fall Foliage 2013
NC Fall Foliage Weekly Reports and Updates 2016

Where to go to view NC Fall Colors:

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). The second to third week elevations above 4000 feet start the change. Mid October the fall foliage 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 colors show can last thru last November.

The typical best times to plan a trip to view North Carolina Mountains fall colors 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 the fall colors and the fall foliage show here is a general guide:

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.

See fall foliage in the NC Mountains…

And from South Mountains State Park…


Make plans to enjoy the NC Fall Colors this year! 

It’s just too pretty to miss!

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