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.

9/25/2017 Fall Foliage Predictions For 2017!

The fall foliage predictions for 2017 are in! The prediction by the experts for this year’s fall foliage show 2017 is for an average showing. This is due to a summer with moderate temperatures and no drought conditions. But don’t be upset just yet because an average fall foliage season in North Carolina is still worth a trip to the mountains. If the weather for Semptember has a lot of sunny days along with cool nights then that will help bring some good color for this autumn. This year’s fall foliage is about a week ahead of a typical fall foliage season. Grandfather Mountain is at peak now due to the very high elevations. Look for the early beginning of our fall foliage show to begin first in the dogwood trees, red maples and sourwoods. In fact the dogwood trees are already started showing some purple and orange colors to their leaves. Next to appear will be the gold, orange, yellow and red colors in the walnut, tulip poplar, maples, beech and birch trees. The very last to show colors are the oaks with the dark red and brown colors of autumn.

North Carolina Mountain Fall Colors
North Carolina Mountains Fall Colors

The fall foliage season in Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains (the Southern Appalachian mountain chain) is one of the longest fall foliage seasons on the East Coast. This is due to so many different species of trees in our mountains. With so many more different species of trees as compared to the areas in the far north the fall foliage season in the North Carolina mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains can last as long as 8 weeks! And with the many different levels of elevations across the mountain chain in Western NC and on the Blue Ridge Parkway there is always a nice showing of color somewhere to enjoy during the fall foliage months.



To get Fall Foliage Weekly Reports and Updates for the North Carolina Mountains

visit North Carolina Travel/North Carolina Mountains Fall Foliage


To get Fall Foliage Weekly Reports and Updates for the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive

visit Travel Blue Ridge Parkway/Fall Foliage


To get Fall Foliage Weekly Reports and Updates for the Great Smoky Mountains

visit Great Smoky Mountains Guide/Fall Foliage



Peak Fall Foliage Color in the North Carolina Mountains

NC Fall Colors
NC Fall Colors 2017

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

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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