Fall Color in the North Carolina Mountains: Week 4

The road to the Inn on Mill Creek, October 20, 2012

Welcome to peak leaf peeping week at our elevation (2,300 feet). This is one of the best autumn color shows that we’ve seen in a few years here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. The fall foliage started out mostly yellow, with hickories, birches and beeches, and now the maples and sassafras are giving us rather striking orange and red hues, and the oaks are now starting to turn as well. Peak colors typically happen at our elevation sometime between October 21-31, and for the past several years, it has been on the later end of that timeframe. This year, Mother Nature decided to switch things up and make it a little earlier.

The fall colors have been cascading in slow-motion down the ridges over the past few weeks, with many areas above 4,000 feet now past peak. However, some sections of the higher elevations are still quite colorful, including parts of Grandfather Mountain and the Linville Gorge/Linville Falls area, as well as Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville.

Here around the Inn on Mill Creek, leaves are quickly turning on Horse Ridge behind the orchard, and the views in the morning as the sun comes up are spectacular as the light hits all the different colors.

Fall colors at the Inn on Mill Creek

The maple tree outside the Maple Tree room is turning nicely now (as are the other maples) and the burning bushes along the slope between the Lake House and Main House are a brilliant red. The butternut trees along the driveway are still holding some of their yellow leaves, but they are quickly falling, leaving Innkeeper Dave with daily leaf blowing duties!

Here are some good places to see color this week and next week:

Biltmore Estate: We recommend scheduling the Architect’s Tour at Biltmore Estate, a specialty guided tour that gives a good background of the construction of Biltmore House, plus you get to (safely) go up on the rooftop to see some amazing views! You can get daytime tickets to Biltmore here at the Inn on Mill Creek at a discounted rate and your ticket will also be good for the following day for free. Please note, on Saturdays, Biltmore Estate does give you a specific time to do the self-guided tour of Biltmore House, which you can arrange at the Guest Services kiosk outside the house.

North Carolina Arboretum: Situated on more than 430 acres just southwest of Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum has great views of the surrounding mountains and more than ten miles of hiking and biking trails. Our favorite is the Bent Creek Trail, which is an easy 1.3-mile trail along Bent Creek. Bent Creek Road is another 1.3-mile trail, paralleling the Bent Creek Trail. It has a gravel surface and is open to bikes and pets on leashes. Bent Creek Trail is only open to foot traffic.

Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain: With a half-mile walking path around it and the Black Mountains providing a colorful backdrop this time of year, Lake Tomahawk is a great place to view fall foliage at the middle elevations. Lake Tomahawk is 15 minutes from the Inn, just northwest of downtown Black Mountain.

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