2017 Fall Color Report for the NC Mountains: Week 2

It’s been a lovely start to the fall season so far, with pleasant days and cool nights, but a warm end to the first week of October and some rain forecast for the following week may keep color from dashing out of the starting gate at elevations under 5,000 feet. So let’s see where the fall color will shine over the next week or so.

Watch for yellows hues to dot the landscape in early October at high elevations around Asheville, North Carolina. Hickory, birch and other trees with golden-toned leaves step into the fall color show spotlight at elevations above 5,000 feet, where they mingle with evergreen Fraser firs and spruce pines. Here’s a photo shared by Grandfather Mountain on its Facebook page of color there at the start of the month.

Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation [via Grandfather Mountain’s Facebook Page]

Keep an eye out as well for the bright red of Mountain Ash berries this time of year. Do take note that tulip poplars, while starting strong, are experiencing yet another year of more-brown-than-yellow leaf color, but on the bright side, it’s contributing to some really good leaf crunching on various hiking trails, which is always a fun part of the fall season.

We featured Grandfather Mountain in one of last week’s Daytrip Destination Drives, and we head back that direction this week, with Daytrip Destination Drive #1: The Rough Ridge Section of the Tanawha Trail. Fall color always starts early around Grandfather Mountain and a trip around the mountain via the Blue Ridge Parkway’s awesome Linn Cove Viaduct brings you to a parking area near Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 303, where you can hike up to Rough Ridge and get yourself some gorgeous views of the mountains. The 0.8-mile hike is part of a much longer trail called the Tanawha Trail, and our friends at Romantic Asheville Travel Guide have an excellent description of the Rough Ridge section hike, as well as other parts of the Tanawha Trail. Also check out this video from Romantic Asheville Travel Guide from Rough Ridge:

Alternative Destination: Rough Ridge can be a popular hike, so for fewer crowds, give the one-mile Beacon Heights trail at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305.2 a try for similarly great fall color views of the Grandfather Mountain area. It’s near one end of the Tanawha trail, just before the Linn Cove Viaduct if you headed north on the Parkway from the Asheville area.

Daytrip Destination Drive #2: Mount Mitchell State Park. Not only does it have a state park named after it, but Mount Mitchell also gets the title of “Highest Peak in the Eastern United States” at 6,684 feet.

One of the captivating views from Mount Mitchell State Park

The 360-degree views from the top allow you to see a wide variety of trees and is a good vantage point for seeing where the fall color is happening early in the season. A great hike at Mount Mitchell State Park is the first section of the Deep Gap Trail from Mount Mitchell to Mount Craig. That section is about two miles roundtrip.

Alternative Destination: Mount Mitchell State Park can be somewhat busy, but there are several hikes there. For an alternative to the Deep Gap Hike, try the 0.75-mile Balsam Nature Trail, accessible from the park’s Upper Summit Parking Lot.

So… how are things looking at lower elevations closer to Asheville? Here in our neighborhood at 2,300 feet in Pisgah National Forest east of Asheville and Black Mountain, the dogwoods, sourwoods and sumac are providing some red shades here and there while various yellows are just beginning, but we’re still very much in the early stages of fall around these parts. The photo at the very top of this blog post taken of the Inn on Mill Creek was done on October 2. Check in with us next week to see where the color will be happening as we head further into the long fall season!

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