2017 Fall Color Report for the NC Mountains: Week 3

Entering mid-October, elevations above 4,500 feet around Asheville sparkle as the tops of the mountains are crowned in gold tones, with orange and red splashes of color as well. It’s Week 3 of the beautiful fall season in western North Carolina and we’re just getting started! Let’s explore!

The weather has been very interesting this year…not only did we get a visit from Hurricane Irma in mid-September, but Hurricane Nate swung by this past Sunday. Was there any damage? A little bit at very high elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It has been cleared and cleaned up. Are there still leaves on the trees? YES. In fact, the autumn colors are just getting started around here, thanks to some unusually warm weather and rain. Immediately around Asheville, greens still dominate the landscape, and some of the early changing trees have dropped their leaves. So it almost feels like we’re getting a second Fall, which is nice! Birches, hickories, Carolina silverbells and sassafras trees are all starting to change, but real color is above 4,500 feet. Places anticipated to peak over the next week or two include Grandfather Mountain, Mount Pisgah and just below Mount Mitchell.

For our destination drives the week of October 10-16, we go both north and south on the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Mt. Pisgah in the fall [Photo Credit: Kewp | Wikimedia Commons]

Daytrip Destination Drive #1: Mt. Pisgah. You see the word “Pisgah” (pronounced “PIZZ-guh”) a lot around these parts: Pisgah National Forest, Pisgah Brewing Company (awesome place, by the way), and of course, Mt. Pisgah, which is named after the place from which Moses saw the Promised Land. In fact, “Pisgah” in Hebrew translates to “summit” or “peak.” So now that you have that little piece of trivia under your belt, check out Asheville’s Mt. Pisgah, accessible via a trail off the parking lot near Milepost 407.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, southeast of Asheville. There is a great two-mile hike to the summit, which affords spectacular views. And don’t forget to make lunch or dinner reservations at the delightful Pisgah Inn. See, tons of stuff named “Pisgah.”

Alternative Destination: Fryingpan Tower. The area around Mt. Pisgah can sometimes be a bit busy, so for a lighter crowd experience, try the nearby Fryingpan Tower hike, which (shh) has better views than Mt. Pisgah. Just drive a short distance further past Mt. Pisgah’s parking lot to the entrance to Forest Service Rd 450, at Milepost 409.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Crabtree Falls [Photo Credit: jdshepard | Wikimedia Commons]

Daytrip Destination Drive #2: Crabtree Falls. Oh my, do we love this waterfall. The three-mile Crabtree Falls Hike is fairly moderate, so be prepared for some steep terrain in some sections of the trail, but you are rewarded with the sight of a gorgeous waterfall and that makes the post-hike sore legs worth it. To get there, take Highway 70 east out of historic Old Fort, and turn onto Highway 80, a beautiful drive itself. When you come to the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn north (right) and look for the Crabtree Falls signs near Milepost 339.

Alternative Destination: Green Knob Fire Tower. So if you’re feeling waterfall’d out, or want a less crowded trail near Crabtree Falls, we highly recommend Green Knob, which has views and a fire tower (top is closed, bummer!). To access this hiking trail, head south (left) when you turn off of Highway 80 onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and look for a parking lot near Milepost 350. You’ll see Green Knob above you across the road. With the parking lot at your back, turn right and walk up the road a little ways and look for the trailhead marker across the road. Be careful crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway on foot.

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