2019 Fall Color Report for the North Carolina Mountains, Week 6

Getting very, very close to peak color around Asheville… finally! Whew. Thought it would never get here. And it’s during Halloween week, which is perfect since the holiday comes with all kinds of fall imagery, including pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. Which, by the way, have you ever seen our carved “pugkin”? Soooo fitting for a B&B with pugs.

pumpkin carved to look like a pug dog's face

So back to fall foliage, the color change is rapidly picking up pace here at 2,300 feet above sea level, and interestingly, it’s hanging on well past the usual peak above 4,000 feet. Check out this photo we took at the Ridge Junction Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Mitchell. Note the viewing elevation – 5,160 feet.

I mean, it’s crazy, but we’re going to suggest some higher-elevation destinations in our recommended spots to see fall foliage at the end of October. That is not normal. But we’re still more than a week behind with fall leaves changing, so here’s where the color’s at this week:

  • Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway about 20 minutes north of Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway is an area called Craggy Gardens, with  mountain ranges called the Craggies. there is a great hike up to Craggy Pinnacle, giving you an awesome view from above 5,000 feet, or you can take another trail from the Visitor’s Center towards the picnic area and check out a neat bald (essentially a meadow atop a mountain, with few trees) that also has nice views. Even the view from the Visitor’s Center itself is pretty nice right now! Check it out:

    views of several mountain ranges in the fall

    Do keep in mind that Craggy Gardens can be very cool at the end of October and it is going to be past peak very soon, so bring layers if you’re going to be out hiking and don’t despair if you see some of the color gone because there is plenty on the drive there from Asheville.

  • Dupont State Forest near Brevard – if you’re ready to get your Fall waterfall hiking fix, check out the many waterfalls that make up Dupont State Forest, southwest of Asheville. Romantic Asheville has a great write-up on Dupont State Forest hikes.
  • Lookout Mountain in Montreat – about 15 minutes away from the Inn on Mill Creek is Montreat, with several hiking trails, including Lookout Mountain (not to be confused with the Point Lookout Greenway near the Inn). Take a short hike up near the pinnacle of Lookout Mountain for a near-365 degree view of our area. But take note that the best views can be seen on the way back down.
  • Roaring Fork Falls near the Blue Ridge Parkway – One of our favorite waterfall hikes, Roaring Fork Falls is just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway, off Hwy 80 near Mt. Mitchell State Park. The hike is along an old Forest Service road, so it’s an easy one with a wonderful waterfall reward at the end. Again, we would not typically recommend it this late in the season, but this year, it’s not late in the season yet.

And we’re now to the section of this year’s weekly fall foliage reports called Seeing the Forest through the Trees, our profile of native trees. This week, it’s a big favorite: the maple tree, with a focus on the Sugar Maple.

leaves on a branch

If you live in the eastern part of North America, you may be familiar with the sugar maple, which grows upwards of 60 to 70 feet tall and provides great shade in the summertime and the added bonus of brilliant fall foliage in autumn. Its leaves can turn different shades of yellow, orange and red, making it a feature player in the fall color show each year. Around here, other than a few early season standouts, you will see many sugar maple leaves turning toward the middle of the season, and they tend to stay on the trees through the later part of October at our elevation. They are a true representative of the fall season in western North Carolina.

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