2020 Fall Color Report for the North Carolina Mountains, Week 5

Elevations above 3,000 are quickly slipping past peak color, but we have lovely bits of fall foliage remaining in our neighborhood of Pisgah National Forest at 2,300 feet in Old Fort, NC. The leaves on our vast number of oak trees are turning now, so look for oranges and reds to start dominating the landscape and read on for the scoop on where color can be found this last week of October.

View across a forest pond with the Inn on Mill Creek in the distance

Take a walk on our boardwalk and check out the view of the Inn from across the pond

While there are some golden hues still visible in spots at elevations above 3,000 feet, most trees are starting to quickly lose their leaves at higher elevations due to an increase in what we call “mountain breezes” (OK, wind gusts) and the aftermath of two days of rain over the weekend. Last week, we bid farewell to most of the dogwood, sourwood, hickory and tulip poplar leaves. However, the maple and sassafras trees are in full color and the oak trees are just starting to change, bringing orange, fire-engine red, and beautiful rust tones to the landscape.

Fingers holding maple leaf with a leaf-covered forest road in the background

On the road to the Inn on Mill Creek, late October

Here are the places to hunt for fall color if you’ll be in our neck of the woods from October 27-November 2:

  • Dupont State Forest: If you’re looking for a daytrip that includes waterfall hikes, head to Dupont State Forest southwest of Asheville, where hiking trails and waterfalls abound on 10,000 acres of protected land. 
  • The North Carolina Arboretum: Set on more than 430 acres, the North Carolina Arboretum has 10 miles of hiking trails, numerous gardens, and plenty of fall color this time of year. Don’t miss the bonsai exhibit — several of the bonsai trees are deciduous and their leaves change right along with their normal-sized counterparts. Also happening at the Arboretum through November 1 is a spectacular LEGO sculpture exhibition, with sculptures all over the grounds of the Arboretum constructed of tens of thousands of LEGO bricks.
  • Biltmore Estate: Biltmore never fails to disappoint in late October, with 8,000 acres, much of it forested. There are walking and hiking trails, bike paths, and nature strolls throughout the estate. Take note, when you make your reservation to stay with us at the Inn on Mill Creek, you will be sent information on how to purchase discounted tickets to Biltmore through a special website. Added Bonus: This time of year, Biltmore is also decorating for its annual Christmas at Biltmore so you can get two holidays in one when you visit. They install and decorate a 35-foot live Fraser fir to kick off their Christmas festivities and that event will be going virtual this year on November 4. Visit Biltmore’s website for details.
  • Toms Creek Falls in Marion: An easy waterfall hike is Toms Creek Falls north of the town of Marion, off of Highway 221 North. This is a beautiful waterfall in the woods, with a trail that leads to a viewing platform at the base of the falls and an optional side trail that gets you near the top of the falls. Lots of late changing trees are in this part of McDowell County, so it’s a great spot to visit in late October.

With a little more rain in the forecast later this week and cool temperatures on the way, it is likely that next week will wrap up our fall color reports for the 2020 fall season. So be sure to check back next week to see where the remaining fall color can be found as we say hello to November – there’s still more to come!

Maple tree with bold color standing out among other trees along a split rail fenced forest road

A bold maple tree greets guests coming to the Inn on Mill Creek in late October

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