Hike through western North Carolina's autumn beauty on our top 10 favorite trails to stunning views and the the best fall leaf color near Asheville.

Best fall hikes near Asheville, NC: our top 10 favorite trails through autumn leaf color

Hike through western North Carolina's autumn beauty on our top 10 favorite trails to stunning views and the the best fall leaf color near Asheville.

Cool, crisp autumn breezes. Robin-egg blue skies that seem brighter – and bluer – than in any other season. The crunch of leaves underfoot, and their scent in the air. Wide-open, lofty vistas of the surrounding valleys painted in fall’s vibrant gold, orange and red leaf color. There’s just nothing like an autumn hike in western North Carolina’s rolling Appalachians.

Hike our top 10 favorite fall trails near Asheville to some of western NC's most beautiful autumn leaf color

Fall is our hands-down favorite hiking season, a celebration of the departure of summertime’s heat and the onset of crisp, cool days. Hike our top ten favorite autumn hikes near Asheville, exploring some of Western North Carolina’s most exceptional views from towering mountaintops, craggy mountainsides and a few of WNC’s famed, historic fire lookout towers. Take a hike on NC’s stretch of the Appalachian Trail, chase waterfalls framed in autumn’s colorful hues, or catch picturesque vistas from view-packed, grassy mountain balds.

Asheville fall leaf change: when to hike?

Because elevations vary widely across western North Carolina, peak foliage season will vary throughout the WNC mountains near Asheville. Fall leaf change will start with the highest-elevation mountain summits like Mount Mitchell in early autumn, will move down to lower elevations like Catawba Falls later in the season. Most of western NC sees peak leaf color in October. Check out this fantastic guide to fall color near Asheville for predictions of peak leaf color in WNC, and the science behind fall leaf color.

Our top 10 favorite fall leaf hikes in western NC

Don’t forget to pack water, hiking gear essentials and multiple layers: WNC’s mountain summits can be downright cold in autumn, even on a warm Asheville fall day. Explore each trail’s info page to view detailed trail info, interactive trail maps, driving directions to the trailhead and our favorite photos from each hike. And when you capture your favorite fall shots, don’t forget to tag your photos with #ashevilletrails on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter… we’d love to see them!

Hike the Art Loeb Trail in western North Carolina in autumn to the brilliant white, quartz-crusted Shining Rock Mountain summit

SHINING ROCK WILDERNESS IN FALL

Shining Rock Mountain via Black Balsam Knob

Hike mile after rolling mile through autumn’s beauty on the Art Loeb Trail, one of western NC’s most scenic trails. The trail climbs from the Blue Ridge Parkway, summiting the view-packed balds at Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, clad in golden fall grasses. Then summit the brilliant, white, quartz-crusted summit of Shining Rock Mountain, grabbing exceptional views of the autumn-hued surrounding balds.

10 MILES

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Hike the Graveyard Fields Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway in fall, catching views of Graveyard's waterfalls framed in fall leaf color

FALL WATERFALL HIKE OFF THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

Graveyard Fields Trail

Chase waterfalls at Graveyard Fields in fall for a chance to catch views of these ultra-popular falls framed in stunning fall leaf color. Autumn’s hues descend early in the Graveyard Fields valley – so add this hike to the early-fall bucket list.

3.3 MILES

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Hike Rough Ridge at Grandfather Mountain in fall to catch gorgeous, colorful autumn leaf color

AUTUMN HIKES ON THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

Rough Ridge on the Tanawha Trail

Hike through fragile, rare mountain flora and over craggy, angular rock outcrops on the Tanawha Trail at Rough Ridge, exploring Grandfather Mountain’s middle elevations. This Rough Ridge hike catches gorgeous views of the surrounding landscape, swathed in vibrant leaf color, in early autumn.

1.2 MILES

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Hike Whiteside Mountain near Highlands, NC to stunning, high-elevation leaf color and some of western NC's most breathtaking views

BREATHTAKING FALL VIEWS NEAR HIGHLANDS

Whiteside Mountain Trail

Hike a moderate two-miler near Highlands, NC, scaling to view after exceptional view from the sheer-sided, lofty Whiteside Mountain summit. It’s a beautiful hike in any season, but a seasonal right of passage in autumn – so plan for an early weekday hike if crowd avoidance is a priority. Crowded or not, the views from this trail are simply unforgettable.

2 MILES

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Hike the Pickens Nose Trail to catch beautiful long-range views of fall leaf color

LOFTY FALL VIEWS NEAR THE NC BORDER

Pickens Nose Trail

Hike this oddly named peak, located just off the Appalachian Trail near Albert Mountain, to stunning long-range views and abundant autumn leaf color. Views from the mountain’s towering, jagged rock outcrops stretch far and wide, with Georgia’s Black Rock Mountain on the far horizon.

1.5 MILES

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Hike the Beacon Heights Trail in autumn to beautiful views of nearby Grandfather Mountain draped in fall's colorful leaves

COLORFUL GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN VIEWS

Beacon Heights Trail

It’s short but oh-so-scenic. Hike the Beacon Heights Trail, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, to gorgeous views of nearby Grandfather Mountain draped in fall’s colorful leaves.

.8 MILE

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Hike Roan Mountain in autumn, catching nearly continuous views from the grassy bald mountains on the Roan Highlands and gorgeous fall views

ROAN HIGHLANDS IN FALL

Roan Mountain on the Appalachian Trail

Hike the longest continuous stretch of grassy bald mountains in the Appalachians, following the Appalachian Trail through golden fall grasslands on Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald in the Roan Highlands. Views from this bald mountain trio are nearly continuous, exceptional 360-degree panoramas. It’s one of our favorite western North Carolina hikes in any season – but somehow even more magical in autumn’s golden hues.

4.7 MILES

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Hike Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC to stunning autumn views from the knobby summit of The Pinnacle

PANORAMIC VIEWS FROM A KNOBBY CRAG

Pinnacle Park: hiking The Pinnacle in Sylva

An extension of the view-studded Plott Balsam Range, this craggy stub of towering rock near Sylva, NC offers exceptional views from its summit. Hike Pinnacle Park to The Pinnacle, and soak in some sublime autumn views from its knobby summit.

6.5 MILES

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Scale Grandfather Mountain on the Grandfather Profile Trail to some of western North Carolina's most beautiful fall views

HIGH-ELEVATION VIEWS NEAR BOONE, NC

Grandfather Mountain Profile Trail

Scale to the rocky, lofty summit of Calloway Peak, the highest point on Grandfather Mountain’s imposing ridgeline. Views from the Grandfather summit are vast and sweeping, stretching over nearby Rough Ridge and Beacon Heights to mile after mile of western NC mountain beauty.

6.2 MILES

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Hike the Appalachian Trail to the Siler Bald summit, catching exceptional fall panoramic views

AUTUMN ADVENTURE ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Siler Bald from Wayah Gap

Hike the Appalachian Trail from Wayah Gap, climbing through a hardwood forest bathed in fall’s showy golden colors. Then summit the grassy, tree-barren summit of Siler’s Bald, catching extensive views of the surrounding peaks in the Nantahala National Forest speckled in reds, golds, and greens.

3.6 MILES

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Hiking gear list: what to pack on day hikes, our favorite, trail-tested gear

WHAT TO PACK?

Hiking gear list: our favorite, trail-tested gear

Ready to hit the trail, but wondering what to pack? Our hiking gear list details our favorite, trail-tested hiking gear that we’ve used – and loved – over thousands of miles on the trails throughout the South. From backpacks to safety gear (and a few extras thrown in for fun), our gear list offers the essentials to help inspire your own packing list.

SEE OUR HIKING GEAR LIST

Bonus adventures: more great fall leaf hikes near Asheville

Hike our top 10 favorite fall leaf color trails in Georgia to stunning summit views and waterfalls framed in autumn's golden hues

ACROSS THE NORTH CAROLINA BORDER

Our favorite fall leaf hikes in North Georgia

It’s time for an autumn road trip! Chase more fall adventures on our favorite fall hikes in North Georgia, scaling to beautiful views on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and hiking to some of Georgia’s best waterfalls framed in autumn’s colorful show.

1-16 MILES

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Fall hiking safety

Autumn coincides with hunting seasons in some western North Carolina counties and areas. Hike safely: follow these guidelines for safe hunting season hiking.

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.