Find the perfect autumn scene in the mountains near Asheville with our 2019 guide to finding peak fall color.
The Asheville region of the Blue Ridge Parkway is well known for putting on quite a show of color during the fall season. The colors in Western North Carolina typically start showing up around the last week of September and in early October at the highest elevations. Pinpointing the exact timing can be difficult since there are several factors, including the temperatures in the weeks before fall. A hard cold snap can have a quick and dramatic effect on when the leaves turn. So far, the second half of September has been warmer than average –and the green has been holding on a little later than average.
We recommend that if you’re traveling from afar to visit our region, pay attention to the weather in the Asheville area each week. If the warm trend continues, you may want to push back your visit. If you see the temperatures dip down into the 30s and 40s at night, you can expect the color change to start happening. Then it’s time to make your move!
Much like temperature and weather conditions, the elevations play a big role in the timing of the fall color. The wonderful thing about the stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville is that there is such a wide range of elevation differences. This creates a wide window for catching the autumn colors in the region. Driving an hour north or south of Asheville on the Parkway in either direction will have you changing 4,000ft in less than 40 miles.
In regards to timing, you’re pretty much guaranteed to spot some good patches of color if you visit between October 1st and October 21st.
Here’s our guide to various spots along the Parkway near Asheville, categorized by their elevations and respective dates for catching the color for those spots. These dates may fluctuate with the weather conditions but will generally hold true, give or take a few days.
Week 1: High Elevation (Sept 30 – Oct 7th)
The first signs of color will appear at the highest elevations along the Parkway that include the following locations: Mt. Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Mt. Pisgah, Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam Knob, Devil’s Courthouse, Waterrock Knob, and the whole stretch of Parkway between Highway 215 and Richland Balsam.
Week 2: High-mid Elevation (Oct 7th – Oct 14th)
Right after the high elevations have changed, you’ll start to see good color at elevations between 4,000ft – 5,000ft. Some of these locations include Fryingpan Mountain Tower, Pisgah Inn, Rough Ridge Lookout, Beacon Heights, and Skinny Dip Falls.
Week 3: Mid Elevation (Oct 14th – Oct 21st)
The mid-elevations (3,000ft – 4,000ft) will begin to change in this time period. Some of the locations found at this elevation include Crabtree Falls, Rattlesnake Lodge, Price Lake, and Linville Falls.
Week 4 & 5: Low Elevation (Oct 21st – Nov 7th)
The low elevations (2,000ft – 3,000ft) will be colorful near the last week of October. This includes the entire city of Asheville, Grove Park Inn, Folk Art Center, Brevard, Hendersonville, Black Mountain, Looking Glass Falls, the NC Arboretum, and much more.
Find the peak spots and get tips on how to photograph autumn’s colors with a local guide
Finding the best color show each week can be a little challenging, especially if you’re visiting from out of town. Join a local expert guide in finding autumn’s splendor with a tour by WNC Photo Tours. They’ll teach you skills on how to capture fall’s beauty in your photographs, taking you to stunning locations in the mountains near Asheville. For more information, and to book a tour, check out their Fall Color Guided Tours.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.