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 foliage color. There’s just nothing like an autumn hike in western North Carolina’s rolling Appalachians.

Top fall foliage hikes near Asheville and in the Western NC mountains: our favorite trails

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. (And for even more autumn beauty, check out our top ten Asheville hikes within 40 miles for more of our favorite adventures near town.)

Our top 10 fall leaf hikes near Asheville

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!

Asheville fall foliage 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 foliage color in WNC, and the science behind fall leaf color.

Fall hiking safety

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