Forecast: The number one question is: “When is the peak color?” No matter when you plan an autumn visit in October or early November, you can take a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or other mountain roads to find the best color of fall leaves. Elevation and weather are the biggest factors in the color show. Leaves begin their color change on the highest peaks and gradually work down to the lowest elevations. An early frost speeds up the show and warm weather prolongs it.
Where to Find Color Week-by-Week 2017
- October 3-12: Highest elevations north of Asheville above 5,000 feet show the most color, especially in the Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain, Rough Ridge, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard Fields areas.
- October 10-20: Color will increase in elevations greater than 4,000 feet, including the areas near Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, and Devil's Courthouse southwest of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will also be peak color in the Cashiers area, including Whiteside Mountain with the Shadow of the Bear and plenty of waterfalls to enjoy, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- October 18-25: Many of the surrounding mountains around Asheville show plenty of color, especially in the 3,000-4,000 foot elevation range. Take the Parkway north or south from Asheville or drive the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. A great hike in Pisgah National Forest would be Looking Glass Rockor Cradle of Forestry. North of Asheville, head to Banner Elk and Linville Gorge with hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain. West of Asheville, Bryson City and Fontana Lake areas will peak.
- October 22-30: The city of Asheville (2,000 feet elevation) shows the brightest colors including Biltmore Estate, along with areas around Sylva and Saluda. This is the perfect time for a waterfall hike in DuPont State Forest or leisurely walk at the NC Arboretum.
- October 27-November 5: The color show fills the Hickory Nut Gorge at Chimney Rock (elevation of 1,300 feet). Take a boat tour on Lake Lure. Also explore Lake James and South Mountains State Parks.
- November 1-8: The foothills around Rutherfordton and the Tryon Foothills Wine Country will conclude the color show.