The state of North Carolina is beautiful all year long, but it’s especially beautiful during the fall months when the leaves begin to change from deep greens to vibrant yellows, rich reds, and burnt oranges. It’s quite the sight to see, so it’s no wonder tens of thousands of people from near and far flock to Western North Carolina for a little leaf peeping.
To help you start planning your trip to see the leaves we’ve put together a list of places to visit that coincide with when their leaves will be changing.
End of September and into early October
Leaves tend to stay pretty green throughout the month of September, but they can start to change at higher elevations around the end of the month going into the first week of October. Even though it can be hit or miss this early on, keep an eye on places that sit around 5,000 ft. or higher.
Where to go:
As the highest point east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell, which reaches 6,684 ft. is typically one of the first places in the state to see changes in the leaves. Keep Mount Mitchell State Park on your radar if you want to try and catch some colors changing early in the season. Make the hike to the summit and you’ll find an expansive observation deck with unparalleled views.
Grandfather Mountain is another early bird when it comes to leaf season thanks to its high elevation. Drive up or hike to the famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge for gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding mountains from the summit. On your way back down the mountain be sure to stop by Mildred’s Grill for a bite to eat and then walk over to the park’s wildlife habitats to see the black bears.
The charming town of Blowing Rock should be on your fall must-visit list no matter what, but it’s also one of the best places to visit to see a little color in early October. Spend some time on Main Street shopping and dining, then make your way to The Blowing Rock for some local history and lore. Tweetsie Railroad is also nearby if you’re looking for a family-friendly activity.
You can also try places like Black Balsam Knob, Max Patch, and Graveyard Fields.
During the middle of the month you’ll typically start to see a lot of color change in most of the western part of the state. If you’re leaf peeping on a weekend around this time expect lots of crowds no matter where you end up, because everyone wants to see the natural beauty.
Where to go:
Linville Falls is one of the state’s most popular natural attractions for hikers and photographers year-round, but come the month of October you can expect to see just about everyone making their way to the gorgeous falls to soak up everything that makes the fall season so special, plus the fresh, crisp mountain air.
Check out the falls and the continue up the road to Wiseman’s View for truly spectacular views of the falls and gorge below. You’ll also be able to look directly across to Table Rock and Hawk’s Bill Mountain. If you stick around ’til dark you might even witness the elusive Brown Mountain Lights phenomenon.
After you’ve visited the falls, gorge, and Wiseman’s View, you’ve got several choices. You can go explore underground caves at Linville Caverns or go sip wine at Linville Falls Winery. Your choice, but I’d do both.
End of October into early November
This is when lower elevations will start to see a drastic changes in the leaves. More than likely we’ll even start to see some vibrant colors in the city at this point.
Where to go:
This may be the one time to go to the Biltmore Estate and not solely focus on the gigantic house. When the leaves are changing the property is absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth the short trip to Asheville. Take your time to explore as much of the property as you can, there are scenic mountain views around every corner.
Fall Foliage Map
There are many factors that can speed up or delay the leaves changing, including drastic changes in temperatures and the amount of rainfall in an area, which makes it hard to pin point the exact days that leaves will be at their peak. However, the Department of Biology at App State put together the 2018 fall foliage map below to give a forecast of when and where they think the leaves will be at their peak this season.
Heading out to check out the leaves? We’d love to see where you end up. Tag us on Instagram @ScoopCharlotte to share your adventures.