Fall Foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The fall foliage season is a beautiful show each year along the Blue Ridge Parkway.The fall foliage changes start in the higher elevations typically about the first week of October and will work its way down to the lower elevations in mid November. Due to the varied elevations of the mountain ranges along the Blue Ridge Parkway you can always find the best show of color somewhere in the fall months of October and November. The biggest factors involved in the changing colors of the foliage are elevation and the weather. The warmer the weather the slower the progression but an early frost will speed up the color change show as well as cold nights.
Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Foliage Reports and Weekly Updates for 2017
9/19/2017 Fall Foliage Predictions For 2017!
The fall foliage predictions for 2017 are in with the general consenus amoung the experts predicting this year’s fall foliage season to be average. This is because of our summer weather having moderate temperatures and enough rain that helped prevent a drought. Even an average fall foliage season is still a good one and it is just a prediction. If the weather cooperates this month it could help improve the fall foliage showing. If the weather in September brings a lot of sunny days in combination with cool nights then that will help. Look for the fall foliage show to begin along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the dogwood trees, red maples and sourwoods. In fact the dogwood trees are already showing some orange and pale red colors. The next colors to appear are the gold, orange, yellow and red colors to show in the walnut, tulip poplar, maples, beech and birch trees. The last to show colors are oaks with the dark red, purple and brown colors. The fall foliage season along the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the longest fall foliage seasons. This is due to the diversity of species of trees in the area. The Southern Appalachian mountain chain that runs thru Virginia, Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains have more than 130 different species of trees. In this area the fall foliage season can last as long as 8 weeks. The New England area has only about a 2-3 weeks fall foliage season due to the fact that there is fewer spicies of trees.
With the many different levels of elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounding areas there is always a nice showing of color somewhere during the fall foliage months. On the blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, leaves will start to change first near the end of September at these locations: Craggy Gardens, Graveyard Fields, Waterrock Knob and Grandfather Mountain. Then colors start work their way down to mid elevations. Peak color is generally in mid to late October. Elevations along Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway range from 1300ft to over 5000ft depending on the location. This makes a ride on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina a perfect place to view the fall foliage in the autumn. Somewhere along the Skyline and Parkway in October there is always some colorful fall foliage to view. Weekly reports are coming very soon so you will know when and where to go to see peak colors.
The fall foliage show always start in the highest elevations in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia and continue to spread down through the lower elevations into early November. The North Carolina and Virginia mountain ranges along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive have a wide variety of elevations. These varying elevations spread out the fall foliage show over a 4-6 weeks period.
The key to the start of peak color changes is when the first frost occurs. Peak colors happened just days after the first frost in any given elevation. Lowest temperatures/frost occurs in the highest elevations first and then progresses down to the lower elevations. So peak color times happen in the highest elevations (over 4000ft) first and work down to the lower elevations. Color changes can start in late September and continue into early November depending on the elevation and the weather.
Here is a map from the Virginia Department of Forestry for Typical Fall Foliage Dates In Virginia
Here is a Map Showing Typical Fall Foliage Dates for the North Carolina Mountains
Check back often for weekly fall foliage reports starting soon so you will know when and where to go to see the leaves change colors along this beautiful stretch of highway.
Tips On Viewing The Annual Fall Foliage Show Along The Parkway
- A great tip when planning a ride to the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive during the fall foliage season is to not concentrate your trip to just one area. Plan to drive a few hours in one direction going either north or south. This way you will travel through different elevations. As you wind around the mountains you will be able to see east and west-facing mountains. This way you will get a better chance of seeing peak and near peak colors.
- Colors start to change after the first frost in the highest elevations first. The highest elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina are Grandfather Mountains, Craggy Gardens and Graveyard Fields.
- With so many different elevations along Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway almost anywhere you go during the middle to late October you will see peak colors somewhere.
- Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and located in Virginia. The elevations in this area are not as high as the elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long across Virginia and North Carolina. North Carolina mountain ranges have the highest elevations. Color changes will take place here first.
- Know the weather before you make any travel plans. If storms, rain or fog are in the forecast the colors will be muted in photos. Try to pick a clear sunny day to view the fall foliage. Pictures on clear sunny days will result in more colorful pictures.
Great areas to view the Blue Ridge Parkway fall foliage show are:
Hawksbill Mountain – elevation of 4,051 ft with the summit of Hawksbill Mountain the highest point in the Shenandoah National Park.
Humpback Mountain – elevation of 3,080 with a massive greenstone outcrop near the peak of Humpback Mountain.
Mabry Mill – a watermill located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 176.2 in
Floyd County, Virginia. It is a popular tourist attraction on the parkway because of the watermill and in the fall the setting is a great place to take pictures.
Old Rag Mountain – summit elevation of 3,291 feet (1,003 m), located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Madison County, Virginia.
Neighbor Mountain is a mountain in Page and Rappahannock Counties, Virginia, Neighbor Mountain summit is in Page County in the Shenandoah National Park. Elevation level is 2612 feet.
Pignut Mountain – in Rappahannock County, Virginia. Elevation is 2535 ft. The mountain is entirely undeveloped. There are no trails or roads leading up the mountain but overlooks have beautiful views of the mountain.
Knob Mountain – in Page County, Virginia. The summit is located inside the Shenandoah National Park with an elevation of 2,671 ft. Jeremy’s Run Overlook on Skyline Drive is a great place to view Knob Mountain.
● Skyline Drive
A scenic 106 mile drive through the Shenandoah National Park with 75 overlooks that offer panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the rolling Virginia hills of the Piedmont region to the east. While driving along Skyline Drive it is quite common to see deer, black bear, wild turkey, and other animals that call the Shenandoah National Park home.
Clingmans Dome -is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with an elevation of 6,643 feet. The observation tower at Clingmans
Dome can have spectacular 360° views of the Great Smoky Mountains. On clear days views can reach over 100 miles, but most days the view is limited to about 20 miles due to air pollution, clouds, rain or fog.
Mt. LeConte – with an elevation of 6,593 feet. It is the third highest summit in the Great Smoky Mountains. The three peaks of Mt. LeConte can be seen for miles around including Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley, Tennessee.
● Asheville NC area
Biltmore Estate, Winery, Gardens and Antler Village
● Boone and West Jefferson area
Grandfather Mountain – near Linville, North Carolina with an elevation of 5,946 feet. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the south side of Grandfather Mountain. Exit at Milepost 305 on the Blue Ridge Parkway to get to Grandfather Mountain.
Mt. Jefferson State Park – West Jefferson, NC in Ashe County. Mt Jefferson has an elevation of 4,660 ft.
● Blue Ridge Parkway
Normally about the very last of September or the first or second week of
October the leaves start changing in the highest elevations (above 5000 feet). The second to third week elevations above 4000 feet start the change. Mid October the show is well underway and include the 3000-4000 feet elevation areas. By late October and early November the lower elevations of 1300 feet are changing. By the second week in November the peak season and the show is all but past for the mountain regions of North Carolina and Virginia.
The typical best times to plan a trip to view fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway based on the past years would be:
● Western Virginia – Early October
● Central Virginia and Lower Mountain Elevations – Late October to Mid November
● Western North Carolina Highest Elevations – Late September to Early October
● Western North Carolina – Mid October
● Western to Central North Carolina – Mid October to Late October
If planning a trip to view the Blue Ridge Parkway fall foliage here is a week by week guide:
North of Asheville in the highest elevations above 5,000 feet is where the fall foliage show begins and is where the most color typically occurs.These areas include Mount Mitchell, Craggy Gardens, Grandfather Mountain and Rough Ridge.
Shenandoah National Park in the highest elevations such as Hawksbill Mountain. Fall foliage color in North Carolina will then start to appear in elevations about 4,000 feet in elevation. Areas including Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, Devil’s Courthouse, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard Field. Peak color also occurs in this time period for the Highlands area, including Whiteside Mountain.
Humpback Mountain and Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. In the surrounding mountains of Asheville there is plenty of color in the 2,000-3,000 foot elevation range. A ride north or south on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville will be a beautiful trip about this week. A ride thru the Pisgah National Forest (Looking Glass Rock or Cradle of Forestry) normally is a great trip. North of Asheville in the Linville Gorge would be a nice fall foliage driving trip up toward Blowing Rock and Boone.
Shenandoah National Park in the lower elevations like Neighbor Mountain and Knob Mountain. The city of Asheville at the 2,000 feet elevation have the peak colors during this time period, as well as areas around Hendersonville and Brevard. DuPont State Forest or the NC Arboretum are great places to enjoy the fall foliage colors. The Biltmore Estate in Ashville is also at peak leaf color during the later part of October.
October 24-November 5
Central Virginia areas like Charlottesville and Roanoke near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The color show nears its end in North Carolina in the Chimney Rock area with an elevation of 1,300 feet. Visit Chimney Rock and Lake Lure for a last look at the beautiful fall foliage season in the North Carolina mountains.
Take a look at some fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway in October…
Fall Foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway! Too pretty to miss this year or any year!