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
10/27/17 Fall Foliage Report and Updates: The fall foliage has finally spread into the lower elevations and into the valleys along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is now open after some sections had to be closed for repairs after heavy rain earlier in the week. But now the parkway IS OPEN IN ALL AREAS. The higher elevations have dropped their leaves by now. But the mid and lower elevations look colorful. The mid and lower elevations that have nice color include south of Asheville at the North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville and Biltmore Estate, and on the parkway toward Cherokee. Many of the overlooks located on the parkway offer long range views They make a great place to stop and get some fall foliage pictures. North of Asheville the lower elevations are also turning a nice gold, yellow, orange and some reds in the trees. Chimney Rock State Park would normally by late October be covered in fall colors but the park is CLOSED. A retaining wall collapsed last Monday after heavy rains and the parking lot was heavily damaged.
In Virginia the fall colors have also progressed into the mid elevations. Due to recent rain the higher elevations here have also dropped much of their leaves. Mountain areas with elevations below 3000 feet have about 75% color. Red and sugar maples have turned orange and red. The hickory trees are full of golds and yellows. The lower elevations and valleys have still a lot of green color. In the Shenandoah National Park the hickories are bright golden-yellow. The maples are orange, deep red and purple. Good places to go are Stony Man Overlook at mile 38.6 on Skyline Drive, also good color reported between mile 56.4 to South River Overlook at mile 62.4, and nice color from mile 70 thru 79.
Rain and much colder temperature are in the forecast. Night time temperatures are expected to reach into the 30’s. This weekend and next week may be the final days of this year’s fall foliage show. It may not have been the best year for color but it sure was an interesting autumn with the warm temperatures and the slow start. Enjoy the last several days of the fall foliage season before the holiday season arrives! The Christmas Tree on the grounds of Biltmore Estate in Asheville has already been put up! Christmas at Biltmore starts on November 4th!
10/21/17 Fall Foliage Report and Updates: Right now the best color to see on the Blue Ridge Parkway are in the areas at 3000 feet. Good places to go now are Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest, Mt. Pisgah at MP 408, Mount Mitchell, Table Rock and Hawksbill, Linville Falls and Linville near Boone and Maggie Valley and DuPont State Forest. There is a lot of gold and yellow colors this year with some red colors in the maple and dogwood trees. Due to all the warm weather over the last 2 months the colors are not vibrant and as pretty but it’s still a nice showing of colors. The warm weather and clear blue skies have made it nice to travel and enjoy the parkway this month. There is a cold front moving in the middle of this week. There may be snow in the very highest elevations of the NC mountains too! Rain is also on the way. The cold temperatures will speed up the spread of color into the lower elevations. The next two weeks should still offer a nice showing of color in the mid and lower elevations. Very late October and the first weeks of November will bring fall colors into the lowest elevations in areas of Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, South Mountain State Park, Biltmore and Biltmore Estates. Don’t give up yet, there is still more of the fall foliage show to enjoy.
In Virginia the warm weather has also made colors a little dull. There is a lot of yellow and gold in the trees, but not much red and maroons except in the maple and dogwood trees and wild flowers. Most areas over 3000 ft have dropped their leaves. Areas under 3000 ft are showing some good color along Skyline Drive and the BRP in VA. A cold front moves thru this Wednesday bringing much colder temperatures. This will speed up the spread of color. The next two weeks should still be a nice showing of color along the parkway in Western Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Areas still to peak are at the Peaks of Otter, Roanoke Valley, Smith Mountains Lake, Mabry Mills and the Shenandoah National Park.
This weekend is the busiest weekend of the year for the parkway with many people here to see the fall foliage. The Fall colors will continue to spread into the lower elevations into the first weeks of November. The colors may not be as vibrant or as varied this year but there is still a lot of color to enjoy along the parkway. The next two weeks still should provide a nice fall foliage showing in the middle and lower elevations. It’s not too late to take that ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. See below Great areas to view the Blue Ridge Parkway fall foliage show information to see all the best places to see the fall foliage along the parkway including milepost markings and area descriptions.
10/11/2017: Fall Foliage Report and Updates: The Blue Ridge Parkway is now open all the way after all cleanup has been completed after the remnants of Nate caused a mess. Areas along the parkway that are over 5500 ft in elevation are without leaves or the leaves are brown. The best color now is in the elevations at 4000 ft range. There is a lot of gold color but the reds and oranges are starting to show up also. The rain from Nate was good for the rest of the fall foliage season. The green leaves that were slow to change due to the warm temperatures now have a great chance to end up making the last two weeks in October a pretty fall foliage showing. Peaking or near peak areas this weekend include Grandfather Mountain, Rough Ridge and the Highlands area. Linville and Linville Falls is also reported to be showing
some great colors. Color is spreading into the areas of Mount Pisgah, Devil’s Courthouse and Pisgah National Forest. This weekend and next week the areas of Boone and Blowing Rock should be very colorful. Reports of color of red, gold and yellow are showing at locations in Waynesville, Cashiers and Whiteside Mountain in the dogwood trees, sourwood trees, birch, beech and blackgum. There is anywhere from 30%-60% fall color depending on the location in the 3000 to 4000 ft elevations in the mountains of North Carolina. Bryson City and the areas around Fontana Lake are also reporting nice colors of gold and yellow.
The lower elevations (those below 3000 ft) are full of yellow and gold colors. These areas would be the Pisgah National Forest, Looking Glass Rock and north of Asheville at Banner Elk, Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain. There is a cold front moving in this weekend bringing lower humidity and cooler temperatures. The last two weeks of the month should be the time to see peak colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park have spotty color but in the next week the color should really start to become impressive.
10/7/2017: Fall Foliage Report and Updates: The warm temperatures have slowed the progress of colors change down. And the lack of rain in the last 3 weeks is now causing some of the trees to drop their leaves early before the colors can change. There are reports of good color along the BRP north of Asheville in the 4500 -5000 ft elevations. The areas around Grandfather Mountains, Rough Ridge and Beacon Heights have good color as well as Table Rock at Linville Gorge and Hawksbill Mountains. Peak colors have been pushed back to take place in mid to late October. The lower elevations remain mostly green. The mid range elevations south of Asheville are still mostly green with peak colors predicted in another 10-14 days. Tropical Storm Nate may bring some much need rain but the fall foliage season doesn’t need the wind.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park are still mostly green with some spotty colors of red and gold. The fall foliage season is now about a week or so behind a typical year. Peak colors will probably now take place in mid to late October. Over all color change along the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah Valley averages in the 10-20% range. The showing of color varies greatly depending on the elevation, the moisture level, and the direction a slope faces. Mountains slopes facing the sun change before shades slopes. The higher elevations those above 3000 feet to have a few spots of color with about 50% color change.
9/28/17 Fall Foliage Report and Updates: The warm temperatures have slowed this year’s color progression down some. There is some color reported now near Grandfather Mountain and Rough Ridge. Some reports are of 25% color in the trees. Two separate cold front are moving through the region in the next 48 hours. Expect quite a surge next week in the show of fall foliage the first week in October. Next week a trip to Grandfather Mountain and Rough Ridge in North Carolina should be rewarding. The mid elevations are predicted to peak in about 2 more weeks. Peak colors are predicted in mid October for the area of Boone and Blowing Rock.
9/24/17 Fall Foliage Report and Updates: All of the Blue Ridge Parkway is now open. There were some parts closed for cleanup after Hurricane Irma came through two weeks ago. But the cleanup and repairs have been complete and all portions of the parkway are open now. Grandfather Mountain is predicted to peak this coming week because of the high elevation of 5946 feet. Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens are predicted to peak the first week of October. These are the highest elevations that alway peak first along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rough Ridge will also be another location to have color by the first of October next weekend. The mid elevations are predicted to peak in about 2 more weeks. There are reports now of the mid elevations starting to show a hint of color. In the next week fall foliage colors will continue to spread and progress along the parkway into the areas of Craggy Gardens (MP 364 on the BRP) , Beech Mountain, Graveyard Fields(MP 418 on the BRP) and Watterock Knob (MP 451 on the BRP).
Warm temperatures are forecast for this week which will slow the progression of color down. But a cold front coming at this week’s end will speed the showing of colors up. Boone and Blowing Rock are still mostly green but the dogwood trees are tuning a nice red and plum color and the sugar maples are showing some nice colors of orange and gold.
In Virginia the trees along the BRP are still mostly green. There are reports of some color on Skyline Drive between Mile 39-42 being very pretty. Big Meadow at Mile 51 has color from the goldenrods and blueberry bushes has well as the wildflowers. The highest elevations in Virginia are of course in the mountain regions in the western part of the state. This is where the Virginia section of the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders through the mountain ranges and valleys offering great views during the fall foliage season. The mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Virginia are in the mid to lower elevation ranges. Peak colors do not take place until the middle of October typically. The highest peak in Virginia is Hawksbill Mountain at 4051 feet. It is located near MP 45.6 on Skyline Drive.
9/19/2017 Fall Foliage Predictions For 2017!
The fall foliage predictions for 2017 are in with the general consensus among 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 species of trees.
Elevations And Color Progression On The Parkway
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 650 ft to over 6000 ft depending on the location.
Along the 469 miles length of the Blue Ridge Parkway the elevation ranges are vast. The lowest elevation at 650 feet on the parkway is in Virginia along the James River. This area is located at about milepost 63.7 on the parkway in Virginia. The parkway’s highest elevation is in North Carolina south of Mt. Pisgah. It is at Richland Balsam with an elevation of 6,053 feet at about Milepost 431. 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.
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!