With the right mix of rain and sun, fall foliage peak colors occur in the third or fourth week of October. The leaves are beginning to shed fully in the higher elevations of 5,000+ feet, and they are just beginning to peak at the mid-level elevations of 3,000-4,000 feet. Mid to late October is the perfect time to take a fall drive near Asheville, to discover the abundance of fall colors.
Here are some recommended drives for the fall season:
This scenic highway can be accessed via the Blue Ridge Parkway, just past Mount Pisgah, or from Waynesville, N.C. about one half hour west of Asheville via Route 40. Take 26 East to 191 South to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, and go south towards Mount Pisgah. Shortly past Mount Pisgah, make a right onto Route 276 towards Waynesville or go left towards Brevard. There are some wonderful opportunities to see a variety of hardwood trees at peak color on this road. Travel from the higher elevations into the valley, enjoying nature's colorful display the whole route.
This is a nice, short fall drive that begins on the edge of Downtown Asheville. Near Charlotte Street, Town Mountain Road ascends to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This drive takes leaf peepers through mid-level elevations, where peak foliage usually occurs the 3rd week of October. It's a short drive that may take one to two hours (depending upon the number of stops) and a pleasant way to see the mountains just above the City of Asheville.
Take 240 to the Charlotte Street Exit. Head north on Charlotte Street and make the first right towards Cherokee Road. Turn right on Cherokee road. Continue straight onto Mayflower Drive. Make a sharp left on 694 North (Town Mountain Road). Take this scenic, windy road to the top of the mountain, where it intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make a right on the Parkway heading south towards the Folk Art Center. Take a short walk at the Folk Art Center (milepost 382) and see some of the leaves changing colors. Then get back in the car and head towards milepost 393, where the North Carolina Arboretum is located. Exit the Parkway on Route 191, into South Asheville.
Route 191 South connects West Asheville to the Hendersonville area. Take 26 East to exit 33, and merge with Route 191 South. This road takes visitors through some of the most scenic parts of South Asheville, with the Blue Ridge Parkway overhead. This fall foliage drive meanders through the scenic Bent Creek area, near the French Broad River. Further south, enter Henderson County and Mills River - where farms and homesteads dot the landscape. While traveling the outskirts of Hendersonville, take in the apple orchards, meadows and fields and fall foliage displays in this fertile mountain valley.
Route 251 follows the French Broad River from Asheville to Marshall (and beyond). Marshall is a small mountain town north of the city. Take 26 West to the University of North Carolina Asheville exit and follow 251, Riverside Drive, to the outskirts of North Asheville. The route goes through Woodfin and parts of Weaverville, and ends in Marshall. The road parallels the French Broad River as it winds its way north of Asheville. Take in some breathtaking scenery, with the French Broad River visible most of the way. Stop at a scenic riverside park on 251 for lunch or a snack. To enter the town of Marshall, veer left onto Route 70. Main Street is a quaint town center, with an old railroad station and some shops and restaurants. Relax and enjoy a meal with the locals, then return to Asheville the same way.
For those who love to celebrate the fall with a drive to see the leaves as they change color, the Asheville area is a sure bet. There are many different routes to choose from to see peak colors. The routes selected are relatively close to town and easy to follow. This fall, pack a light lunch and make a day of it with loved ones, breathing in the crisp mountain air and relishing the outdoors.
Book a cabin in Asheville, close to all amenities and easily accessible to all of the fall drives recommended.