By Sandy McLeod
Fall in Asheville, North Carolina is an event anticipated by many. Fall color attracts the most visitors in October with many coming to the Western North Carolina area to see the fall foliage every year. There are an abundance of trees, with many national and state parks surrounding Asheville, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville and surrounding areas are a spectacular place to view fall color.
Another great reason for visitors to select the Asheville area to see fall foliage is the frequent changes in elevation, from 2,000 feet to peaks in excess of 6,000 feet. The treeline ends at approximately 5,000 feet so much of the color can be seen here. Whole valleys of color can be viewed from places like Mount Pisgah and Mount Mitchell. Fall color comes to the high country in the last week of September and continues to peak in October and part of November.
In September, expect to see fall color in the higher elevations, between 4,000-5,000 feet. By October, color transforms the foliage in the 3,000-4,000 feet elevation. And by late October and first several weeks of November, full color can be seen in the lower elevations of 3,000 feet and below, which is where the City of Asheville sits.
I have selected three drives through the higher elevations, ranging from 4,000-5,000 feet where early fall color can be seen:
Take 40 West and exit at Marion and take 221 North into Linville Falls. Continue on to Blowing Rock, then Boone. The road makes frequent turns, so pay attention to signage and stay on Route 221. Travelers are rewarded with open stretches of road parallel to abundant hardwood trees and forests. As an alternate to a trip to Boone, veer off on 183 North and head to some of the highest portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
Take 26 West to the Burnsville exit and follow 19E to Route 80 North. Travel through a remote rural area in the shadow of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the East, at 6,684 feet. Route 80 is the road that takes travelers up the side of Mount Mitchell, to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance. Route 80 is steep and windy. If weather forecasts include rain, expect thick fog to accompany the precipitation in fall, and consider delaying travel plans for a sunnier day. For those sunny day travelers who make it to the Blue Ridge Parkway, go south towards Mount Mitchell, or north towards the North Carolina/Virginia state line.
The drive to Mount Pisgah from Asheville is relatively easy. Take 26 East towards Hendersonville and exit at Brevard Road, 191 South, and follow to the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance on the right. Head south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, towards Mount Pisgah. The Blue Ridge Parkway will slowly ascend into the higher elevations of 4,000+ feet. Stop at overlooks along the way up to Mount Pisgah and take in the fall colors. Take a break in the Mount Pisgah picnic area for lunch or stop at the Pisgah Inn for a meal. Continue south on the Blue Ridge Parkway another 20 miles, toward Graveyard Fields. Fall colors are visible all along this high country route.
Many people vacation in Asheville in the fall each year just to see the phenomenal displays of color -- and they are not disappointed. The mountain landscape is imbued with hues of reds, oranges and yellows and other colors. At the same time, wildflowers blossom and the leaves of bushes ignite with color, too. Make sure to visit the Asheville area in September, October or November to see nature's fall display before winter sets in.