So far, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for leaf viewing. The Asheville leaf season should prove abundant in color because of the ample moisture over the summer and the subsequent sunny early au So far, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for leaf viewing. The Asheville leaf season should prove abundant in color because of the ample moisture over the summer and the subsequent sunny early autumn days and cool nights — sans freezing. These are ideal conditions that make a colorful autumn nearly a sure thing. You’ll be able to get in a grand tour of the autumn colors all along the Blue Ridge Parkway, or you can take in the foliage from the porch of your cabin at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds.
Asheville leaf season starts in early October at the highest elevations. Ironically, that’s when most of the popular spots are less crowded. Peak colors start at 2,000 to 4,000-feet elevations in the second through fourth weeks of October. To help you plan your visit, here are a few of the best places for optimum leaf viewing on the Parkway near Asheville:
At Milepost 304 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a short ride from Asheville, leaf season may be at its best. The 1,243-foot concrete bridge is the last segment of the Parkway to be completed and stands as an internationally-recognized engineering marvel as it hugs Grandfather Mountain. Walking trails start at the Linn Cove Visitor Center, which also hosts a museum dedicated to the bridge.
Tanawha is Cherokee for fabulous eagle or hawk. It’s a fitting name for the hike on Grandfather Mountain where you increase the odds of sighting one of the great birds as you take in one of the most unobstructed and amazing views of the changing leaves. The 13.5-mile hike takes you from Beacon Heights to Julian Prince Park over diverse terrain and walkways. Not up to the trek? Just stop by the Beacon Heights overlook for a magnificent view at Milepost 305.
Save the strenuous hiking for shopping in downtown Asheville; instead, visit Devil’s Courthouse with its 360-degree panoramic view of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. Stop at Milepost 422.4 to walk a half-mile paved path from the Parkway to the summit at 5,720 feet. The rock formation you’ll stand on is quite sinister looking, which may be why the spot got its name. Cherokee legend has it that the giant, Judaculla, used the caves under the ledge as a private dancing chamber.
Milepost 320 boasts a really small sign for Chestoa, which means rabbit in Cherokee, but keep your eyes open for it if you want to experience one of the best leaf-viewing spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway in October. At 4,090 feet elevation, the view is spectacular in mid-October. There’s a rock-walled viewing area just one-third of a mile from the parking lot that affords amazing views of the Linville Gorge. Bring a picnic — picnic tables are available — and enjoy the view of Grandfather Mountain and Table Rock, highlights of the Pisgah National Forest that serves as a holy canvas for the gods in the fall Asheville leaf season.
Make reservations early for accommodations to ensure you have a place to stay; when the hoards flock to the mountains, the hotels fill up quickly. Better yet, stay with us at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds. Instead of viewing the leaves from the Parkway, you’ll be surrounded by them.