If you're looking to find the best fall color this week, then you'll want search the mid-range elevations between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. The trees in these areas are around 50-75% in transition. Below 3,000 feet, only 30–40% of the leaves have developed into fall colors. In the highest elevations, colors are now past their peak, but you can still get a great view from above of the fall foliage cascading down the surrounding mountain slopes.
A great hike for leaf peeping this week would be just north of Asheville along the 3-mile, in-and-out trail called Rattlesnake Lodge (3,107 feet in elevation at pinnacle). This hiking path is a part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and offers a chance to explore the forest canopy as you climb 600 feet in elevation. Along the way you'll find long-range views and the remains of a 20th century mountain lodge destroyed by lightning many years ago.
Around Asheville, take a drive down the tree-lined Kimberly Avenue or Charlotte Street. The bright leaves on these streets often turn earlier than other areas of Asheville. While in the neighborhood, stop by The Omni Grove Park Inn for a glass of wine at Sunset Terrace. From there you'll see panoramic views of the surrounding trees in transition.
The Lodge Gate at Biltmore, surrounded by fall color. Photo courtesy
of Biltmore.Over the next two weeks, fall color will develop from patchy to peak around Asheville's elevation (2,134 feet). However, there are reports of great color being spotted around the area. This is what our eyewitnesses are seeing this week.
Devin at the Cradle of Forestry says the colors are at peak. "The Scarlet Oaks are quickly changing from green to red. The yellow of the Birches remains the dominant backdrop along Hwy. 276 from Looking Glass Falls to the Cradle of Forestry."
From Biltmore, Parker Andes reports seeing the best color of the season so far. "Some red maples are still at peak with sugar maples taking center stage with lots of yellow. The chrysanthemum display in the Walled Garden is at peak." Parker anticipates very nice color through the end of October.
And according to Shannon at Chimney Rock State Park (2280 feet in elevation), the highest elevations of the Hickory Nut Gorge are starting to pop with color. "The wonderful hickories are beginning their annual show of golden hues that should deepen and intensify as the week goes on."
You may be surprised to learn the Blue Ridge Mountains offer the best blend of autumn colors and the longest color season in the world. The immense diversity of plant and tree species across a wide variety of elevations creates a kaleidoscope of color unrivaled by any other region. Check out our interactive world map of fall color to learn why.
Mid to late October is a great time to visit Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here you can see a herd of elk in their natural habitat. About this time of year, male elks will begin their bugling calls to attract females or challenge other males. These calls can be heard up to a mile away. You may even see two males spar for dominance, although these encounters are mostly non-violent. In any case, be sure to view the elk from at least 50 yards away. They're rather large animals and you definitely don't want to provoke them by encroaching on their territory.
On Saturday, October 25, get up close and personal with live mammals, reptiles and birds of prey at the Cradle of Forestry's Pisgah Field Day. Learn about area wildlife or take a course in falconry--you may even get to hold the falcon! You can also choose to embark on a fall leaf driving tour to several waterfalls and off-the-beaten-path roads around the Pisgah National Forest.