A COLORFUL SEASON AHEAD FOR THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS + ECO-FRIENDLY OFFERINGS + ASHEVILLE TRAVEL NEWS
With more than 100 deciduous (leaf-shedding) tree species, coupled with a wide range of elevations and a temperate climate where warm days and cool nights are possible, Southern Appalachia experiences one of the most colorful and long-lasting leaf seasons in the country. This year, biologists in Western North Carolina believe conditions are on track for a spectacular fall color display throughout Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains, starting in September – though one expert notes there could be a four- to five-day delay if we see a warmer fall, giving visitors plenty of time to take in the colors.
Find weekly color reports, a fall foliage tracking map and autumn adventure ideas at ExploreAsheville.com/fall or jump right to what’s new in the Asheville area for fall 2021.
FALL FORECAST: EXPERT PREDICTIONS
- Perfect Fall Recipe: UNC Asheville Professor and Department Chair of Biology Jonathan Horton, Ph.D., says if we get adequate rain (not too much or too little) and avoid wind from tropical storms, things should be on track for a nice fall color season. “As we get into October, having warmish days and crisp, cool nights helps to trigger the production of anthocyanins, the compounds that make the vibrant red colors,” he explains. “The other colors, yellows and oranges, are from the breakdown of green chlorophyll and the exposure of other pigments (carotenoids).”
- PREDICTION: Horton predicts we may start seeing color at the highest elevations by mid to late September. In Asheville proper, and surrounding lower elevations, peaking colors can be found throughout October and even well into November, depending on conditions.
- It’s All About the Weather: Appalachian State University Biology Professor and “fall color expert” Dr. Howard Neufeld points out that while we’ve seen elevated temps across the U.S. this summer and the hottest July on record, Southern Appalachia didn’t experience the extremes like other areas. “We’ve had a pretty moderate summer, so the trees aren’t so stressed,” he says. What we want to avoid, he explains, is a lot of rain and clouds starting around the end of September (making the nights too warm to activate the biochemical color change) and a big rain or wind event during the peak display (to avoid losing leaves prematurely). Separately, a warm fall could impact the timing of the color change.
- PREDICTION: Neufeld says there looks to be a La Niña developing in the Southern Hemisphere, which could result in warmer fall temps here, leading to a slightly delayed color change.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE FALL IN ASHEVILLE
- Fall Travel News: “What’s New in Fall 2021 in Asheville, NC” | Roadster “joyrides” and flying bikes, vinyl record haunts and a sound chamber, Van Gogh Alive at Biltmore and street-art adventures, a restaurant with furry farm friends and South African cuisine and a new eco-focused hotel with skyline views and bikes for exploring.
- Greening Your Fall: Help minimize your impact while visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains with eco-friendly options to catch the color: “Top 10 Green Ways to Experience Fall in Asheville.”
- NEW | Travelers Can Help Protect and Preserve the Fall Color Landscape: This year, anyone who enjoys the wonders along the Blue Ridge Parkway can give back by supporting Pledge for the Wild, a stewardship initiative that began in Bend, Ore., to promote responsible tourism. Explore Asheville is the first and only Pledge for the Wild partner on the East Coast. Click here to donate. Funds raised will benefit the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, which protects and preserves natural, cultural and historical treasures along what was the country’s most visited National Park Service site in 2020.
- Festivals and Events: Autumn in Asheville brings a schedule of happenings that feature celebrations of crafts, harvest and music. Check out this at-a-glance look: “Top Fall Events and Festivals in Asheville.”
GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT THE COLOR SHOW
Western North Carolina is fortunate to have one of the most vivid displays of autumn foliage in the world due to the region’s extreme elevations and unmatched biodiversity.
- Why Elevation Matters | Extending Your Window of Opportunity: Western North Carolina’s elevations range from 1,500 to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The color change starts at the peaks and makes its way down the mountains, resulting in a fall color display that can last five or six weeks, beginning around the end of September. As Dr. Neufeld points out, “If you missed them at one elevation, you just wait a week and see them at a lower elevation.”
- Why Diversity of Trees Is Important | A More Colorful View: Whereas New England is known for its birch, beech and maple trees, Southern Appalachia is home to more than 120 species of deciduous trees, says Dr. Neufeld, presenting a much larger variety of changing colors. His standouts: sourwoods, maples, red and scarlet oaks, dogwoods and sweet and black gums all reveal showy shades of red; tulip poplars, birches, beeches and chestnuts turn yellow; sassafras can turn red, orange or yellow; and the Fraser magnolia turns a lovely chocolaty brown.
- Prime Places to See the Leaves (plus, spots off the beaten path): While the Asheville area sees a pretty show – and serves as an ideal base for visitors, with fresh cultural experiences, a modern Appalachian food scene and myriad art and music offerings – there is perhaps no better vantage point than along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its average elevation of 3,000 to 4,000 feet, and array of scenic overlooks, allows easy access to the high elevations for early color change as well as the ability to take in the color descending the mountains and valleys a little later in the season. Visitors looking for a bit more solitude can check out these lesser-known Asheville-area hikes for beautiful fall color.
Surrounded by the highest peaks in the eastern U.S., Asheville is steeped in natural history, fall adventure and cultural legacies – including America’s Largest Home, Biltmore, and America’s Favorite Scenic Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway. With elevations that range from 1,500 feet in the valleys to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, the Blue Ridge Mountains have more than 100 deciduous tree species, regularly placing the area among the nation’s top fall travel destinations.
Asheville and Buncombe County are committed to the adherence of safety guidelines during the pandemic. Downtown kiosks remind visitors that Buncombe County requires masks indoors. Information on the safety actions of local businesses and shared responsibility of visitors can be found via the “Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge.”