Fall Color Report for October 22, 2015

2015 Fall Color: Colorful Canopy

Fall Color Hunting

Color at lower elevations shines near Mount Mitchell.
Photo by Appalachian Exposures.
The first frosts of the season passed through the mountains this week providing a catalyst for more widespread fall color throughout the mid-range elevations, which include areas immediately surrounding Asheville and those between 2,500 and 3,500 feet, with 3,000 feet being a sweet spot for peak color. According to Fall Color Guy, Howie Neufeld, “colors are past peak above 3,500 feet and way past peak above 4,000 feet.” However you can still visit these higher elevations to see color sweeping across lower levels of the mountains from area summits.

Be on the lookout for yellow hickories adding to the patchwork of orange and red from the maples.  They blend well with the burgundy hues of the sourwoods and dark plum colors of the sweetgums. Oaks and dogwoods across the area are still showing great color as well.

Best and Brightest

  • 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.
  • Elk bugling. Photo by AMDsPhotography.Little Cataloochee Trail (2,600–3,200 feet in elevation): This hiking spot to the west of Asheville is experiencing great fall color right now. It’s also the perfect location for a wildlife adventure, as you’ll find herds of elk feeding in the open fields. About this time of year male elks begin their bugling calls to attract females or challenge other males. These calls are quite loud, and 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.
  • Dupont's Hooker Falls amidst autumn color.DuPont State Forest (2,500–3,600 feet in elevation): This 10,000-acre forest is currently showing beautiful color right now. It’s also home to a number of waterfalls, including Triple Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and High Falls. With a chance of rain in the coming week, the wetter days may be a better option if you want to see them flowing at full capacity.
  • Biltmore: Peak foliage has yet to hit the Asheville area, but recent frost has accelerated color change around Biltmore. Parker Andes, the Estate’s director of horticulture, reports the Japanese maples and Chinese sassafras have begun to transition. “A walk I recommend for guests this time of year is from the Conservatory to the Bass Pond and back,” said Andes. “Halfway down the walk in the Azalea Garden, the Katsura trees are giving off their wonderful cotton candy aroma on sunny days. I noted many hollies, viburnums, beautyberries and hawthorns covered with berries were attracting lots of song birds.”
  • Fall Deal - The Full Fall Experience: This fall, good things come in twos. Rent a mountain cabin from Greybeard Rentals and you’ll also receive two Biltmore passes (good for two days), two passes for the Gray Line Historic Trolley Tour, and dinner for two at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Or check out other fall travel deals.
  • Downtown Asheville: Spend a morning hiking through fall foliage, but then head downtown for some of the best events of the weekend. On Saturday, October 24, Burial Beer Co. is hosting the 2nd annual Burnpile Harvest Festival. Thirty breweries from around North Carolina will be pouring, and many of the beers were brewed just for this event! Also this weekend is the last chance to catch Young Frankenstein, a musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’ cult comedy film. It’s a perfect show in anticipation of next week’s Halloween festivities.

Colorful tree canopy photo by Skip Sickler, courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.