Fall Scenic Drives: Middle to Low Elevations
When the fall color reaches the middle elevations (about 2,500-4,000 feet), it brightens the mountainsides and begins to show up like candy dots in the valleys.
While the highest elevation areas such as Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell have peaked by this time, they still make great vantage points for the changes happening below. If you want to be in the thick of it all, a scenic drive through the middle elevations and lower elevations is a great way to go.
Visit our weekly leaf reports to stay up-to-date on the most colorful foliage.
Here are just a few splendid scenic drives and day trips for soaking in the autumn beauty during the heart of the fall season. Can't make it this fall? Keep these drives in your back pocket -- they are beautiful year-round!
From Asheville, head south on the Blue Ridge Parkway and exit onto US 276 at Milepost 411, following it south. Along the way, stop by the Cradle of Forestry with its many interpretive exhibits and special programs, and Looking Glass Falls. The Looking Glass Rock trailhead, with parking on the left, provides access to a 3.1 mile trail set amidst brilliant fall color. Continue on 276 to NC 280 north to NC 191 along the banks of the French Broad River past Asheville Outlets (formerly Biltmore Square Mall) and the Western North Carolina Farmers Market, then on into Asheville.
Take a trip to Hot Springs via NC 63 west through Leicester and to Trust, where NC 209 intersects with NC 63. Take NC 209 north to Hot Springs, a quaint town that features an ancient natural spring and resort as well as a junction with the Appalachian Trail. Return by following US 25/70 to Weaverville and connect with I-26 East, which leads back to Asheville. Of the three drive shown here, this drive is at the lowest elevation, meaning the colors *generally* will change later in the season than the other two drives.
Maggie Valley and Cherokee
US 19 from Maggie Valley to Cherokee boasts several excellent leaf-viewing sites along lovely winding roads. To get there take US 19/23/74 west from Asheville. A return trip to Asheville via US 276 through the Pisgah National Forest to the Blue Ridge Parkway offers many overlooks from which to enjoy the autumn panorama.