October is upon us, and the mountain foliage, true to form, is beginning to make the transition to the color that brings so much attention here in the fall. Typically, the Blue Ridge Parkway experiences the much-anticipated change in fall foliage around the middle of October. Many factors, however, contrubite to variations in when and where colors will peak. The Parkway stretches almost five hundred miles north to south, meanders from the east- to west-facing slopes, and most importantly, varies in elevation from just under 650 feet at James River in Virginia to over 6,000 feet south of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina.
Many visitors have been frustrated trying to go to one spot on one day in October, hoping to find the leaves in full color. A far better plan is to drive some distance on the Parkway, changing elevations and north-south orientation. Anyone who does this from now undil mid- to late-October will catch at least some of the pretty color that we’re famous for.
In Virginia, the colors are underway. At the north end of the Parkway between Humpback Rocks and Otter Creek, there are reports of increasing color in the 2,500 to 3,000 feet range in elevation. Some tree species are showing significant color, while others are just beginning to change. Dogwood, Virginia Creeper, Red Maple, and Sourwood are producing shades of red, while Tulip Poplar, Birch, and Grapevine dominate the yellow species.
In North Carolina from Moses Cone to the Minerals Museum, White Oak, Maples, Tulip Poplar. Fraser Magnolia, Beech, and Sassafras trees are all displaying yellow color. More vibrant reds are found in the changing leaves of the Dogwood, Virginia Creeper, Sumac, Red and Sugar Maples, and Sourwood. Nice color displays are reported at Grandfather Mountain, Price Lake Picnic Area, Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center, Rough Ridge, and the Beacon Heights parking area. Also in this area, fall blooms of Aster, Goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace, Gentian, Snakeroot, Smartweed, Jewelweed, Spotted Clover, and Red Knapweed can still be seen.
The high elevation of Craggy Gardens is well underway with its fall color, showing reds, yellows, and some orange as the Yellow Buckeye, Maple, Beech, Birch, and Mountain Ash trees start to turn. The area immediately around the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is showing over 50% color change. Just below Craggy, from 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet, the color change is less, between 10% to 30%. Aster and Goldenrod blooms are still common.
Driving from Asheville to the Mt. Pisgah area, fall color is starting to be seen in the changing Red Oaks, Tulip Poplar, Dogwoods, Maples, Sassafras, Poison Ivy, and Virginia Creeper.
At the southern end of the Parkway, Graveyard Fields holds true to form as the first place to change, with 60% to 70% of the area in color. The rest of the southern end of the Parkway is about 20%.
As always, we remind you to drive carefully while on the Parkway. Keep your eyes on the road as you enjoy the view.