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, contribute to variations in when and where colors will peak.
The Parkway stretches almost 500 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 until mid- to late-October will catch at least some of the pretty color that we’re famous for.
Also remember that weather conditions, like wind and rain, can accelerate the rate at which the leaves fall off the trees. Bad weather usually means that we lose our color quicker, so get out and see the color while it’s there.
In North Carolina from Moses Cone to the Minerals Museum, the fall color is really beginning to show along the Parkway. Linville Falls is already making a bit of headway, showing about 25-30% change of color. Heading south from Linville Falls towards Chestoah View at Milepost 320, vibrant reds, multiple shades of yellow, and oranges are making their appearance, showing about 25% of color.
Further south towards Crabtree Falls at Milepost 339, trees along the Parkway are changing as well. The maples are displaying an array of reds, while the elms are showing off some bright yellows.
Around Green Knob, down in the valley, color is beginning to take shape, showing about 20-25%. Also in this area, fall blooms of asters, goldenrod, giant sunflower, bull thistle, and Asiatic dayflower can be seen.
The high elevation of Craggy Gardens is approaching its peak of fall color, showing yellows, golds, rust, and some orange as the yellow buckeye, beech, birch, and mountain ash trees have changed quickly.
Just below Craggy Gardens from 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet, the color change is between 30-50% depending on where you are viewing. The lower elevation of Asheville is still predominately green, with about 10-20% color change. Aster and goldenrod blooms are still common in this area.
Driving from Asheville south to the Mt. Pisgah area, fall color is starting to be seen in the changing red oaks, tulip poplar, dogwoods, maples, sassafrass, poison ivy, and virginia creeper. Mt. Pisgah is experiencing 30-40% change of color.
At the southern end of the Parkway, Graveyard Fields remains the area with the first and most advanced color change, at about 75%. The rest of the southern end of the Parkway is about 50% color change at the higher elevations and closer to 30-40% in the lower valleys. Blooming asters, goldenrod, gentian, and lobelia can also be seen.
As always, we remind you to drive carefully while you are on the Parkway. Keep your eyes on the road as you enjoy the view.