Here in mid September the fall color is perhaps a month away from peak but some of the fall foliage will begin to show over the next week or two especially at higher elevations.
September may not seem like a time for wildflowers but the meadow blooms are, to many visitors, among the best of the year. Cooler temperatures and the yearly hawk migration along the spine of the mountains are other reasons to visit the Parkway in September.
Butter and Eggs, Black Eyed Susan, Woodland Sunflower, Ox-Eyed Daisy, Coreopsis and Goldenrod all light up the roadside and meadows with a variety of shades of yellow. New York Ironweed is that deep purple, tall bloom that is sometimes standing next to the more pale Joe-Pye Weed in damp or boggy areas.
Purple-Headed Coneflower may add another shade of purple in a few places.If you notice the very bright red flower growing in boggy wet areas you’ve almost certainly spotted the Cardinal Flower, a favorite of many folks this time of year in the mountains.
On the north end of the Parkway around Humpback Rocks, Virgins Bower, Spotted Touch Me Not, Black Eyed Susan, Flowering Spurge, Goldenrod and many other late summer blooms are out. There is some Ironweed, Cardinal Flower and Morning Glory in bloom at the farm at Humpback.Look for Foxglove and Crooked-Stem Asters in the picnic area that way.
At the Peaks of Otter many of the same blooms are evident along with some Woodland Sunflower, Crown Beard, Jewelweed, and some Flowering Spurge. At the Blue Ridge Music Center and south through Doughton Park in North Carolina look for Tall Coneflower, Cardinal Flower, Joe-Pye Weed, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Black Eyed Susan and Coreopsis as they are all common in the fields and agricultural leases of the Parkway.
In the Moses Cone and Price Park area in North Carolina cool nights are bringing on a touch of fall. The Hydrangeas around Flat Top Manor are turning a light bronze and Water Lilies at Bass Lake are still in abundance. Some fall color is showing up in the Maples in that area and the Ash is full of berries. Ironweed and Joe-Pye, Jewelweed, Whirled Astor and Goldenrod dominate the roadside scenes.
If you haven’t heard already this is the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary year so you may find community celebrations going on in many places. Visiting these great adjacent towns is part of your best Parkway experience.
The Parkway is not like other roads you may be accustomed to driving so pay close attention to steeper grades, unforgiving road shoulders and distractions like wildlife and bicyclists. Use the overlooks to let others pass around you and as we always say to visitors, enjoy the view, but watch the road!
Regular updates for color reports will be posted to our web site home page. You can also use the National Park Service information line at 828-298-0398 to keep informed of what’s being reported on the Parkway.