It’s the third week of October and that always means the fall foliage display is here in the mountains. Cool nights and crisp days have caused colors to change rapidly over the past week or so. Specific reports of fall color from various parts of the Parkway include the following: in Virginia the Peaks of Otter is reporting color in Tulip Poplar, Dogwoods, and Sourwood on the mountain sides. A variety of Oaks and Mountain Ash are also showing fall color.
Look for Virginia Creeper throughout the northern sections of the Parkway with vines hanging their scarlet necklaces around trees and rocks. Rocky Knob and Mabry Mill area were probably peak this past weekend but lots of color remains. Dogwood and Poplar are also pretty along with Sassafras along the roadsides in areas near the Blue Ridge Music Center. The color there is beginning to fade some. Sourwood, Poplar, Dogwood, Birch, and Beech all still have some color hanging on.
The colors really change rapidly in the Grandfather Mountain corridor in North Carolina over the past week. Stack Rock near Grandfather Mountain has colored up nicely, although the peak of color was probably last weekend. As color recedes from these high elevations, the remaining gray color and the Evergreens there provide a lovely contrast for the color near the Parkway. Yellows, rich browns, and the lovely reds of Sourwoods dominate the scenes of new colors popping out in the lower elevations.
Clear blue skies reveal receding mountain ranges also not seen in the haze of summer. Take a stroll down under the Viaduct at Linn Cove Visitor Center at milepost 304 where the Witch Hazel trees show a profusion of their tiny yellow spiky blooms. The Stripped Maples here are also bright yellow.
The walk around Bass Lake and the short hike to Beacon Heights at milepost 305 are still displaying much color as well as their incredible views. High up on the sides of Mount Mitchell, north of Asheville, color is still showing nicely. The area south of Asheville seems to be one of the highlights with Graveyard Fields slightly beyond its peak color. This is by far the best place to see the good color on the southern end of the Parkway.
Sometimes in lower elevations, color hangs on even into November, depending on the weather. But storms or heavy rain can certainly bring down leaves. Elevation makes a big difference, along with your north/south orientation and the east/west facing slopes. The best opportunity to see color is to drive a good distance so that all of these factors come into play.
Fall color is one of those built in distractions that we talk about that can tempt you to take your eyes off the road so be especially careful and use the overlooks for resting and taking the scenery. Enjoy the view but watch the road in this 75th anniversary year.
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.
Have a safe parkway visit! Enjoy the view, but watch the road.