The first weekend of 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 Parkway experiences that change in fall color around the middle of October, but many factors contribute to variations in where and when the color will peak. The Parkway stretches almost 500 miles north to south. It meanders from the east to west facing slopes. Most importantly, it varies in elevation from just under 650 ft at James River in Virginia to over 6,000 ft 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 around mid to late October will catch at least some of the peak color that we’re famous for.
In the northern most districts in Virginia, colors are definitely under way, although probably less than 20% showing right now. Mainly showing are Dogwoods, Tulip Poplar, Virginia Creeper, Sourwood, Black Gum, and a few other species. Mostly red and yellow colors are showing right now. Try the section around Clark’s Gap at milepost 40 which is showing nicely along the road edge with color frosting to a rich green backdrop. At the Peaks of Otter at milepost 80-90, visitors will find Dogwood, Sourwood, Sumac, Sassafras, Sour Gum, and as always Virginia Creeper and even some Poison Ivy which is nice and red.
Around the Blue Ridge Music Center near the North Carolina / Virginia state line, there is a touch of yellow coming from the Birch and Tulip Frasier, Magnolia, and some red splotches showing on Maples as well. In the North Carolina district around Grandfather Mountain to Linville falls, the color is beginning to show on the mountainside, with elevation as always playing a big role.
Fall wildflowers are Sunflowers, Jewel Weed, Goldenrod, and purple and white Asters around the Julian Price Loop. In the high elevations north of Asheville around Craggy Gardens and Mt. Mitchell, the color should be delightful this next week, perhaps even close to peak color. The drive through the Asheville area will still be showing red Sourwood, Dogwood, maybe some early Maples, and even Virginia Creeper.
So enjoy October in the mountains, enjoy the harvest time activities in our neighboring towns, and as we always tell 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.
Have a safe Parkway visit! Enjoy the view, but watch the road.