We’ve reached the exciting time of year when the Blue Ridge Parkway experiences that much anticipated change in fall foliage. Typically, this change happens around the middle of October, but many factors contribute to variations in when and where the 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 late October will catch at least some of the pretty color that we’re famous for.
In the northern most part of the Parkway in Virginia, the trees from 2,000 to 3,000 feet are showing good color and are very close to or at peak. All shades of color are represented with the hickories, tulip poplars, birch and sassafras showing yellow and gold; red maple, sourwood, and virginia creeper showing scarlet red; and the pines and a few oaks mixing in green.
In North Carolina, a violent mid-month wind and rain storm dropped and damaged many leaves, especially at the higher and more exposed elevations, and lessened foliage vividness. However, the trees showed resilience and in some places still have a palette of color on display.
In the Boone / Blowing Rock area and near the Cone Manor House, the colors have mostly retreated but there are some red, yellow, bronze, orange and yellow-brown colors mixed in with the trees that have lost their leaves. At the Price Picnic area and the surrounding scenic hillsides, olive green, brown, some orange-brown, orange-red, yellow, and yellow-orange tones are apparent. Muted colors, but pleasant. Red sumac leaves are visible near the picnic area entrance. Smartweeds and just a bit of goldenrod are still blooming in the area. The foliage at Price Lake is diminished with many bare trees along the far shore. However, some reds and yellows from the maples are still visible at the parking area along with some sourwood red along the roadway.
The Linn Cove Viaduct area is presenting a subdued but pleasant palette of fall colors that can be best viewed from North to South. On Grandfather Mountain, fall colors are out in force with near peak to approaching peak in places. They have increased in intensity, variety, and breadth of coverage. The reds, yellows, oranges, and browns with mixed hues such as burnt orange, reddish-orange, and reddish-pink are interspersed with pockets of green foliage.
Further south, there is still a fair amount of green at the lowest elevations but most of the trees at the higher elevations have lost their leaves. Good color can be seen driving from Asheville north to Craggy Gardens and south to the Mt Pisgah areas. The colors are at peak in the 3,000 ft elevation range with lots of yellows and golds and the reds of the oaks, sourwoods, and dogwoods providing a nice visual contrast.
Enjoy October in the mountains. Check out the fall festivals in our neighboring towns. Drive carefully while you are on the Parkway. Keep your eyes on the road as you enjoy the view.