Peak colors typically occur during the last two weeks in October, but that is dependent upon fall temperatures and in particular, the first frost date. The color change begins at higher elevations where you see the earliest changes in late September, and continue all the way into mid-November at the lower elevations.
The Sourwood and Dogwood trees are the first to turn red early in the season. Next are the Tulip Poplars which turn yellow, but then quickly turn brown. Peak leaf season brings in the red, orange, and yellow of the Maples and the bright yellow of the Birches. Oaks and Sweetgums finish up the season with purple, orange, and red.
Fall wildflowers on the Cherohala Skyway provide a beautiful display of colors starting in September up to the first frost in early October.
The higher elevations such as the Cherohala Skyway, US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway will have the first colors. Take a jacket because temperatures can be 10 degrees colder at 5,000 feet. Remember that sightseeing will bring more traffic and it’s moving slower.
Falling leaves can be a problem in wet weather. Once the roads dry, the leaves usually clear fast. We have seen snow as early as Halloween but it doesn’t stick long. First snow is generally during the very end of October and first part of November, of course warmer temps follows.
Helpful links for planning your fall trip:
- Plan your Trip to the Tail of the Dragon Region
- Regional Accommodations
- Printable Touring Maps
- Romantic Asheville Fall Color Report – Blue Ridge Parkway details
- Area Web Cams
2017 Leaf color
“Autumn leaves must fall, but not before being a WNC tourism draw”
by Geoff Cantrell 9/12/2017
It’s September in the hills when Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster Beverly Collins attempts to quantify the quality of the annual color show in Western North Carolina through a scientific-based prediction. And Collins is anticipating a good display across the mountains this year.
Each fall, the region’s colors emerge as chlorophyll in leaves breaks down, revealing pigments that were hidden by the green.
“I think it will be a colorful fall this year,” said Collins, a professor in WCU’s Department of Biology. “If we have a typical fall with bright, sunny days and cool nights in mid- to late-September and a cold snap in early October, chlorophyll will fade and the other pigments will be exposed, giving us the bright colors. The warm, wet spring and most of the summer has been ideal for photosynthesis. Under those conditions, plants make abundant chlorophyll and associated leaf pigments, such as yellows, oranges and reds, to produce sugars.”
The peak color around WNC could arrive around the second and third week in October, depending on elevation, she said.