What are the best times to see fall leaves in Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains? It’s a common question, as the spectacular autumn colors draw tens of thousands of people to Western North Carolina annually. The area is unique in that it boasts one of the most colorful and longest-running fall leaf seasons in the world. With its wide variety of elevations, the Blue Ridge Mountains produce bright foliage displays, making for a stunning, month-long, ever-changing show. Starting in late September, the trees in the highest peaks begin to change colors, with warm hues of russet and gold slowly spilling southward through October. Clusters of color eventually settle into the valleys by early November, making for a lovely fall finale. Visit, and you’ll see that autumn in our area is nothing short of magical. To help plan your trip, we’re sharing the best times to experience our forest’s end-of-summer encores.
End of September into the beginning of October
While most trees are still green during this time of year, you’ll likely see patchy colors near the highest peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The dogwood, sourwood, and black gum trees turn red, especially at altitudes over 6,000 feet. Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet, is a great place to admire fall foliage. It’s located in Mount Mitchell State Park, about 30 miles from downtown Asheville. Mount Mitchell is not only the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it’s also the highest summit east of the Mississippi River. Its magnificent vistas make it a phenomenal place to visit, no matter the time of year.
Mid-October is the ideal time to experience peak fall foliage in Western North Carolina. In the mountains over 4,000-5,000 feet, the sourwoods begin to turn scarlet, poplars transform to gold, hickories burst into yellow, and the maples morph into brilliant shades of red. Those hues make it a prime time to visit, so plan accordingly. Thousands of “leaf peepers” flock to the mountains to get a glimpse of that breathtaking fall foliage, especially on the weekends. It may be busy, but you’ll be rewarded with some of the best displays on The Blue Ridge Parkway, especially on the sections between Asheville and Cherokee.
End of October
At this point in fall, leaf color is seeping into the lower elevations, from 2,000 – 4,000 feet. You’ll continue to see lots of vibrant fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as the Pisgah National Forest. Asheville and Waynesville are particularly radiant too. Head to the majestic French Broad River, and you’ll discover thousands of leaves ablaze in yellow and orange. (Pro-tip: Many claim that floating down the river is a better experience than sitting in “leaf-jam” traffic on the parkway.) Also, be sure to add the Biltmore House to your list of places to visit. Not only is it a fabulous spot to see fall foliage, but it also offers a not-to-miss autumn showcase of jewel-toned chrysanthemums. The dazzling display of mums usually peaks toward the end of October.
Beginning of November
Even though it’s late in the fall season, don’t despair. You’ll enjoy glimpses of colorful leaves in the deeper valleys of western North Carolina. The beginning of November is when the oak trees add warm browns and deep reds to the mix of autumn colors. Head to places like Chimney Rock and Lake Lure to enjoy fall’s final acts of grandeur.
While planning your visit to see the beautiful fall foliage in our area, add a tour of French Broad Crossing to your itinerary. Located just 25 miles from Asheville in Marshall, North Carolina, our award-winning mountain community offers an unprecedented living experience on the French Broad River. It’s an extraordinary place that has to be seen to be believed, especially in autumn. So, if you’re a nature enthusiast who luxuriates in the beauty of the outdoors, contact us today. Who knows? Your autumn adventure may be the start of a new, colorful chapter in your incredible book of life. We look forward to meeting you and sharing the splendor of the area with you soon.