The autumn leaf color show in the Smoky Mountains attracts visitors from around the world each year. For many visitors, the number one question is: “When is the peak color?” No matter when you plan an autumn visit in October or early November, you can take a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or other mountain roads to find the best fall colors.
Elevation and weather are the biggest factors in the color show. Leaves begin their color change on the highest peaks and gradually work down to the lower elevations. An early frost speeds up the show and warm weather prolongs it. A drier than usual spring and summer (which we had this year) usually results in brighter fall colors. WCU Biology Professor Kathy Mathews agrees that this fall should be more spectacular than the last few years! At this time, the estimated best viewing in the Bryson City area will be mid-October.
Autumn Leaf Viewing Tips
Here are some tips to help you plan a fall vacation to enjoy the spectacular autumn colors of the North Carolina mountain leaves:
- Make your reservations early. Many times, weekends are booked months in advance. But you can also check for last minute deals and cancellations!
- If you are gettting outdoors in our national parks and forests, do you research first. Frequently, you will not have cell or internet service on the hiking trails or at waterfalls.
- With the varying elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is the quickest way to find the best areas for color. The color show starts at the highest elevations in early October and progress down. When you find a particular area of brilliant foliage, take a hike along a trial or take a detour on one of the intersecting roads. Be patient and expect slow traffic, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.
- If you encounter fog (low clouds) on the Blue Ridge Parkway, don’t despair. The weather can change rapidly. It could be very sunny around the next bend or in a few minutes. Fog is most frequent in the mornings, and it can create interesting photo opportunities. The Parkway has more fog than other scenic drives in the mountains since it follows the high ridges.
- Enhance fall colors by wearing polarized sunglasses.
- Take a picnic or snacks, especially if you are driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Fill up the gas tank before taking a scenic drive out of the city. Gas stations are sparse in remote areas and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Don’t rely 100% on your GPS to navigate our mountain roads. That’s a good way to get lost. Take a map along also.
- Bring a sweater or jacket. While it might be 70 and sunny in Bryson City, it may be 20 degrees cooler at the higher elevations. In mid to late October, snow or ice is possible at the higher elevations.
- Take your camera. The warm light of the early morning or late afternoon can create especially dramatic images.
No matter where you go in the Smoky Mountains, you are sure to find great colors this fall. Book your Watershed Cabin today so you can enjoy nature’s beautiful show in comfort and style!