Experts: Leaves in NC mountains will be colorful 'even longer' this fall

Posted September 11
Updated September 20

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Biologists and climate scientists say tourists and residents of the Blue Ridge Mountains alike will be able to enjoy fall's beautiful colors for even longer than usual this year.

According to the experts, travelers will be able to enjoy nature's vibrant display from late September through early November, with color intensity peaking in late September and October.

“The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the best places in the world to experience fall color,” said Dr. Howard S. Neufeld, professor of biology at Appalachian State University. “Because of the range of elevations, we start to see color at the highest elevations like Grandfather Mountain in late September, and then that color cascades downslope all the way to lower locales like Chimney Rock in early November."

This year's longer leaf season in North Carolina is a bonus on top of what is already an unusually long leaf season. Due to our state's extreme elevations and broad biodiversity, experts call our state's leaf season "unmatched."

That's because elevation extremes across the region produce more plant diversity, resulting in a broader spectrum of leaf color. Scientists say the area around the Blue Ridge Mountains is home to more than 100 species of leaf-shedding trees, which combine to give nature-gazers one spectacular display. "A place like New England can’t boast this long of a season," said Neufeld.

Fall in the NC mountains

Fall in the NC mountains

Fall in the NC mountains

The longer 2016 season comes as a result of a hot, drier summer in Asheville.

According to scientists, this summer was the hottest on record for Asheville, with an average temperature of 75.7 degrees. Dr. Beverly Collins, a biology professor and fall foliage forecaster at Western Carolina University, explains that "some trees may respond to drought conditions by slowing photosynthesis and making way for red, orange and yellow pigments earlier than normal, while other species that aren’t as drought sensitive may wait to begin to turn."

Planning a trip to the mountains this fall? You can get fall travel deals, weekly color updates and live foliage reports at


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