WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Want to see colorful fall leaves? Go above 5,000 feet

Posted October 3, 2013

Beautiful leaves from Grandfather Mountain.

Now that October has arrived, we are in for a treat in the North Carolina mountains! There is good color now above 5,000 feet. Of course, that means it will take some effort to see it.

Areas above 5,000 feet include Mt. Mitchell, of course, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Others include Roan Mountain, just across the border in Tennessee, and one of my favorites, Grayson Highlands State Park, just across the border in Virginia.

Sugar maple Fall fun photos

Another good bet is to drive to Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Note that Highway 441 is open, but all park facilities are closed due to the government shut down. The Blue Ridge Parkway is open, fortunately, but again, all facilities are closed right now.

There are some spots on the parkway that are above 5,000 feet. One of my favorites is Devil’s Courthouse near Waynesville. It’s a large rock outcropping with a short but steep hike. It has 360-degree views, including Cold Mountain and Shining Rock Wilderness. Another favorite parkway destination is Craggy Gardens, 30 miles north of Asheville. It’s also a rock outcropping with 360-degree views. Closer to Boone and Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain is a great destination for fall color this week.

Halloween2008_02 Go Ask Mom Fall Fun Guide!

Once the overnight lows dip into the 30s, we will start to see more widespread color. Since temperatures have been warm this week, color is changing slowly. The chilly temperatures create a chemical reaction in the leaves, which enhances color. In the meantime, the shorter days will bring more subtle color to the trees. With less daylight, the leaves lose chlorophyll, which is green. Once the green fades, the oranges, yellows and reds become more visible.

Check back next week and I’ll share the best spots for color next weekend.

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