Fall in North Carolina isn’t about pumpkins or coffee or even flannel. It’s about leaves. This is all I’ve been able to see in Charlotte so far:
But this coming weekend begins a string of peak viewing times for fall color beginning at the state’s highest elevations and spreading toward Charlotte.
If you’ve never gone out leaf peeping, we’ve got you covered.
We’re lucky to have a resident expert breaking down the science behind everything and giving us up-to-date reports. Howard Neufeld is a biology professor at Appalachian State University and the official “Fall Color Guy.” Follow him on Facebook here. The map above comes from the App State website that also has weekly updates on where things are looking the prettiest.
Here are a few other sites to get good fall foliage updates:
- VisitNC foliate reports
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park fall color report
- Explore Asheville report
Here’s a good breakdown by weekend of what’s going to happen and where you should go.
October 3: Highest elevations
The first weekend in October will be the peak for areas above 4,500 feet in elevation. We’re talking about Mount Mitchell, the area around Cherokee, Clingmans Dome and a couple other places.
Your best bet is Mount Mitchell. At 6,684 feet in elevation, it’s the highest point east of the Mississippi. If you’re not feeling adventurous, you can drive right up to the summit and check out the views from the observation deck. There are also plenty of hiking trails and family camping options.
Mount Mitchell State Park
2388 State Highway 128
Burnsville, NC 28714
Distance from Charlotte: 2.5 hours
October 10 and 17: Middle elevations
This is peak leaf season for places between 2,500 and 4,500 feet in elevation. Sure, you can go to Asheville and have a great time. But you’ll be missing out on what might just be my favorite place: The Orchard at Altapass.
This photo is from like four years ago, don’t judge me. Altapass has incredible views, pick-your-own apples, fudge hayrides, guided tours, walking trails, kids activities and live bluegrass just about every weekend.
The Orchard at Altapass
1025 Orchard Rd.
Spruce Pine, NC 28777
Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours
Bass Lake near Boone is a sneaky awesome place to visit, as well. You’re close enough to town to enjoy the restaurants, etc., but far enough away to get some peace. There are a number of walking trails, including a 0.8-mile option that’s flat enough to take a baby stroller on.
Highway 221 South
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Distance from Charlotte:
October 24: The foothills
By this point, the peak color has exited the mountains and is getting down into the somewhat lower elevations. Now’s the time for a trip to South Mountains State Park. The camping is top notch, there’s an 80-foot waterfall, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, picnic areas and a visitor’s center.
South Mountains State Park
3001 South Mountain Park Avenue
Connelly Springs, NC 28612
Distance from Charlotte: 1.5 hours
Chances are it won’t be until early November that the fall color change hits its peak in our area. You can get some great views on Morehead Street, Queens Road West and Randolph Road. But if you’re jonesing for a day trip, head to Morrow Mountain. Check out the Agenda’s full guide to Morrow Mountain here.
Morrow Mountain State Park
49104 Morrow Mountain Road
Albemarle, NC 28001
Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour
I know I’m just scratching the surface here. Let me know where your favorite spots are. And as you head to the hills this month, be sure to tag @charlotteagenda on Instagram and Twitter. Here’s to #LeafWatch2015.
(Photo credits: All photos are from me except for a few. The map is from Appalachian State University. The Mount Mitchell photos are from my father, Mark Dunn, and uncle Greg Elam. The South Mountains photo comes from DiscoverBurkeCounty.com )