Fall Leaf Color Report for the Mountains

fall leaf color report from Banner Elk North Carolina

Here are some LINKS to see some great Fall Color:

We shot this video on Sunday around Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain – Click to see: Fall Leaf Update for NC Mountains

View From Beech Mountain
Watauga Lake
Snowshoe Mountain at Shavers Lake

I’ve heard from more than a few readers asking WHY we had not talked about the fall colors this season. To be honest – we’ve JUST been busy. So much so that believe it or not we’ve heard repeatedly from a number of advertisers who wanted to renew – and we haven’t even been in touch with them. Hard to fathom, but true.

One reader commented, “I guess the reason that you’re not talking about the autumn colors this season is that it isn’t pretty up there.”

Yikes. I AM falling way short aren’t I?

The truth is that as everyone knows we DID have an amazingly wet period of flooding rains for some parts of the mountains and of course in the eastern part of North Carolina. Of course our rainfall and flooding paled in comparison to what those poor souls in the midlands of South Carolina and the Low Country experienced.

Even this past Saturday (October 10th) things were wet and that had everything from our mentality to the leaves – kind of dull.  Sugar Mountain held its annual Oktoberfest and according to my buddy, Len Bauer, there was nobody there. It WAS a soaker for sure.


However as you can see below (click to enlarge) the skies cleared revealing some amazing blue skies on Sunday and we ventured over to the Sunday festivities at Sugar Mountain and we were rewarded with awesome temperatures and brilliant autumn color.

fall leaf color report from Banner Elk North Carolina


West Virginia:

fall leaf color report for West VirginiaLeaves in Canaan Valley, Dolly Sods and Spruce Knob currently are at peak and that includes the entire area around Canaan Valley, Timberline and Snowshoe Mountain over in Pocahontas County.

Color along the Cass Scenic Railroad should be perfect this weekend, although the town of Cass is not yet near peak. The Snowshoe area has good color as well. Foliage along U.S. Route 50 and W.Va. Route 93 in Mineral County ranges from 45 to 60 percent, and is especially colorful where Route 50 ascends the Allegheny Front, which is 70 percent peak. Western Monongalia County is ahead of the eastern portion and said to be beautiful, especially along W.Va. Route 7. A drive to Cheat Lake is colorful, though leaves are not near peak. Foresters recommend a walk among the brilliantly colorful maples at Morgans Run Park.

We should have another update on the fall colors in West Virginia tomorrow (October 15.)


photo by Kristin Plaas
great smoky mountain national park fall leaf color

Fall color continues to progress in the high elevations of the Great Smoky Mountain National park. Many high elevation areas (above 4,500′) are near, to slightly past, peak this week. Areas around Newfound Gap are colorful now. There is still a significant amount of green at the higher elevations though, which means color will continue to develop over the next few days. Views along the first half of Clingmans Dome Road and in the higher reaches of Newfound Gap Road should be good though early next week.

Fall flowers such as purple asters, white asters, black-eyed Susans, pale jewelweed, and goldenrod continue to bloom in profusion along roadsides and trails.

Virginia Mountain Fall Colors:

If you’re looking for gold, you’ll find it in Shenandoah National Park this week. Hickories are dressing themselves, leaf by leaf, in clothes the color of sunshine. Goldenrods are finishing up their blooming season with dignity and a slight bang, as they take on Dijon mustard hues. Ashes and some maples are setting themselves ablaze – self-burnishing their leaves seemingly for your pleasure (or is it all for the pleasure of black bears, deer, squirrels, and the rest of the Park’s resident wildlife?). Asters’ otherworldly radiance – that electric purple-blue you will swear is plugged in somewhere – dapples the roadsides and overlooks.

As you drive through the Park’s higher elevations toward its center, you will look out onto hillsides that look like needle-pointed ottomans on which the needle worker has stitched every conceivable bright color of thread – including, still, plenty of emerald greens. Higher peaks have donned tie-dyed fleece caps. Depending on how the sun hits certain trees – especially the oaks that stand alone at overlooks and parking areas – you might see polished copper or glazed terracotta. This part of the Appalachians Mountains where Shenandoah National Park lies has few of the maples that transform New England mountains and hills into mounds and bowls of red and orange Skittles. But occasionally you will round a turn on Skyline drive and a maple tree the colors of a bonfire will cause your heart to skip a beat – one lone Acer sending your whole nervous system into overdrive. At Meadow Spring parking, mile 33.5, there are two such maples – one in the parking area that is the colors of a ripe mango and one on the western roadside the color of tangerines. At Jenkins Gap (near mile 12) and Range View Overlook (mile 17.1), the colors are at that elusive peak – looking lit from within, multitudinous, crazy beautiful. If you drive north on the Drive and look up to the southwest hill just above Tunnel Parking Overlook (mile 32.2), you will see a tall tree whose trunk looks to have been swathed in barn-red paint; that’s Virginia creeper, doing its thing.

Dogwoods (most of which are in the Park’s lower elevations) are the color of garnets and rubies. Ashes are starting to glow from within, too, like dying embers – that faint ochre that somehow manages to be luminescent even as it demurs, incandescing shyly from within the plum-bronzes of the trees’ outer leaves. Poison ivy vines are Javanese batik scarves, wrapped stylishly around the necks of oaks, pines, and hickories. Everywhere there are touches of light and popping color, like a Monet painting.

North Carolina’s High Country:

As of this past Sunday. New report coming Saturday.

This is THE PEAK WEEK for the Blowing Rock to Grandfather Mountain section of the Parkway. Colors have exploded out over the weekend, even despite the dreary, rainy Saturday that we had. Luckily for us, there was little or no wind on Saturday, so while some leaves did come down, many stayed up, and are now turning beautiful colors.

The colors were really spectacular along the Blue Ridge Parkway from below Holloway Mountain road down to the Beacon Heights parking lot.
I saw a lot of reds splashed against a background of brilliant orange and yellow. Despite all the bad weather we’ve had, the trees have held their ground, and are now showing us all a magnificent display of color.

Forests below 3,000’ are still predominantly green, and so they will color up in the next two weeks, but right now, the peak color is from about 5,000’ or so down to about 3,000’. If you head south of Linville, the colors become more muted, with fewer red trees and more yellow ones (due to a change in species composition over to hickories, ash and oak). When you get past Little Switzerland, heading south toward Mt. Mitchell State Park, the colors begin to pick up again, and from there to Craggy Gardens, you’ll have great views this week up to next weekend.

Remember that you can see a TON of great fall colors via: www.ResortCams.com and click on the MOUNTAIN CAMS or SKI AREA CAMS.

Be sure to check out the newest VIDEO of the colors around Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain.

Until next time, email me at: [email protected]

(Portions of this report came from different NPS reports as well as eyewitness observations.)

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.