Fall Color Report: October 8, 2023

Fall Color Report for the Week of October 8, 2023

I posted about my trip on Friday with WXII-TV meteorologist James Scott yesterday, along with photos of my hikes on the Rough Ridge Trail and the one that goes to the Linn Cove Viaduct alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Today, I provide some more photos of my trip with my colleague Dr.  Eduardo de Campos, who was making his first visits to all these locations. Eduardo comes to us from Brazil and is a 2nd year professor of chemistry at Appstate.

In this posting I provide pictures from our trips to Wisemans View in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and Linville Falls (photos in a separate posting from this one) and in this posting our trips to Beacon Heights and Grandfather Mt. We had a superb day on Saturday, with abundant sunshine, cool, comfortable hiking temperatures, and a stiff but bracing wind up at the Mile-High Swinging Bridge (it actually is 5,280’ above sea level)! 

The maples and black gums are providing the majority of the red colors now, along with some sourwoods, dogwoods, and various shrubs such as Vaccinium and Gaylussacia (blueberry and huckleberry, respectively). Tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) and Fraser magnolias (Magnolia fraseri) are turning rapidly now to yellow; tulip poplar leaves can become bright yellow, then they turn black and fall off, while the large Fraser magnolias start off a dull yellow before morphing over to a nice chocolate brown color. Birches are also coloring up as are American chestnuts (Betula species and Castanea dentata; both turn yellow).

A cold front moved in late Saturday and temperatures today (Sunday) never got higher than 48F, which is great for stimulating color development on the trees. We’ve needed a good drop in temperatures to get colors going, since last week had above normal temperatures. The 10-day forecast says that the Boone area won’t get out of the 50s until Wednesday, then stay in the 60s, before rising to 71F late in the week, after which temperatures are supposed to drop again. These are near perfect conditions for good color development. 

There could be some rain this coming Saturday or Sunday, but lots of sunshine the rest of the week. This bodes well for good fall foliage color! My only worry is if there are strong winds, as they could knock off leaves if they are highly colored, because such leaves are not held onto the tree as tightly as those that are still green.

Based on these weather predictions, I am suggesting that color will develop rapidly this week on into the following weekend and continue into the following week. Thus, our peak for the 3,000-4,500’ elevational range will most likely occur between Oct 13-20, which would put us on-time this year. Whether it will be as vibrant as last year, which was probably the best in the last 15 years, is anyone’s guess. We know more about timing than vibrancy.

I have posted photos from Wiseman's View and Linville Falls (go to Fall Color Guy on Facebook to view). Wiseman's View is accessed from the small town of Linville Falls (not Linville!) and is a 4 mile drive down a forest service dirt road #1238. Not for the faint-hearted, but I did it in my Subaru Forester, which is fairly low-slung, and had no trouble. Just drive slowly and watch for large potholes! Worth the drive I must admit!

Linville Falls can get very crowded at peak season, so try to get there early, or else parking could be problematic. There is an easy hike across the river behind the visitor center to the falls. There is a lower view of the falls, and several others higher up where you get great views. There is also a trail on the same side of the river as the visitor center (behind the bathrooms) that allows you to hike to the river and view the falls at the very bottom of the gorge.

So, where to go this coming week? The BRP from Blowing Rock to Chestoa Overlook (4 miles south of the US 221 intersection) is a good drive with great views. This includes a variety of hiking trails of varying difficulty and of course, GF Mt (reservations required!). The section from Graveyards, below Asheville, all the way to the Smokies would be good too, and there are campsites, waterfalls, hiking and plenty of overlooks along this stretch, which ends in Cherokee, NC in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM). It may be slightly ahead of peak color at the lower elevations in GRSM, but higher up should have color. Be aware that this most visited park, with some 14 million visitors per year, can get extremely crowded, especially on weekends, so plan accordingly. 

Doughton Park and Jeffress Park (which has Cascades Falls) in the section of the BRP north of US 421 are also good for hiking and views, but you have to check ahead of time for road closures. This website (https://www.nps.gov/.../blue-ridge-parkway-begins-major...) shows a map of the road closures in North Carolina from the VA line down to the Linn Cove Visitor Center. The three major road closures are all north of US 421 and you’ll have to take detours to visit places in this part of the BRP.

Finally, Elk Knob State Park (just north of Boone) and Jefferson State Natural Area (adjacent to West Jefferson) are two places worth checking out this coming week. Colors should be approaching peak at Elk Knob and nearly so at Jefferson Natural Area. It’s an easy two-mile hike to the top of Elk Knob, with views in all directions, while you can drive to the top of the Jefferson State Area, and then take a short hike along the ridge to some great views at the end, and then loop back to your car. Enjoy!

For the photos, please visit Fall Color Guy on Facebook. I include captions for each photo there.