Fall Color Report for Week of October 13, 2020

I went out on the Blue Ridge Parkway today to see how the leaves survived the storms that rolled in on Friday and stayed until Monday. Luckily, for us, the rains were fairly gentle and there was no wind to speak of, so while a goodly number of leaves did fall off over the weekend, most remained on the trees. Which means that they are there and showing off some great colors now! Today was a spectacular leaf looking day – skies were clear blue beginning late morning and the leaf colors were bright and varied.

Today in my opinion was peak color day on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Boone Fork, south of Blowing Rock, all the way to Grandfather Mt. Birches and tulip poplars were at their peak, giving the forests a golden hue, accented by orange-red sugar maples and browning Fraser magnolias. Red maples and sourwoods were at their best today, providing spots of bright red against the mostly yellow-orange of the forests. Colors were brightest above 3,500’, but extended down to 2,500’, although it was relatively greener at those lower elevations.

This would be THE week to see the colors in the High Country of NC. I hear they are also at or near peak in the Highlands area too, so if you can get out this week or the coming weekend, you should have a great experience. The colors are on-time this year, and exceptionally bright, and I would rank the fall color season this year as an 8.5 to 9.0, depending on where you are.

Colors should last through this week and into the weekend. After that, and because of some rain predicted for Saturday, the best colors will move downslope some. But the oaks are still coloring up, so some color will persist after this weekend in the High Country.

I’ll be heading out to Roan Mountain, on the NC/TN border this Saturday to check out the colors there. If you haven’t been to this location, it is on the Appalachian Trail and somewhat off the beaten track of the Parkway. You can hike either north or south on the trail, and because the peaks are grassy balds, you have 360 degree views from them. You can access it by heading out US 19E from Elk Park, NC about 20 miles to Roan, TN, and at the sign, take a left and head up the mountain. There is parking at the top.

I’d also suggest heading out to Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area in West Jefferson, right off U.S. 221. You can drive right to the top, have a picnic, and then take an easy level hike to the rock outcrops at the end of the trail (about 1 mile) and see some great views. Another suggestion is Elk Knob State Park – it’s probably past its peak given how high this park is, but the views from the top are the tops! It’s just north of Boone about 8 miles on Rt. 194. Lastly, Doughton Park on the northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are numerous hiking trails and some great overlooks and the colors should be good this week and next.

The pictures attached here are from today’s excursion to Linville Falls (worth the visit!) and spots on the BRP heading north. Despite the pandemic, the BRP is crowded (even on a Tuesday morning), so if you head up here this weekend, expect traffic, slowdowns and crowds. Best to avoid the weekends if you can!

Happy Leaf Looking!