I took a drive today down to Chestoa Overlook, about 4 miles south of Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I then worked my way back north to Price Lake and Cone Manor in Blowing Rock.
The take home message is this: the best color can be found starting at the Yonahlossee Overlook near Grandfather Mountain and on up north to the Rough Ridge Trail on the Parkway. Even so, it is not yet at peak. There is still a lot of green, which means that next weekend should be even better. And it’s supposed to get cool this week, which should hasten color development.
Other areas, such as the Chestoa Overlook, have good color in the parking lot and on the trail, but the views to the forests below are still mostly green. It may be a week or even two before those forests color up. Still worth a drive there, as you can see Table Rock from this overlook.
The bad news is I don’t think this will be a great fall color year. The heat wave we’re having (it was 72oF today in the mountains, which is about 10-15oF warmer than it should be this time of year) is doing a number on the leaves. Many trees have already lost leaves even before they have turned color. At Price Lake, for example, it went from no color to no leaves. It’s still pretty there, but the colors are fairly dull.
The same can be said for the state of the fall colors in and around Boone. Now Boone always has dull fall color compared to other parts of the county, perhaps due to species composition, but this year it seems even duller than normal. This is our second year in a row with an exceptionally warm October, and high temperatures are not conducive to great fall colors.
I’ll post a bunch of photos in an album, which I’ll label soon. Right now, sassafras are peaking (orange, red, yellow, all on one tree), as are magnolias, birches, and witch hazel (all yellow). Red maples are coloring up, while sugar maples (mostly yellow) are losing their leaves. Tulip poplars have dropped most of their leaves, retaining only those on the exterior portion of their crowns. Sourwoods are still a nice burgundy, as are huckleberrys and black gums.
I think the peak color weekend will be next weekend along this stretch of the Parkway. However, the forests that you view from the overlooks are about a 1,000’ lower in elevation, so they will not peak until even later.
So, if you’re still planning to come to the mountains, you have still have plenty of time. I’ll report about other sections of the mountains later this weekend. Meanwhile, have a safe drive up to the mountains, and happy leaf looking!
You can check out reports on other areas at my Facebook page.