Fall Color Report for Week of October 21, 2018



Today started off dreary and drizzly, but by noon, it began to clear up. However, as the skies cleared, the winds picked up, and throughout the day, we were buffeted by strong gusts. Of course, this took some leaves off the trees, especially those that had started to turn color.


That’s sort of been the story here this fall – just about everything that could go wrong for good fall color has happened this year: I said for good fall color we needed cool, sunny weather, starting in September. Instead, we had record warmth and excess rain and clouds. I said we needed to avoid rainstorms with high wind, and we had two hurricanes. As a result, I think we are going to have a sub-par fall foliage season. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no color and 10 being excellent, I am going to rate this season as between 2 and 3. That’s the lowest I’ve ever rated it in 11 years of doing this! Bummer!


There is isolated color here and there, but for the most part, the forests still have a lot of green showing (at least 40% or so, and even greater in some locations). Color is popping out, but there is a noticeable lack of brilliant red colors – we’re seeing mostly yellows and oranges. Most people think the quality of the display is lower if the reds are not showing brightly. To add to the mess, many trees at the higher elevations have already lost most of their leaves, so those hillsides have a gray appearance now.


Below the Parkway, forests are still primarily green, although I did see color extending down to about 2,000’ in some locations today. These areas usually peak at the end of October, and sometimes into the first week of November, so if conditions get more conducive for producing fall colors, the best colors may be in the foothills instead of the High Country.


I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway north up to Doughton Park, then reversed myself and took the Parkway south all the way past Grandfather Mountain. The story all along the way was much same: lots of trees with green leaves, trees missing leaves at higher elevations, and trees showing only muted colors in isolated locales. I’m afraid this year is a bust.


Because there are still a lot of green leaves out there, I’m predicting that colors will continue to develop this week, and peak by next weekend. After that, the best colors will appear at lower elevations down to 2,000’ or so, and then in early-November they should be peaking at 1,500’, e.g., in places like Chimney Rock State Park below Asheville.

I posted an album of photos from my trip today. One last word: even though colors will not be great this year, there is still no better place to see great views than up here in the High Country, or all along the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Smokies and up into Virginia. Last Saturday, when I was at Grandfather, it was so clear that we could see the Bank of America building in Charlotte, a distance of 82 miles as the crow flies. So, if you’re wondering whether to come up or not, remember, a day in the mountains will give you memories for a lifetime.