While this past Saturday was beautiful, and hopefully people enjoyed the fall colors in the High Country, Sunday turned cloudy, rainy and cool. Monday is supposed to be partially dreary also, but then after that, the weather reports look very promising for a sunny end to the week and cool, clear days on the weekend, all the way from the Smokies to the Virginia border. That's good, because the colors in the Highlands/Cashiers and Boone areas are going to peak by mid-week, and those colors will persist through the weekend. So, if you're thinking of heading up to the mountains to see the fall foliage, this coming week and weekend look to be a good bet.
The birches have really come on this past week, providing a yellow highlight to the forests and the tulip poplars are starting to yellow up also; however, they tend to lag behind the birches. Beeches have also started yellowing, but they soon turn to brown, as do the magnolias and chestnut sprouts. Sugar Maples continue their progression toward orange and yellow, turning first on the outside of the crown, with the colors then working their way inward with time. Interestingly, tulip poplars turn in an opposite manner, from the inside out. Why some trees turn from the inside out and others from the outside in is one of the mysteries of fall leaf color!
Red maples, red oaks, sourwoods, dogwoods, Virginia Creeper and blueberries are all giving the forests that red accent which most people agree makes for a great fall color season. If the maples and oaks do well this year, we should have an exceptional fall color season. We'll know later this week if that will happen.
Colors have peaked at higher elevations, such as Grandfather Mountain, Mt. Mitchell and Roan Mountain, and the quality looks pretty good. Around Blowing Rock at Bass and Price Lakes, colors are also very vibrant now, and perhaps among the best along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Craggy Gardens, Mt. Pisgah, and Graveyard Fields are reported to be at their peaks, and should be excellent this week. The southern end of the Parkway though, has not yet peaked, so maybe reserve a trip there for later.
This is the week to take in the foliage at high elevations, so for scenic drives, head upwards! The Cherohala Skyway in Robbinsville is a good bet, as is the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Cherokee, past Maggie Valley, and then on to Graveyard Fields at milepost 418. Craggy Gardens is a favorite spot, as is the Linn Cove Viaduct just north of Grandfather Mountain. Doughton Park at milepost 340 should be looking good these days and is a great place for hikes as is Mt. Mitchell State Park. Also, check out the various apple cider/honey stands along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's time for North Carolina apples!
A really great website for fall foliage color reports can be found at the Blue Ridge Parkway Guide by Virtual Blue Ridge: http://www.virtualblueridge.com/color-reports/. They update frequently, and have archived reports from the past and they cover the entire 470 miles of the Parkway. For more information, don't forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FallColorGuy/) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). Happy and safe driving!