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Best Places to see Fall Colors near Maggie Valley NC

Fall foliage colors in and around Maggie Valley NC are some of the most beautiful Fall colors you'll see anywhere in the world.   Maggie Valley NC is adjacent to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two of the most visited National Parks in the United States, especially in the Fall.

While the mountains in and around Maggie Valley are beautiful year round, there is just something magical about the cool crisp air, the smell of the leaves, combined with the beautiful red, oranges, and yellows of trees as they turn color in October.

But with so many places all around Maggie Valley NC, what are the best places to see the Fall Colors near Maggie Valley?   

This is a question asked by many visitors planning to visit Maggie in the Fall.   The best places to see Fall colors in Maggie Valley NC is a bit subjective of course, but we want to help you out by giving you OUR top picks for the best places to see Fall Colors in Maggie Valley.

You might also be wondering WHEN is the best time to visit?   Our annual Fall Foliage Forecast and Guide will tell, by elevation and date AND provide real time updates for you as we get closer to peak season in October.

Here are our top picks for the best places to see Fall Foliage in and around Maggie Valley NC:

1 - Take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

You can also head towards Asheville, which takes you through the Highest Elevation points on the parkway and there are numerous scenic overlooks, that in the Fall that offer up long distance views and a beautiful mix of Fall Colors.

We would recommend driving one morning from Maggie Valley up to the Pisgah Inn, and grabbing lunch there.  Along the way, you'll pass a number of overlooks to stop at, enjoy the views, colors and take photos.

Maggie Valley NC is nearby to the most popular and one of the most beautiful sections of the The Blue Ridge Parkway.   From Maggie Valley you can literally be driving on the Parkway within 10 minutes, and within just a few more minutes, viewing breathtaking scenes.

In the Fall, it's a gorgeous drive all the way from Maggie, up onto the Parkway, and all the way down.

From the Maggie Valley entrance to the Parkway, you can drive to Cherokee.  There are a number of nice overlooks along this stretch, but the altitude and views aren't as tremendous as going towards Asheville.

The great thing about the Parkway is that the elevation varies as you drive along it.  Since Fall foliage colors also vary by elevation, based on when you're there, you're almost guaranteed to see beautiful colors along the way, when you visit during October.

2 - Visit Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bull Elk in Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley is a remote, off the beaten path, and beautiful area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cataloochee Valley is famous for its historic structures, and for Elk.

Cataloochee Valley is a wonderful place to visit, but Fall has some added benefits:

  • Beautiful Fall Colors - Cataloochee Valley elevation is 2,600 feet, meaning it generally peaks in Mid to late October (October 18-26).  The other reason is Fall Mating season for the Elk, called Rut.
  • Rut Season - Running from Mid September to Mid October, male elk (called Bull Elk) make their legendary bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract female Elk (called Cows). Bull Elk calls may be heard more than a mile away.

Bull Elk use their antlers to  spar with other Bulls, pushing each other back and forth using their antlers, which by this time of the year can be very large.  Most encounters are harmless, with very little physical contact other than the antlers.  During Rut season, the most dominant males gather up more than 20 cows, and breed with them.

We highly recommend visiting Cataloochee Valley during the Fall, both for the colors and to see Rut season.  Fall color at Cataloochee Valley, combined together with the historic buildings, makes for some incredible photo opportunities!

Caldwell House

3 - Max Patch

Not far from Maggie Valley, is one of the most beautiful scenic balds in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Max Patch.

Max Patch is a nearly 5,000 foot in elevation, scenic bald that provides 360 degree views.  The famous Appalachian Trail travels right through the peak of the bald, and provides a unique opportunity to hike along this trail.  The top of max patch provides amazing views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well.

Visiting Max Patch during early to mid Fall offers some tremendous views and color.    The peak of Max Patch is accessible via a short but strenuous hike up to the top.   The hike is worth the reward, as the views are stunning.

4 - Big Creek

Fall at Midnight Hole in Big Creek

One of our favorite places to visit and hike in the Fall is Big Creek, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Big Creek has a wonderful creekside picnic area, that is very pretty and serene in the Fall.   From the parking lot, you can also hike up Big Creek Trail for access to two different waterfalls, and a stunning Fall walk through the woods, that is full of color and the rushing sounds of Big Creek.

The first waterfall is a popular summer swimming hole call Midnight Hole.   This is a very photogenic waterfall when wrapped in Fall color, and makes for a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds, smells, and numerous colors.  The second Falls, Mouse Creek Falls is equally gorgeous and much taller.

5 - West Fork of the Pigeon River/Highway 215

Not only is the West Fork of the Pigeon River, along Highway 215 near Balsam NC,  an awesome place to Trout fish, it's also incredibly gorgeous, especially in the Fall.

Highway 215 winds its way south, from the small town of Bethel up to the Parkway.  This two lane highway follows along the West Fork of the Pigeon River.   Along the way there are numerous pull overs and side roads you can use to access the West Fork.

Highway 215 itself is an absolutely gorgeous drive alone, but then couple that with the beautiful crystal clear creek, it's a real Fall treat.

6 - Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam

Black Balsam Knob is a peak located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and about 40 minutes from Maggie Valley NC.  The trail up to Black Balsam Knob offers some incredible 360 degree scenic views of Pisgah National Forest.

There are very few trees here, so the view is unobstructed, and pure mountains.  During the Fall, color can be seen across the Parkway and Pisgah National Forest as far as the eye can see.

7 - Cataloochee Ranch on Horseback

There is nothing quit like a mountain top horseback ride in the Smoky Mountains during the Fall, when colors are at their peak.  Cataloochee Ranch delivers.

Located at the top of Fie Top Road in Maggie Valley, the Ranch is located next to the Cataloochee Ski Area.   The Ranch provides Inn Lodging, Cabins, and Restaurant, along with numerous other activities and amenities, including guided horseback riding.

The Ranch offers a number of times, dates and riding locations from their historic horse Barn.   One of which is a high elevation ride over Hemphill Bald, which provides stunning views, especially in the Fall when colors are peaking.

>> Book your reservations or learn more about Cataloochee Ranch Horseback Riding on their website.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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