Blue Ridge Mountain Life

Fall Foliage 2019 Forecast and Guide


Tens of thousands of people visit the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and North Georgia each year to see the beautiful Fall foliage and Fall colors.  The Blue Ridge Mountains offer one of the most colorful and longest running fall leaf seasons in the world.

One of the many reasons for this is due to the varied elevations, which show prime fall colors for more than a month.  Fall colors begin at the highest elevations in early October, and work their way down to the lower elevations in early November.

Fall Color at Linn Cove Viaduct

2019 25 Best Places to see Fall Color

See our top picks for 2019 to see Fall Colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Fall Foliage 2019 Forecast and Guide

Fall Graveyard Fields

Fall Color at Lower Falls, Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway

This 2019 Fall Foliage guide for the Blue Ridge Mountains will:

  • Tell you when the peak times are for various elevations and locations
  • Provide weekly updates for you on the current status of the leaf color
  • Links to lots of photos from prior years, with links to great places to see the fall colors
  • Share tips for fall foliage watching that will help you have the best experience and get the best beautiful photos.  One of the most import?  Book your reservations early.  Hotels, motels, and cabins are filling up fast and many are already fully booked.

Top 22 Best Stops for Fall Colors on The Blue Ridge Parkway

Check out our top 22 picks for the THE best stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway to see Fall Colors in 2019

Maybe you're wondering what makes us an authority?  Well, we live here, and specifically in Maggie Valley NC.  As Fall 2019 approaches, we'll be out and about taking photos and reporting on current conditions.

We also stay in touch with regional experts to get the latest information on current conditions and Fall predictions.  

You'll find our dates and photos to be some of the most accurate available, and we always provide frequent updates WITH photos.

2019 Fall Color Updates

Here are our weekly Fall 2019 Updates, beginning September 3rd!

9/16/1019 Update - Higher Elevations are just beginning to turn

The past week has shown more progression, in particular at the higher elevations.  Nothing major, but you can certainly see the dark green foliage color beginning to lighten.

Primary Color: GREEN

The photo below was taken from the base of the mountain we live under, near Maggie Valley NC, which is slight over 5,100 feet.  So the color change at higher elevations is definitely beginning.  Look to the left side of the peak, and you can see a lightly lighter color of green than the rest of the mountain.  This is how it begins each year, and it's right on time.

At lower elevations, there is also some color change, in particular yellows, but that is NOT due to Fall Colors, it's due to drought, as we have not had any significant rainfall in weeks.   The dry ground combined with warm temperatures, is causing some trees to color and lose some their leaves early.

We do not think this is going to have a large impact on the Fall Colors.

We also mentioned on Social Media about maybe adjusting out our 2019 forecast, due to warm temperatures.  But we're going to hold off at this point, as rain is in the forecast as well as cooler night time temperatures.  So it's still a bit of a guessing game right now, and even our experts are disagreeing!

ALSO, Elk Rut season has begun - You can learn more in our brand new Elk Guide.

9/9/2019 Update - Early Color Progression Begins

While the primary color is still very much GREEN, we're definitely beginning to see a little progression in the higher elevations, and it various spots at lower elevations as well.

Further progression on trees that turn early is very evident now.  Trees that brown quickly (like Locust) are browning out pretty quickly.  You can see that in the photo we took just a few minutes ago from our home near Maggie Valley, NC.  

But trees that color early are beginning to do so as well.  If you look at the nearest peak in the photo (the one to the left of the bald), you'll see some early color.   This is normal, as some trees generally turn early for various reasons.

Temperatures are right in line with the the long term Fall Forecast, and we're still very much on track for a normal Fall Schedule, but this year should be significantly better than last!   So the vibrant colors are on their way!

Another big sign that Fall is almost here, is when Rut begins for the Elk!  We were out at Cataloochee Valley this past week, and while Rut hasn't officially begun yet, the Bulls are definitely ready, and practicing their skills, including bugling, and herding females.

9/3/2019 Update - Vibrant Colors in the Forecast!

Hi, and welcome to our first 2019 Fall Color Update!   If you're looking for our 2019 Forecast, you'll find it here.  

Fall Color right now is still a few weeks off, and trees here in Western NC at all elevations are still primarily GREEN.  However, some trees, as usually are beginning to turn early, showing some small spots of yellow here and there, but very few and far between.

Here is a photo from out front deck, near Maggie Vally NC this morning to show you what we're currently seeing.  If you look close in the center, you can see some leaves beginning to lighten just a tad, which is expected.  So far, we're right on schedule!

Also, Locust and Buckeye trees are beginning to brown and yellow, as they do each year.  Locust trees brown, due to a worm that eats the leaves around the this time each year.  Buckeyes just mainly turn and brown early, once the fruit is produced.

This week does bring some encouraging news from our local Fall Color experts:

Leaves are expected to be exceptionally vibrant this year due to the all of the rain we've had.   If the temperatures continue, with warm days and cool nights, color all over the Blue Ridge Mountains this year should be exceptional, and very vibrant with lots of bring yellows, oranges and reds.   

The current trend of warm temperatures, may push 2019 Fall Colors out a a bit, so that is something we'll have to keep an eye on.  But as of today, it's too soon to tell.  If we get to a point where we feel we need to push our dates out a few days, we'll let you know ASAP.

Welcome to September and Fall colors are now only 4 weeks away!  Yay!

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Blue Ridge Mountains Fall Foliage 2019 Forecast

Fall Colors Soco Falls

One of the most common questions we get asked in our Facebook Group this time of year is: When is the best time to visit to see the the fall foliage ??

The problem is that leaf color varies year to year, elevation to elevation and even by the direction the mountain side is facing.  

To complicate matters even more, the intensity of the color is determined by a number of very complex factors including:

  • The type of plant
  • Amount of rainfall
  • Temperatures

Leaves begin changing color at higher elevations, and the color change works its way down in elevation.  

This is something you'll want to factor in, when on the Parkway, as you'll generally be viewing elevations below you.

The good news is that all of these variations don't really throw off the normal schedule a great deal.  

Here is the Fall Color Forecast for the Blue Ridge Mountains, by week, starting in October:

September 27 - October 7 - At the highest elevations, close to 6,000 feet there is some color, but it's often very spotty and muted.  The views from these locations will be mostly green, since the areas viewed are lower elevations.  Areas that turn early in this date and elevation range include Graveyard Fields and Rough Ridge.

October 1 - 10 - Peak time for areas above 5,000 feet.  This would include: Clingmans Dome, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Waterrock Knob and Graveyard fields (the first location on the Parkway to turn) and higher elevations of The Blue Ridge Parkway (between Asheville and Cherokee) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

October 10 - 20 - Peak time for elevations from 4,000 - 5,000 feet.   This would include almost all Blue Ridge Parkway locations and the majority of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well.  Included in this elevation are the Boone and Blowing Rock areas.

October 18 - 26 - Peak time for lower elevations, from 3,000 - 4,000 feet.  This would include places like: Pisgah National Forest which includes Sliding Rock and Looking Glass FallsDill FallsWildcat Falls, and many other waterfalls.  Other ares include Linville Gorge, Nantahala Gorge, Maggie Valley, and Cataloochee Valley.

October 24 - 31 - Peak time for elevations below 2,000 feet.  This would include: The cities of Asheville,  Brevard, Waynesville, Cherokee,  and many others.  Places of interest include Dupont State Forest and Biltmore Estate, and Cades Cove.

October 26 - November 8 - Peak time for remaining elevations, including Gatlinburg, TN, Chimney Rock NC, Lake Lure and remaining lower elevation mountains.  This includes Chimney Rock as well, a great place to see Fall color.

Please note, these timeframes are estimates based on prior years and current weather and soil conditions.   Actual peak times may vary some from this forecast.

Fall Photo Galleries

We have a number of Fall Themed Photo Galleries, full of photos from us and many other photographers

Fall Colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway, outside of Cherokee NC

Fall Foliage Maps

The following maps will help you determine the best Fall Foliage times for various areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains.s

Western North Carolina Fall Foliage Map 2019

The following Fall Color Map is for Western North Carolina, and provided by the Biology Department at Appalachian State University:

Virginia 2019 Fall Foliage Map

The following Virginia Fall Foliage Map is from Virginia Department of Forestry:

Virginia Peak Periods:

  • October 10 - 20 (Left Side of Map)
  • October 15 - 25 (Center of Map)
  • October 20-31 (Right Side of Map)

Tips for Fall Foliage Viewing and Photography:

Fall Foliage Blue Ridge Mountains
  1. Book reservations early.   Hotels, Motels and Bed & Breakfasts will be filling up fast.
  2. Be patient.  There are lots of people here during the fall, and having a little patience will go a long way to making your visit far more enjoyable.
  3. Bring your digital camera at all times.  You never know when the perfect photo opportunity will present itself, be prepared.
  4. Be prepared for weather changes.  Weather in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains changes quickly, so don't be upset if you can't get any photos due to the fog or rain.  Just hang out for a bit and be patient.  Chances are it will blow by and the sun may even come out.  We've found that some of our best photos are just after a storm.  Oh, and if you're coming in late October/Early November, you might just get some snow too!  Be sure and make some snow cream.
  5. Stay on the roads.  We see lots of people stuck trying to venture down some narrow mountain road, or trying to drive through grass they think is dry in order to get that "unique" photo.  Unless you have 4-wheel drive, stay on paved or well maintained roads.
  6. Polarized sun glasses and a polarizing filter for your camera enhance fall colors an reduce glare.
  7. Travel on the Parkway.  If you are traveling the parkway, read over our Parkway Travel Tips.
  8. Wear layers of clothing or bring a few extra jackets or sweaters.  Temperatures here in the Blue Ridge can vary greatly base on weather conditions and altitude.
  9. Mornings and evenings are the best times for photos.  Mid day sunlight is often too harsh.  The benefit of getting out early or very late is that you'll avoid most of the crowd too and get great photos too!
  10. Avoid thick clouds and fog in your photos.  If the sky is very cloudy and/or foggy, try to keep the fog and clouds out of your photos.  The white of the clouds and fog is overwhelming, and will just make your photo look smaller.  As an example, see the waterfall photo below.  Graveyard fields was completely clouded over that day, so when I framed the picture, I kept the sky out as much as possible.
  11. Make sure you have plenty of gas.  Some areas, especially on the parkway and in the national parks, are a long way from the nearest gas station.
Fall Color Graveyard Fields

Fall Color Graveyard Fields

Midnight Hole

Early Fall Color at Midnight Hole, in Big Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Things to do in the Blue Ridge during the Fall

Fall Colors Photo Gallery