Fall Foliage 2017 Forecast and Guide

** Updated 10/26/2017 for Fall 2017

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.  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 bottom in early November.

>>> Be sure and check out our 25 Best Places to see Fall Color. <<<

Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage 2017 Forecast and Guide

This 2017 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.

Maybe you’re wondering what makes us an authority?  Well, we live here, and specifically in Maggie Valley NC.  As Fall 2017 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.

Table of Contents:

  1. Fall Foliage 2017 Forecast and Guide
  2. 2017 Fall Color Updates
  3. Blue Ridge Mountains Fall Foliage 2017 Forecast
  4. Fall Foliage Maps
  5. Nation Wide Fall Map 2016
  6. Western North Carolina Fall Foliage Map 2017
  7. Virginia 2017 Fall Foliage Map
  8. Tips for Fall Foliage Viewing and Photography:
  9. Things to do in the Blue Ridge during the Fall
  10. Fall Foliage Photo Gallery:

Fall Foliage

2017 Fall Color Updates

Below is the most current update on 2017 Fall Colors.  We’ll be updating the guide weekly as we get closer to peak season with current information and photos!

October 26, 2017:

Fall colors are late this year, we’re estimating about a week behind.  Over the past few days, the 4,000 feet and below elevations have been coming in and are really beautiful! Peak time to see colors in the 3,000 – 4,000 foot elevations will be over the next few days.  We were in the town of Maggie Valley yesterday, and it was gorgeous!  Lots of reds, yellows, and oranges.

Due to the hurricane, and varying temperatures, colors in various areas area a bit spotty – In some areas, the leaves may be gone, but there are plenty of others full of color and leaves.

Just dress warm if you are planning to come, temperatures in the mountains have become very cold in the past few days.  We even had a little snow last night here in Western North Carolina.  

This photo was taken recently in Elkmont, at Event Cabin.  For more Fall photos, join one of Facebook groups: Maggie Valley NC Life, Blue Ridge Mountain Life, or Blue Ridge Parkway Photography.  Photographers are posting lots of pics.

October 9, 2017:

Hurricane Nate blew through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Western North Carolina last night.  Nate brought lots of rain, which should really help the colors, and make the waterfalls more photogenic for the next couple of weeks.  The downside is that it brought lots of high winds as well.   We saw lots of leaves on the ground as result.

The primary color is now YELLOW.  We’ve seen significant color progression, in the 5,000 foot and below areas.  Lots of bright oranges and reds right now as well.  Higher elevations, above 5,000 feet are past peak and remaining leaves are browning.

Our current forecast is still on track, and we expect overall peak for the various elevations to be over the week or two.   It’s going to be gorgeous!

I took these two photos yesterday, right as the heavy rain was moving it.  I got wet, but it was worth it.  Fall colors are so much more vivid in the rain.  Both of these photos are at about 3,000 foot in elevation.

October 2, 2017:

This year has been very difficult to forecast due to big temperature fluctuations, and rain amounts.  A cool spurt three weeks ago or so caused the leaves to begin turning early at higher elevations.   Then last week, temperatures went above normal, causing the color change to rapidly slow down.  

Now, this week, it’s very cool.  In fact it was in the low 40’s here in Maggie Valley NC this morning.   Oh, and did I mention we really need some rain as well?

Taking all of this into consideration, here’s our forecast: Color at high elevations (above 5,000 feet) will not be good this year.  There will still be some color that high up, but many of the trees have browned due to the temperature changes.  Now that normal cold temperatures have returned,  we expect the Fall Leaf season to be back on track with the normal schedule, detailed below.  We also expect very pretty and vibrant colors below 5,000 feet – although a little rain would help.

Predominant color is still GREEN, but we’re definitely seeing the color progression kicking into high gear.  Trees that are turning early are very pretty.

Welcome to October!  The show is on.

September 25, 2017:

We drove the Parkway from Craggy Gardens (MP367) to Highway 215 (MP 423).  The primary color at these higher elevations is still GREEN.  There is lots of color to be seen, with reds, yellows and orange showing on ridges and along the road side, but still mostly GREEN.

The area around Graveyard Fields (MP418) and Black Balsam is the most colorful right now, and will most likely peak this coming weekend, which is about a week early.  The drive going north on Highway 215 from the Parkway is really pretty, with lots of color showing at higher elevations.  We stopped and took some photos, here’s one:

 

To be honest, the Fall Color schedule is a bit difficult to forecast right now.  BUT, here’s our prediction:

Colors at high elevations are about a week early, and will peak later this week and early next week.  Warmer temperatures this week have slowed down the progression at lower elevations, and they will remain on track with our forecasted dates.

September 18,2017:

Fall Colors are Early!  Green is still the primary color right now, but over the past week, there has been significant color progression at all elevations, and in particular at areas above 5,000 feet.  Lots of reds, yellows and oranges showing now.

Higher Elevations, above 5,000 feet, have seen significant progression this week.   We were traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday, between Waynesville and Asheville, and while still a couple of weeks away from peak, there is lots of pretty color to see already.   While not at peak, Graveyard Fields, at Milepost 418 is really gorgeous right now, and showing lots of color:

Fall 2017 - Graveyard Fields

9/17/2017 – Graveyard Fields

At this point, Fall colors seem to be about 3-5 days ahead of schedule.   This week will be warm, which should slow the progression down some and return it to it’s normal schedule, but if that doesn’t happen, we will be shifting our current schedule forward about 5 days towards the end of the week.

If you want to see some Fall Color now in North Carolina, take a ride on the Parkway between Maggie Valley, NC and Asheville, NC and from Asheville up to Mount Mitchell.  Highway 215 from Bethel NC up the Parkway is also very pretty right now.

Fall colors are here folks!

September 12, 2017:

Primary leaf color this week is still very much GREEN, although we are seeing more trees beginning to turn a little early, mainly maples and sourwoods.   This is all normal and expected.

Hurricane Irma blew through the mountains of Western NC yesterday and today.  Since the leaves are mainly all still green, we don’t expect the high winds to affect the leaves or color.   We’ve already had a large amount of rain this year, so the excess rain from Irma won’t make much of a difference, and if anything further brighten the colors.

All current forecasts below remain accurate, and we’re still expecting a bright, colorful and “on-time” Fall Foliage season for 2017.

September 5, 2017:

The last couple of weeks have been very cool here in Western North Carolina.  We do not expect this change the current forecast, and we’re on schedule for beautiful Fall Color Season.

The predominant color right now is GREEN, as expected.  We have seen a number of trees, as we do each year, turning early.  Sourwoods, Maples, Dogwoods, and shrubs like Blueberry.   

We spent the weekend waterfall hunting, and found 6 new waterfalls in the 4,000 – 5,000 foot elevation range.  All of these surrounded by primarily green colors.  So we’re still about 4 weeks away from seeing any significant color progression.

Again, all forecasts below remain accurate, and we expect a normal Fall schedule this year.  With all of the rainfall, we do expect bright and vibrant colors.

August 10, 2017: 

2017 is turning out to be very different than 2016.  This time last year, the Blue Ridge Mountains were in a severe drought, which caused leaves to fall early, a shorter color period, and muted colors.

THIS year however, is the exact opposite.  We have had a large amount of rain this summer, and temperatures here the mountains have been very mild.  In fact, temperatures for the last few weeks have been in the high to low 60s in the mornings!  Perfect weather.

If conditions continue, we’ll be right on track for a normal fall schedule, and very bright and beautiful colors.  With that said though, it’s still very early, and things could change.

Of course foliage is still vastly green right now.  Some trees are beginning to turn early as they always do, specifically maples.  We have one in our yard now that is turning red early.  

Also, and this happens every single year around this time, Black Locust are being attacked by the locust leaf miner.  This insect eats the Black Locust leaves and turns them brown.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look very pretty, and gives the impression the leaves are turning early, which they are not.

At this point, continue to plan for normal times, as described below, as it’s really too early to make any adjustments.

We’ll keep you posted as we closer to peak season.  Please be sure and follow our Facebook page and join our Facebook Group.  We’ll be posting tons of current photos and updates as we get closer.

We would also recommend joining our Blue Ridge Parkway Photography group for current parkway colors and photos as well.

Blue Ridge Mountains Fall Foliage 2017 Forecast


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

The answer?  It depends…

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 it’s way down in elevation.

The good news is that all of these variations don’t really through off the normal schedule a great deal.  Here is the Fall Color forecast for the North Carolina Blue Ridge, by week, starting in October:

9/25/2018 UPDATE – Fall colors at higher elevations (above 5,000 feet) are peaking early, and will peak this later this week.  We’re guessing colors are about 5 days early.  Lower elevations should remain on track due the recent warming trend.

October 1st – October 10th: 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 Falls, Dill Falls, Wildcat Falls, and many other waterfalls.  Other ares include Linville Gorge, Nantahala Gorge, and Maggie 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.

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.

>> Visit all of our Photo Galleries, which contains lots of Fall color photos from many other Blue Ridge Mountain Photographers.

Fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall Foliage Maps

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

Nation Wide Fall Map 2016

The following interactive map from https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map/ allows you to view Fall Foliage for the whole US, by date.

Western North Carolina Fall Foliage Map 2017

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

From: https://biology.appstate.edu/fall-color-report/fall-color-map-north-carolina

From: https://biology.appstate.edu/fall-color-report/fall-color-map-north-carolina

Virginia 2017 Fall Foliage Map

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

Virginia Fall Foliage Map

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:

Mingo Falls Featured

Mingo Falls in Cherokee NC

  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 Foliage

Things to do in the Blue Ridge during the Fall

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