Blue Ridge Mountain Life

Fall Foliage 2018 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.  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.

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

Fall Foliage 2018 Forecast and Guide

Fall Graveyard Fields

This 2018 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 2018 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.

Final 2018 Fall Color Update - 11/5/2018 

Fall Colors in the 1500 - 2500 foot elevations.  Colors above 3,000 foot at now pretty much gone and have fallen off. 

Even on the Parkway, you can still see some nice color while driving through lower elevations, and while looking down from higher elevations.   Be sure to check the Parkway Road Closures Map though, as some sections of the Parkway at higher elevations were closed this week due to ice and snow.

Fall Color Maggie Valley NC

Late Fall Colors from our home in Maggie Valley NC - Taken earlier this week.

Chimney Rock State Park should be at peak this week, along with Gorges State Park and many other beautiful locations in lower elevations.   Like most areas this year, you can expect to see lots of yellows of golds, with a few bright and darker reds mixed in here or there.

This will be our last Fall Update for 2018 - While not a steller year for Fall Colors, there were some beautiful areas full of bright yellows, oranges and golds.  If you looked hard enough, and found the right spots there was even some bright red here and there.

Thanks for following along with us through the late, but still beautiful, 2018 Fall Color Season!

Be sure to join our Blue Ridge Mountain Life Facebook Group and share your photos!

Blue Ridge Mountains Fall Foliage 2018 Forecast

Fall Colors Soco Falls

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 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 throw off the normal schedule a great deal.  Here is the Fall Color forecast for the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, by week, starting in October:

>>The following dates were updated on 10/15/2018 <<

October 11 - 16: At the highest elevations, close to 6,000 feet there is some color, but it's very spotty and muted.  The views from these locations will be mostly green, since the areas viewed are lower elevations.

October 16 - 22: 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 20 - 30: 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.

Fall Colors 2018

October 29 - November 6: 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.

November 3 - November 9: 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.

November 5 - November 18: 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 - This is particularly true for 2018, due to the late development, and unusually warm temperatures.

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

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 2018

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

Virginia 2018 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.

Things to do in the Blue Ridge during the Fall

Fall Colors Photo Gallery