Blue Ridge Mountain Life
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Fall Foliage 2019 Forecast and Guide

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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.

To skip over our current updates and jump straight to our 2019 forecast, click here!

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 are weekly Fall Color Updates:

11/11/2019 - Our Final 2019 Fall Color Update

To say that the Fall of 2019 was stunning, would be an understatement.   We entered the season with very warm temperatures and in drought conditions.   Many expected Fall colors to be dull, and to not last very long.

But, nature is often hard to predict, and the Fall season, while a bit late, showed up, fully dressed, with lots of vibrant colors.  In fact, some of the most vibrant and rich colors we've had in years.

But, as they say, all good things must come to end, so also is true for the 2019 Fall Color Season.   Peak colors for the Blue Ridge Mountain areas are now gone.  While spots of color remain here and there, the majority of the color has either fallen to the ground, or have progressed into darker reds and browns.

Sadly, this will be our last update for the Fall of 2019.  Seems like we just started these updates a few weeks ago.  The colors just never seem to last long enough do they?  

But Old Man Winter is on his way, with snow and single digit temperatures expected for tomorrow.   So bundle up!

The photo above is the last Fall photo I'll be sharing with you.  My daughter and I were learning how to shoot some video the other day, and as we were returning back home, we say this scene.   Some remaining late Fall colors, back lite by the setting sun.

I looked at my daughter, and said "Good bye Fall, we'll see you again soon".

11/4/2019 - Fall Colors are fading quickly

For some reason, Fall Colors this arrived quickly, were incredibly beautiful, and then suddenly gone it seems.   But we're not complaining, just a little sad to see them go.

2019 was one of the most stellar years for color in the Blue Ridge Mountains in a long time.  We've seen a few posts on social media voting it at 7-8 of out 10 for beauty.

Primary Colors: Gold, Dark Orange, Dark Red, and Brown

Colors above 3,000 - 3,500 feet are mostly gone.  There are some trees here and there with color, but the color is fading into late Fall browns quickly.

Here is a photo by Gary Phillips, from our Blue Ridge Mountain Life Facebook Group, showing the current leaf situation from Craggy Gardens:

From 1,500 - 3,000 feet, there is more color, but it's sparse, mainly due to storms that came in last week, with high winds that blew the leaves down.

If you want to see color, you'll want to head into the lower elevations of North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and North West South Carolina.  Places like Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Helen GA, Blue Ridge GA, Front Royal VA and many others are very pretty right now.

Here is another photo from our Blue Ridge Mountain Life Facebook Group, by Hunter Newman showing the colors in Virginia, near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive:

Again, if you're looking to see vibrant color right now, head into the lower elevations of the Blue Ridge Ridge!   We'll provide one more update for next week, then that will be the end of the 2019 Fall Season and our weekly Fall Color Updates.  

10/28/2019 - Peak colors are now in the 3,000 - 4,000 foot range

Peak colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains are now in the 3,000 - 4,000 foot range in most locations.   Color above 5,000 feet is past peak, and in many cases, now gone, due to the recent storms and high winds that blew the leaves down.

Primary Colors: Yellow, Orange and Red!

If you want to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, and see tons of beautiful Fall Color, this past and this week are going to be the primary times.   All elevations are seeing some level of Fall Color, and it's turned out to be very beautiful and vibrant this year.   

Areas like Linn Cove Viaduct and Grandfather mountain, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Maggie Valley NC, Blowing Rock NC, Boone NC, Asheville NC, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Force TN, and many other areas are surrounded by color right now.

Here are some photos we took along the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday in the 3,000 - 4,000 foot elevation range: 

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is also peaking in the 3,000 - 4,000 foot elevation range.  This includes many areas of the park, and also Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.

Here are some photos from Cataloochee Valley taken earlier this week:

We would highly recommend you join our Blue Ridge Mountain Life Facebook Group - Members are posting tons of Fall photos from all over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Not only will you see beautiful photos, but you can see where all the great color is, and find some great places to visit!

10/22/2019 Fall Color Update - Peak colors in the 4,000 - 5,000 foot range

We once again spent the entire day yesterday investigating and photographing the colors in the upper elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

Here is what we found:

  • Color progression has sped up, and while still behind schedule, it's not as far behind as it was.  We were a good 7 days behind, now we're probably more like 3-5 days, depending on the area.
  • While there is lots of color still above 5,000 feet, it is past peak.   Colors are beginning to darken, and many leaves have now fallen (due to wind).  We were unable to see Graveyard Fields due to the dense fog.  
  • Areas between 4,000 and 5,000 are near peak, and should peak later this week.  If you are in or visiting North Carolina, the Highway 215 area, and areas around Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct are gorgeous.
  • Primary Colors: Yellow, Orange and Red!  This year is turning out far more vibrant than many expected!  We're seeing lots of very vivid reds and oranges.

Don't forget, that just because higher elevations are no longer peak, you'll still see beautiful color, as you mainly view areas of lower elevation from the higher elevations.

Here are some photos we captured yesterday, on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 215 in North Carolina:

10/15/2019 Fall Color Update - Let the show begin!

2019 Fall Color on the Blue Ridge Parkway on 10/14/2019

Well, the bad news is, colors are a good 7-10 days late this year.  The good news is they are here, and coming in quickly.

You may have noticed, we're a day late on our update, but for a good reason!  We travelled the Blue Ridge Parkway all day yesterday from Maggie Valley to just shy of Asheville and saw lots of color.  We also drove into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well, up to Clingmans Dome.

Here is what we observed:

  • Graveyard Fields, one of the first areas to peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway is at or very near peak (photos below).
  • Areas above 5,000 feet will peak later this week and weekend.
  • Colors in areas below 5,000 feet are starting to fill in
  • The drive to Clingmans Dome along Clingmans Dome Road is gorgeous and full of color, but the wait to get into the parking lot is long.   

We even saw lots of wildlife, including: Elk, Turkeys, and a bear

Primary Color: LIGHT GREEN.

At this point, Fall Colors don't appear to be as vibrant as they have in some past years, but are much more vibrant than many predicted, so we won't complain  On a sale from 1 - 5 we are giving this year a 3 rating for vibrancy.

But enough chat, let's jump to the photos!  Here are a few photos from the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Here are some photos from Graveyard Fields:


10/7/2019 Fall Color Update - Still GREEN!

The good news is that a cold front has moved into the Blue Ridge Mountains, and has dropped temperatures, which will help kick the Fall colors into gear.   The bad news is the cold front has caused a large amount of clouds/fog, which is hiding the colors at the highest elevations.

This was our view yesterday, looking into Graveyard Fields from the parking area:

In our last forecast, we said colors were 3-5 days late.  Due the long lasting warm temperatures, we're adjusting that out, to 7-10 days late, as of today.

Primary color: GREEN

Here is a current photo, as of this morning, from our home near Maggie Valley NC, at about 4,000 feet in elevation.  If you compare this photo, to earlier photos taken from the same location, you can see there is definitely lots of lighter greens, but the real color, isn't here yet.  At peak, these trees are orange and yellow.

In summary, colors are coming, but they are late.  There is spotty color in the higher elevations, but the main colors are still a week or so away at the highest elevations.   

The big question right now is how vibrant the colors will be, when they do finally come.  Unfortuntely the jury is still out on that.  They should be, but too many variables at play.  

Again, we would highly suggest you join our Blue Ridge Mountain Life group, where you can see photos from many of our members, showing current colors all across the Blue Ridge Mountains!

 

9/30/2019 Fall Color Update - Adjusting our Forecast

We spent a lot of time up on the Parkway this weekend, and around the higher elevations of Highway 215 in North Carolina taking lots of photographs of the current colors.  While up there, we almost almost always get good photos, but sometimes, if your timing and conditions are right, you can get great photos.  

Yesterday was that day, as we found a scene that combined beautiful fall colors with one of the most beautiful rainbows we've ever seen:

While not peak yet, there is some really nice color at the higher elevations.  Based on our observations at Graveyard Fields and the areas of the parkway above 5,000, Fall Colors seem to be running about 3-5 days late.

We're going to leave our current forecast though, since we have ranges, and the weather is still a bit unpredictable.  We did finally get some much needed rain yesterday.  Temperatures this week remain in the 80s, which will continue to delay colors.  BUT, temperatures get colder as we get into the weekend, and seem to stay that way go forward.  That should speed up progression at areas below 5,000 feet.

Our overall primary color is: GREEN, even at higher elevations.  BUT, you can see some reds, and lots of oranges and yellows though, and it's very pretty.

Graveyard Fields is one of the first areas to turn on the Parkway, and here are some photos taken from there yesterday:

As you can see, the reds and oranges are coming, but still very much green.  We expect peak for this year to be this coming weekend or just a little after.

You can also find lots of beautiful yellows and oranges at the higher elevations of Highway 215 in North Carolina, near the Parkway as well.

Colors in other high elevations areas, including Linn Cove Viaduct, Grandfather Mountain, and Rough Ridge are also beginning to really show, but still primarily green.  

Here is a photo of current Fall color at Linn Cove Viaduct, taken by our friend Arpana of Picturesque Photography:

Wrapping up, colors are not yet peak at the highest elevations, but it's coming, quickly.  Based on what we say over the weekend, colors are going to be a little late, but very vibrant.  Our current Fall Forecast dates will remain.  

Stay tuned, as the peak Fall colors arrive very soon at the higher elevations!  Yay!!

9/23/2019 First Day of Fall 2019 Update!

Happy Fall 2019!   Today is the first day of the 2019 Fall Season, and to say we're excited would be an understatement.

Early colors are beginning to show at the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This is a photo from the Clingmans Dome area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, taken by our friends at Picturesque Photography this past weekend.

You'll notice a lot of yellow.  Most of this isn't due to true Fall colors, but due to the minor drought conditions we are in right now.  Most of the Blue Ridge Mountains, haven't had any significant rain in almost 6 weeks, placing us in an official state of drought.

Most trees are very tolerant of these conditions, and we do not expect this to have any impact on the Fall colors.  Less drought tolerant trees, such as populars and birch, are losing their leaves quickly.  They are turning yellow, and falling to the ground.  

Additionally, Buckeye and Locust trees, who leaf early, are also losing their leaves.  they are browning out and falling to the ground as well.

This is all pretty normal, especially for the past few years.    The warm temperatures during the day are a bit of a concern, but fortunately night time and morning temperatures have been cool.  This should keep the Fall schedule on track at this point.  It is possible though that fall colors could be delayed 3-5 days, if the heat and drought conditions continue.  Unfortunately we cannot be certain at this time.

With that said, the primary color now is: GREEN.  On a 1-5 scale of color progression, we are at a 1.  Still very early. 

Here is a photo from our house, near Maggie Valley NC at 4,000 feet in elevation​​.  You can see spots of color, and some lighter greens, but still very much green.

So, "Happy Fall Y'all!" - Stay tuned as we continue to provide updates, and photos as we he further into the color season!

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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Share your Fall Color Photos and to see photos from more than 25,000 others happy members!

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 from 2,000 feet - 3,000 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