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.

2018 Fall Color Updates

9/17/2018 Update - Hurricane Florence Edition

Hurricane Florence blew through the Carolinas and Western North Carolina over the weekend.  Fortunately winds nor rain were near as high as initiallty predicted, due to the storm slowing and decreasing in strength.  Unfortunately our North Carolina friends on the east case weren't so fortunate.

In both our Blue Ridge Mountain Life and Maggie Valley NC Life Facebook groups, there have been lots of questions about how the storm will impact Falls colors.  

Given the less than 40mph winds, and given the storm arrived early as leaves are still green, Florence will have NO impact on Fall Colors.   Had it arrived later in the season, far more leaves would be on the ground.

What IS having an impact on Fall Colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains right now is temperature.  Around early to mid-September, we want to see temperatures cooling off, so the leaves can begin turning.  

Temperatures, while not as warm as last year, are still above normal.   If this trend continues, we may have colors similar to last year, which while pretty, were far from vibrant.  Let's hope temperatures begin to drop here very soon for vivid 2018 Fall Colors.   

Due to the storm, we didn't venture out much this past weekend, but we did capture a few photos from our house, and you can see early Fall Colors just beginning to show.  We're at 4,000 feet, near Maggie Valley NC.  

But as you can see, the predominant color is still very much GREEN right now.

2018 Fall Colors

9/10/2018 Update

We drove the Parkway from Asheville NC to Boone NC this past weekend.  While there is some color change, especially on trees near the roads, the primary color is still very much GREEN.

Many of the Locust trees are brown at this point, due to the annual attack of a Locust Leaf Minor, a small insect that eats the leaves each year in September and causes the leaves to turn brown.

Additionally, some Maple tees always seem to turn early, showing bright oranges and reds weeks before other trees begin to turn.  While these are a few and far between, we did see many while driving on the Parkway.

One of the significant signs that Fall Colors are just around the corner, is the blooming of Golden Rod, and this year, the Parkway and many other higher elevations here in the Blue Ridge Mountains are just full of it.   There is yellow everywhere, and it's absolutely gorgeous.   Below are just a few photos we captured this weekend of them.

We still have about three weeks to go before any significant change begins to occur in the upper elevations.  2018 Fall Colors are progressing as expected and are on schedule.

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 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 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 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:

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.

Fall Colors 2018

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 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