Fall Color Forecast Asheville & NC Mountains 2018

Fall Color Forecast 2018, Asheville & NC Mountains

The fall foliage show in the mountains and foothills surrounding Asheville in western North Carolina brings a kaleidoscope of leaf colors for many weeks. Our Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains have one of the longest autumn color seasons in the country, thanks to our many 6,000-foot peaks (highest in eastern USA), deep valleys and varying micro climates. Experience a 5-week span of color that slowly descends from the tallest ridges down to the lowest valleys. During the past 15 years, we've tracked the foliage peak times and best places to see. Get details below!

Blue Ridge Parkway & Mountains Fall Color Forecast 2018

Leaf peepers ask: “When is peak color?” Great news... we have many weeks of autumn color in our mountains and foothills. Since you find the areas of best color by simply driving the Blue Ridge Parkway or other scenic roads up and down the ridges, you don't have to worry about exact dates. Elevation is the biggest factor for time of color change. Also, chilly sunny weather speeds up the color change and warm weather and rain prolongs it. See updates below!

Parkway Fall Color Report

October 12, 2018 Update: Great news! Fall weather finally arrives. At Mt Mitchell (in photo above, looking from the Blue Ridge Parkway) it was in the low 30s this morning. Cool nights are exactly what the leaves need to begin to change. Our leaves are still mostly green thanks to record heat in September and October. Colors are running about 2 weeks behind "schedule". Colors will change rapidly during the next two weeks. Many trees along the highest ridges have lost their leaves, and color will probably be a little dull this year. But our scenery is gorgeous year round! We'll keep watching. We adjusted our timeline...

Peak Foliage Color Timeline: UPDATED OCTOBER 6, 2018 - Don't focus on exact dates since nobody can predict mother nature. It's our best guess!

Note: We tweak this forecast depending on weather patterns and our observations. Please remember that locations for peak color are estimations based on previous years. Also, areas at the exact same elevation often change at different times, depending on sun exposure, soil conditions and more.

Weather Channel Fall Color Report

October 3, 2018: Did you see us on the Weather Channel? Jim Cantore used our Mt. Mitchell photos three years apart to illustrate the delayed color change due to record warm temperatures. According to Dr. Howard Neufeld at Appalachian State, our mountain overnight temps during have been a record-breaking 9.2 degrees above normal. 

Blue Ridge Parkway Top Stops
One of America's top scenic drive is the best place to see the autumn show. See our 20 Parkway Top Fall Stops near Asheville.

Fall Events
There are many street festivals and autumn-themed events in September and October in Asheville and nearby small towns. See our 40 Favorite Fall Festivals.

Fall Color Blue Ridge Mountains NC

Best Photo Spots
See our Top 20 Fall Stops on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Blue Ridge Mountains Fall Photo Tour. Find our top Scenic Drives and top Mountaintop Hikes with panoramic views.

Autumn Leaf Viewing Tips
Here are some of our tips for a fabulous fall getaway:

  • Make your lodging reservations ASAP at our top B&Bs, cabins and hotels. Many book up weekends well in advance.
  • To avoid the biggest crowds and to save on lodging, stay Sunday through Thursday nights. Saturdays during October are very busy everywhere!
  • If you are exploring the outdoors in our national parks and forests, research first. Frequently, you will not have cell or Internet service in remote areas including many hiking trails and waterfalls.
  • With the varying elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is the easiest place to find color. The elevation of the Parkway in Asheville is approximately 2,200 feet, and it rises to 6,000+ feet as you drive north or south. When you find a particular area of brilliant foliage, take a hike, picnic at an overlook or detour on an intersecting road. Be patient and expect slow traffic, especially Saturdays and Sundays. Since the Parkway has limited signage for things to do along the road, see our Blue Ridge Parkway Top 20 Fall Stops.
  • If you encounter fog and low clouds on the Blue Ridge Parkway, don't despair. The weather changes rapidly, so it could be sunny around the next bend. In mid to late October, snow or ice is possible at the higher elevations. Road closures and conditions on the Blue Ridge Parkway, along with weather reports, are available by calling the Parkway information line at (828) 298-0398.
  • Bringing the dog? See our Pet-Friendly Guide.
  • Bring a sweater or jacket. While it might be 70 and sunny in Asheville, it could be 20 degrees cooler at the higher elevations. Rainy day? Here are some indoor options for things to do.
  • Take a picnic or snacks, especially if you are driving the Parkway. Restaurants and stores can be hard to find in the most scenic areas.
  • For visits to Biltmore Estate, buy your tickets in advance to save money and to get your preferred house tour time. See our Fall at Biltmore Guide for details.
  • Fill up the gas tank before leaving the city. Gas stations are sparse in remote areas and there are none along the Parkway.
  • Don't rely 100% on your GPS to navigate our mountain roads. That's a good way to get lost. Take a map or our written directions for the many places we feature.
  • Take your camera. The warm light of the early morning or late afternoon can create especially dramatic images. Rainy days often provide the most striking and rich photos! Morning fog also creates dramatic photo opportunities.
  • Enhance fall colors by wearing polarized sunglasses.

Asheville Fall Things to Do

Asheville Fall Festivals
Best 40 Fall Festivals & Events
September & October: Enjoy the cooler days of autumn with a big variety of events and outdoor festivals in Asheville and western NC towns. See our fall color foliage forecast for the best places to see the changing leaves.
Blue Ridge Parkway Top 50
Blue Ridge Parkway Top 50
Drive the Parkway north or south from Asheville and quickly climb the Blue Ridge Mountain ridge. You can reach elevations of 5,000+ ft. Our mile-by-mile guide of the Parkway covers the 193-mile section near Asheville. So many things to do along one of the most scenic drives in the United States.
Asheville Outdoors
Top 70 Outdoors - Asheville & NC Mountains
Explore our mountains with hikes, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and many thousands of acres of national forest and park land. Get outside in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains with our 70 favorite things to do.
300 Things to Do
300 Things to Do
See our master list of places to see and things to do in the western North Carolina mountains, including Asheville and our many small towns. 
NC Small Towns
Top 35 Coolest Mountain Small Towns
Explore our favorite cool small towns in the NC mountains near Asheville, each with its own personality, local shops and restaurants, friendly residents and relaxed atmosphere.
Asheville Guided Tours
25 Guided Tours & Experiences
Take a guided tour for sightseeing, art, wildlife, history, food, beer, waterfalls, wellness and more in Asheville and western North Carolina. See our list of favorites.
Scenic Drives
18 Scenic Drives
See gorgeous countryside, mountain views and charming communities on a windshield tour via national and state scenic byways near Asheville. Lots of opportunities for stops along the way. 
Mountain Hikes Top 60
Best 75 Mountain Hikes
There are thousands of miles of hiking trails near Asheville, many of which are in pristine national forests or parks. We picked our favorites and created extensive guides for each with photos and details. Find hikes for all skill levels in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.
Waterfalls Top 60
Waterfalls Top 60
Of hundreds of waterfalls near Asheville, we picked the most spectacular falls that are easy to find. Some can be enjoyed with a short walk or even roadside. Others require a scenic hike. See full descriptions for each, with plenty of photos! Also see Waterfall Drives & Maps.
Picnics
Top 20 Picnic Spots
Dine outdoors in nature! Plan a picnic at some amazing locations where you can enjoy sweet views.
Downtown Asheville
Downtown Asheville Top 25
Spend a day exploring downtown, with hundreds of locally-owned shops and galleries, museums, restaurants, breweries and pubs. Dance at the Drum Circle, go to a festival or enjoy street performers. See our favorite things to do!
Apple Orchards, Asheville
Apple Orchards Open
September 01, 2018 to October 31, 2018
Get your fresh mountain apples at an orchard in the largest apple-producing area in the east. Many orchards are open daily, several offer tours, events and pick-your-own apples. It's a quick drive from Asheville, with many orchards located along US 64 East of Hendersonville.
Winery Visits
Winery Visits & Tours
In addition to the nation's most visited winery at Biltmore, take a winery tour in the foothills area including around Hendersonville and Morganton. Sample the local wines while enjoying the mountain views. See our Top Wineries to see in western North Carolina.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Top 15
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Top 20
Explore the most visited national park in the country! With 520,976 acres to traverse, where do you begin? See our top places and hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains near Asheville. Four entrances to the Park are within 60 miles of downtown Asheville.
North Carolina Arboretum
North Carolina Arboretum
Stroll through a variety of gardens and on peaceful woodland trails, located in Asheville adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Don't miss their impressive bonsai garden exhibit and many special events during the year.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Take a scenic train ride on excursions along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, over the mountains, across valleys and through tunnels. Choose from a variety of train adventures departing from Bryson City. First-class passengers enjoy dining and souvenirs. Many special event train rides.
LaZoom Haunted Tour
Haunted Comedy Tour by LaZoom
Ride the purple bus to discover Asheville's strange and sordid past. Spooky guides uncover mysteries and scandal. Laugh and scream. Adults only, ages 17 and up. 60-minute tour begins at 76 Biltmore Avenue (you can grab a beer there to take along). Tours book fast, so buy tickets in advance.
Art Galleries & Studios
Top 20 Art Galleries
Visit a gallery to be amazed at a big variety of local art and craft, including glass, paintings, pottery and every other medium you can imagine. Asheville and the North Carolina mountains are home to hundreds of world-class artists. Here are our favorite galleries to see the their creations.
Elk in Great Smoky Mountains
Elk in Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains
Watch the elk in beautiful Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best time is just before sunset. Take a picnic and tailgate. Also, tour historic buildings or hike.
Biltmore House
Experience Biltmore Estate
Take in the grandeur of our country's largest home, the "Downton Abbey" of America. Explore the many rooms inside the house, walk through breathtaking landscapes and gardens, taste vintages at the winery and enjoy fine dining. See many things to do with our detailed insider's guide!
Farm Visits Asheville
Farm Visits & Tours
Visit farms and learn about their local food. See buffalo and alpacas, sample local cheeses, watch bees make honey, visit wineries, pick apples and more. Plus, tour historic farms at Biltmore and in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing
Enjoy plenty of fishing spots, whether novice or experienced. Full- and half-day guided trips, tying classes and classes geared toward women. 
Packages
Packages & Specials for Asheville & Mountains
Pick a package or special perfect for your vacation, with discounts and travel deals for hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, country inns and cabin rentals in the North Carolina mountains.

Thanksgiving & Christmas
Looking ahead, see our Thanksgiving Things to Do and Top Holiday Outings.

In addition to fall color, you'll find many extra events and things to do at Biltmore in September and October. Explore the estate that is... read more
Be "on top of the world" with these mountaintop summit hikes in the western North Carolina mountains near Asheville with panoramic views of the mountains and valleys. Find hikes for all fitness... read more
Here are some extra resources to help you plan your vacation trip to Asheville and the North Carolina mountains - including many free, printed guides you can order from many towns in the Blue Ridge.... read more