Asheville NC Fall Foliage Color 2016

Fall Foliage Forecast 2016, Asheville & NC Mountains

The Asheville fall leaf color show in the North Carolina mountains attracts visitors from around the world. With the 5,000-foot elevation change within 50 miles of Asheville, our lush Blue Ridge Mountain range puts on one of the longest-running autumn leaf color displays in the country. After enjoying nature's grand show, head to downtown Asheville to enjoy the many local restaurants and shops. 

Blue Ridge Parkway & Mountains Fall Foliage Forecast 2016

September 28, 2016, Report (pic at top): What a gorgeous drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning with Carolina blue skies. We found the first fall color in the Grandfather Mountain area. Beacon Heights (pic) already has plenty of color on its rock summit. Nearby Rough Ridge has some early color also - but still a week from peak. But most of the leaves are still very green. The color seems to be running a little later than usual due to the very warm September. But cooler nights this weekend should speed up the color change. Spectacular fall weather ahead! See our fall photo reports! Also see upcoming Top Fall Festivals.

Forecast: The number one question is: “When is the peak color?” No matter when you plan an autumn visit in October or early November, you can take a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway or other mountain roads to find the best color of fall leaves. Elevation and weather are the biggest factors in the color show. Leaves begin their color change on the highest peaks and gradually work down to the lowest elevations. An early frost speeds up the show and warm weather prolongs it.

Where to Find Color Week-by-Week

Beacon Heights
September 28, 2016: Beacon Heights on Blue Ridge Parkway. Find places to visit this year with our Fall Color Photo Reports.

Fall Events
There are many festivals and events tor enjoy in September and October. See our 40 Favorite Fall Calendar of Events.

Also see our favorite Scenic Drives, Motorcycle Drives, Mountain Views, and Pet-Friendly guides.

Dry Falls
See our Photo Tour: Waterfalls in Fall Color. Pic: Dry Falls

Autumn Leaf Viewing Tips
Here are some tips to help you plan an Asheville fall vacation to enjoy the spectacular autumn colors of the North Carolina mountain leaves:

  • Make your room reservations early. Many times, weekends are booked at B&B innscabins and hotels well in advance. 
  • To avoid the biggest crowds and to save more on lodging, stay on Sunday through Thursday nights. Saturdays during October are super busy at attractions such as Biltmore Estate, and highways and country roads will be busier.
  • If you are gettting outdoors in our national parks and forests, do you research first. Frequently, you will not have cell or internet service on the hiking trails or at waterfalls.
  • With the varying elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is the quickest way to find the best areas for color. The elevation of the Parkway around the city of Asheville is approximately 2,200 feet, and it rises to 5,000+ feet as you drive north or south. The color show starts a the highest elevations in early October and progress down. When you find a particular area of brilliant foliage, take a hike along a trial or take a detour on one of the intersecting roads. Be patient and expect slow traffic, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. Parking at overlooks can be difficult. See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
  • If you encounter fog (low clouds) on the Blue Ridge Parkway, don't despair. The weather can change rapidly. It could be very sunny around the next bend or in a few minutes. Fog is most frequent in the mornings, and it can create interesting photo opportunities. The Parkway has more fog than other scenic drives in the mountains since it follows the high ridges.
  • Enhance fall colors by wearing polarized sunglasses.
  • Take a picnic or snacks, especially if you are driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is only one restaurant along the Parkway near Asheville. To find a restaurant, exit the Parkway near a town. See our Top 20 Picnic Spots.
  • Fill up the gas tank before taking a scenic drive out of the city. Gas stations are sparse in remote areas and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Don't rely 100% on your GPS to navigate our mountain roads. That's a good way to get lost. Take a map along also.
  • Bring a sweater or jacket. While it might be 70 and sunny in Asheville, it may be 20 degrees cooler at the higher elevations. In mid to late October, snow or ice is possible at the higher elevations. See rime ice from October. 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. Rainy day? Here are some indoor options for things to do.
  • Take your camera. The warm light of the early morning or late afternoon can create especially dramatic images.
  • Bring binoculars for bird watching to bringing a distant picturesque view a bit closer.
  • For ideas on outings to combine with your leaf watching, see our 20 Bucket List Outings.

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

Fall Things to Do

Fall Events in Asheville
Fall Festivals & Events
September & October: Enjoy the cooler days of autumn with the changing colors with a big variety of events and festivals. And see our fall color foliage forecast for the best places to see the changing leaves.
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.
Mountain Hikes Top 60
Best 75 Mountain Hikes
There are thousands of miles of hiking trails near Asheville, many of which are pristine in national forests or parks. We picked our favorites and create extensive features for each with photos and details, for all skill levels. Also see our Winter Hiking Guide and Guided Group Hikes.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Ride a scenic train on excurisons through the mountains along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, 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 trains.
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 tell chilling tales. Laugh and scream. Adult-only ages 17 and up. B.Y.O.B. 60-minute tour begins at the Thirsty Monk, 92 Patton Avenue (you can grab a beer there). Tours book fast, so buy tickets in advance.
Zip Line Canopy Tour
Top 10 Zip Line Canopy Tours
Fly above the trees and experience the mountain's natural beauty from a bird's perspective. See our favorite zip line canopy courses to enjoy in the Asheville area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. No experience is needed. Canopy guides provide all instruction and assistance. So it's fun for all fitness levels!
NC Small Towns
Top 30 Coolest Mountain Small Towns
Explore our favorite cool small towns in the NC mountains near Asheville, each with it's own personality, local shops and restaurants, and a relaxed atmosphere.
Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking
Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking
With four rivers (French Broad, Pigeon, Nantahala, and Nolichucky) for rafting and kayaking in the mountains. Find professional companies that provide rafting guides, so no experience is necessary. You can even learn how to kayak in the rapids or paddleboard on a lake.
Picnics
Top 20 Picnic Spots
Dine outdoors with nature during a picnic at some amazing locations where you can enjoy sweet views.
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, with best times just before sunset. Take a picnic and tailgate. Also, tour historic buildings or hike.
Pisgah Field School
Pisgah Field School
Explore the natural and cultural wonders of Pisgah National Forest and beyond through guided hikes and small tours for waterfalls, star gazing, falconry, arts and more in the Brevard area, presented by the non-profit Cradle of Forestry in America Interpretive Association.

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