Fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the North Carolina mountains is not to be missed! Here are 20 of our favorite places along the 170-mile Parkway section in the Asheville area. Included are roadside overlooks, waterfalls and hikes for the best views, along with places for art, food and history. Remember, use the Parkway mileposts and not your GPS to find places along the Parkway since there are no street addresses.
When is peak fall color on the Blue Ridge Parkway? The autumn leaf show begins early October in the highest elevations above 5,000 feet and gradually descends down into the lowest valleys by the end of the month. Most of the Parkway in the NC Mountains peak the second and third weeks of October. Intensity of color often varies greatly mile-to-mile, and will slow down or speed up in response to wacky weather. (See our Fall Foliage Forecast for more.)
Enjoy our photo tour of the most scenic places! Places are listed according to milepost location, starting north near Grandfather Mountain and ending on the south end at the Great Smokies (click on names for a complete guide). Sorry, GPS doesn't work for most places since there are no official street address. Look for stone milepost every mile along the road for guidance - increasing as you drive south. Exits for the Asheville area are located at Mileposts 382 to 393.
Milepost 302.8 - Rough Ridge: (Photo above) usually has the first color of the year, starting in late September along the hiking trail to the top (elevation 4,773 feet). Find multiple viewpoints along the Tanawha Trail, with the first boardwalk just 1/3 of a mile from the parking overlook. See our Rough Ridge Guide.
Milepost 304.4 - Linn Cove Viaduct: Driving across this engineering wonder around Grandfather Mountain is a treat for all ages. Stop at the Visitor Center to see how it was built and hike underneath for a closer look. Find many overlooks in the area for panoramic vistas.
Milepost 305.2 - Beacon Heights: A perfect picnic spot and easy hike to the rock summit.
Milepost 308.3 - Flat Rock Trail: Stop at this overlook for a short loop trail that takes you along the ridge with spectacular views and many great picnic spots on the rocks.
Milepost 316.3 - Linville Falls: See one of the most photographed waterfalls in the eastern USA from five viewpoints along wooded hikes in Pisgah National Forest.
Milepost 320.8 - Chestoa View: This stone overlook is a short walk from the parking and picnic area. See views of Linville Gorge and beyond from 4,090 feet.
Milepost 328.3 - Orchard at Altapass: Stop to experience music, dance and food of the Appalachian Mountains. Pick apples, take a hayride and buy local jams.
Milepost 339.5 - Crabtree Falls: Take one of our favorite hikes to a gorgeous waterfall. The 3-mile roundtrip trek through the woodlands is a great way to experience the fall foliage up close.
Milepost 350.4 - Green Knob Overlook: Look for miles at this roadside view on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with many ridges of color especially in mid and late October. For a hike, take the half-mile trail up to Green Knob Lookout Tower.
Milepost 355.4 - Mt Mitchell: Drive to the top of the highest peak in the eastern USA and see the 360-degree views from the top. While color up top peaks early October, the views into the valley will be colorful through mid October.
Milepost 364.4 - Craggy Gardens: See views from the Visitor Center, have a mile-high picnic and hike trails to the balds with spectacular views. Craggy Pinnacle has one of our favorite views along the Parkway.
Milepost 382 - Folk Art Center: Stop here to see creations from hundreds of the best artists in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Watch artists at work, see several exhibitions and do some early Christmas shopping in their fabulous store.
Milepost 404.5 - Mills River Valley Overlook: Get up early to watch the sunrise here over the many ridges and morning valley fog. Take a picnic breakfast!
Milepost 407.6 - Mt Pisgah & Pisgah Inn: Expect big crowds here during October, with everyone vying for a window table at 5,000 feet elevation. Shop in their gallery, camp, picnic and hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah. Tip: Wait times for the restaurant often run an hour or more on busy days. Grab your pager first and then browse the gift shop or enjoy the views from their outdoor deck.
Milepost 409.6 - Fryingpan Lookout Tower: Epic 360-degree views from atop the historic tower above the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Milepost 413.2 - Pounding Mill Overlook: During late September and early October, stop to see the Monarch butterflies as they feast on the many wildflowers as they migrate to Mexico.
Milepost 417 - Looking Glass Rock Overlook: See the iconic stone face, along with many mountain ridges. From the overlook, hike just a half mile to Skinny Dip Falls' idyllic setting with multiple cascades.
Milepost 418.8 - Graveyard Fields: This super popular hiking spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway usually has the most brilliant and earliest fall colors (first week in October). Take short hike to gorgeous Lower Falls or hike through the mile-high meadow.
Milepost 420.2, Black Balsam Knob Hike: This local's favorite trail across multiple balds is one of most spectacular hikes in the North Carolina mountains. Expect many people here, so arrive early or visit midweek for smaller crowds. It's an epic picnic and camping spot.
Milepost 422.4 - Devil's Courthouse: Hike a short but steep trail for heavenly views atop this sinister looking peak.
Milepost 431.4 - Richland Balsam: Stop at the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway (elevation 6,053). This great picnic spot is at the Haywood Overlook nearby at Milepost 431.
Milepost 451.2 - Waterrock Knob: See the expansive views from the Visitor Center parking area complete with picnic tables. It's the best spot to watch a sunset too! Hike to the top of the 6,292-foot peak.
See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for many more stops.