Just 100 miles from Charlotte is one of the most spectacular drives in America, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fall color makes its panoramic mountain views, hikes and waterfalls even more beautiful. According to RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide, the foliage change got off to an early start this year. However, the last two weeks of summer-like temperatures slowed the change. Cooler weather is arriving for the next week, so brilliant hues should develop quickly in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Right now, most of the Parkway is very green with spots of color. The best colors now are found on the highest ridges in the Grandfather Mountain area.
During the next few weeks, color will spread down the highest peaks to the valleys that include Asheville and Biltmore. The first two weeks of November will have the most areas of peak color. Even after the ridges peak, their kaleidoscope views down into the foothills could continue until the middle of November.
Since the Blue Ridge Parkway is a part of the National Park Service, you won’t find billboards, roadside businesses or many directional signs. You’ll need to go old-school to find the best places on the Blue Ridge Parkway, since there are no street addresses for your GPS. Mile posts along the road marks your location.
Take along this list of must-stops in the greater Asheville area:
- Milepost 302.8: Be amazed at the views from boardwalks and boulders along the Rough Ridge trail with the first colors of the season, peaking this week.
- Milepost 316.3: See Linville Falls from five vantage points along two hiking trails.
- Milepost 328.3: Get a dose of mountain life at Orchard at Altapass! Pick apples, take a hayride and learn some mountain dances with live Appalachian music.
- Milepost 339.5: Hike to Crabtree Falls, a gorgeous setting deep in the forest.
- Milepost 355.4: Drive to the top of Mt Mitchell, the highest mountain in the eastern USA! See the 360-degree views from the observation deck. Heads up: ice and snow is possible in October.
- Milepost 382: Exploring the Folk Art Center is more fascinating than many big city art museums, and it’s free. See creations from hundreds of top artists and start your holiday shopping.
- Milepost 384: Stop at the Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville for up-to-date info, nature exhibits and a HD film.
- Milepost 407.6: Pisgah Inn: Dine at 5,000 feet elevation with amazing views.
- Milepost 422.4: Climb the short-but-steep trail to the top of Devil’s Courthouse for some of the best views on the east coast.
- Milepost 431.4: Take a selfie by the sign at Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,053 feet elevation.
Other tips before you explore the Blue Ridge Parkway include filling your gas tank ahead, taking snacks or picnic and packing a jacket since temperatures will be as much as 20 degrees cooler than Charlotte!