If you’re planning a color tour this fall, there’s no better place than right here in Western North Carolina. With Asheville’s vibrant downtown area, and stunning fall colors in the surrounding mountains, it’s paradise for city and country folk alike. Whether you’d like to take in the colors from the car or a brewery downtown, or you’re looking to get outdoors and do some hiking, we’ve got all the best fall color tours listed below. Since the colors hit different elevations at different times, we’ve separated top destinations into different dates in October. This way you’ll know exactly where to go, and when, for Asheville’s most stunning views:
- October 1-9 – This is the best time to take in the colors at the highest elevations. Anything above 5,000 feet is going to show some great color. Whether you’re hiking or driving, we really like Craggy Gardens, a wonderful spot to stop for breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and also a great place to check out some of the area’s local flora and fauna. Tour the gardens, or really experience the fall color on an easy 1.5 mile hike along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Other great spots for this first week are Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain.
- October 8-16 – Color higher than 4,000 feet will increase, making this a great time to go on an extended color tour! Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to take in as much as you can. If you’d rather find a spot for a short hike or picnic, Max Patch can’t be beat. Just a short drive from Asheville, Max Patch is a local favorite, meaning it’s likely to be less crowded than other color tour destinations. Max Patch links up with the Appalachian Trail, and while it’s not the tallest mountain, it’s a bald, which means there’s no trees to obstruct your view of the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For extraordinary views, this is the place to be. Another great option for this time of year is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- October 14-23 – This is a good time to take in some of the other national parks around Asheville, as the range between 3,000 and 4,000 feet will be showing the most color now. We recommend you check out the Pisgah National Forest for a few waterfall hikes around Looking Glass Rock. There are some great hikes in the Pisgah National Forest that will definitely offer those breathtaking views you’re looking for. If you’d rather go North, the Linville Gorge is another beautiful spot, complete with waterfalls and plenty of color.
- October 20-29 – If you wanted to hang around downtown Asheville, but still check out some of the fall colors, this is the right time to do it! This will be the best week for color around the city, so make sure you do some walking around downtown. If you planned on checking out the Biltmore Estate, this is the perfect time. Colors will be at their brightest around Asheville this week, which means excellent views at the Biltmore. Make sure to book ahead of time for this one: the Biltmore can get pretty busy.
- October 25- November 5 – If you’re arriving a little bit later in the season, don’t worry, you’ll still find plenty of color! Head to a lower elevation, like Chimney Rock, for an experience that’s a little different. You can ride horses up to the top, or you can even take a boat tour on Lake Lure. If that’s not your thing, hiking is still an option! For a different destination, check out Rutherford County.
Now that you know where you want to go, and when you plan on arriving, you can start to organize your trip! Here’s a couple tips we have for you, so you have the best experience possible in Asheville:
- Book Early – Asheville is a very popular destination for fall color tours, so hotels and destinations will fill up pretty quickly. Make sure to book your stay as soon as you know your dates, to ensure you get a spot. If you waited a little too long, don’t despair, there are always a few last minute cancellations, so keep your eyes open!
- Book Smart – If you’re flexible on dates, try to book on a Sunday through Thursday. By doing this you can avoid some of the tourist weekend rush. You’ll be able to check out top destinations like the Biltmore Estate without too many major crowds.
- Bring a Map – Once you get up in the mountains, reception can be pretty spotty. Not to mention that with all of the people, you might not find parking at your first choice hiking spot. By bringing a map you’ll be able to look at other options, and find your way back home in case you don’t have any service. It’s good to know that you can’t always trust your GPS in the mountains either, because of weak signals. That’s why it’s best to have a map, and plan out your trip in advance.
- Fill Up – If you’re going on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a scenic drive, make sure you fill up your gas tank before you go. The higher up you get in the mountains, the fewer gas stations there are, and the last thing you want is to be stranded up on the mountain with no transportation. Just take that extra precaution, and make sure you’re prepared before you leave.
- Pack a Picnic – Taking a hike? Bring a picnic! There’s nothing better than lunch in the beautiful fall colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are plenty of short hikes you can take in the area, so carrying a picnic basket shouldn’t be too difficult, and it’s a lot of fun for the kids.
- Dress in Layers – While it may be 70º when you leave downtown Asheville, the temperature in the mountains can be as much as 20º colder. Because of the heightened elevation, the temperature shifts quickly, and you don’t want to be freezing cold on your hikes! Make sure to bring a sweater, or a few extra layers that you can easily put on and take back off to adjust to the different temps.
- Don’t Worry About Fog – Especially if you leave for the mountains in the morning, it’s possible that you’ll run into some fog. If this happens, don’t worry that your entire trip has been ruined, as weather shifts very quickly in the mountains. While it might be foggy where you are now, it could be sunny just around the next bend. What’s more, as the day gets longer, most of the fog should lift, offering you some great picture opportunities.
- Bring a Camera – Don’t forget your camera on your fall color tour! The mountain colors are vibrant and breathtaking: something you’ll want to remember for years to come. Make sure you bring your camera and get lots of pictures while you explore.
- Try Something New – Finally, it’s always fun to try something new while you’re on vacation. Fall is a great time to take a zipline adventure overtop the lovely orange, red, and yellow trees. You’ll get an unparalleled view from directly above the mountains. Alternatively, you might consider taking a trail ride on horseback! You can cross more miles, and see more waterfalls and views this way, and it’s a great experience if you’re bringing the kids.
Whatever you do, and wherever you go in the Asheville area this fall, we hope you have a great time! If you think Asheville is the perfect place to call home, check out the Sovereign Oaks mountain community. With building under way, give us a call at (866) 936-5263 or request more information online today!