Fall leaf season is just around the corner with its cool, crisp temperatures and fire red, orange, and yellow leaves! Because our area has such a wide range in elevations (1,200ft to 6,700ft within an hour drive of Asheville), we have an extended leaf season that starts in late September and extends through early November. The diversity of our tree population - over 120 different species of tree - results in a rainbow of yellows, oranges, reds, purples, pinks, and browns throughout the fall. Higher elevations change color earlier, and the color moves down the mountains throughout the season. Some tree species change earlier than others, so any given elevation may have an extended season as different tree species change.

Fall Color Forecast

Forecasting peak leaf dates is especially challenging because no one can accurately predict nature this far in advance. In general, areas farther west and north change earlier than south and east, and higher elevations change earlier than lower elevations. Color change depends on temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. Particularly warm weather in late August through early September can delay the start of leaf color change. It's also important to note that storms can have a significant impact on how fast leaves fall off trees. The following dates are a general guideline, based on our knowledge of the area. Leaf color can be found outside these date ranges. 

Last Week of September (September 25 - October 1, 2023)
Peak color above 6,000ft, including Mt Mitchell and Black Balsam Knob.  While not over 6,000ft, cold sinks like Graveyard Fields and rocky areas like Rough Ridge tend to change early.

First Week of October (October 2 - 8, 2023)
Peak color 5,000ft - 6,000ft, including Craggy Gardens, Max Patch, and many of the peaks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Second Week of October (October 9 - 15, 2023)
Peak color 4,000ft - 5,000ft, including Mt Pisgah, Pinnacle Peak, and Bearwallow Mountain.

Third Week of October (October 16 - 22, 2023)
Peak color 3,000ft - 4,000ft, including Looking Glass Rock and Linville Gorge.  This is a great time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the leaves changing in the valleys below the many scenic overlooks.

Last Week of October (October 23 - 29, 2023)
Peak color 2,000ft - 3,000ft, including Asheville, Biltmore House, and the North Carolina Arboretum.

First Week of November (October 30 - November 5, 2023)
Peak color 1,000ft - 2,000ft, including Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, and Dupont State Forest.

Second Week of November (November 6 - 12, 2023)
Peak color at low elevation regions south of Asheville, including Gorges State Park and The Foothills Trail

Making the Most of Your Fall Hike

Whether you're planning to hike on your own or with one of our guides, there are a few things you should keep in mind before heading out for a fall hike.

  • Dress in layers. Temperatures cool off earlier in higher elevations; you can expect a decrease of 3-5 degrees for every 1,000 feet in elevation gain.  So temperatures at the highest elevations can be up to 20 degrees cooler than in Asheville. Wearing a short short sleeve shirt layered with a lightweight long sleeve and a vest/light fleece allows a wide range of comfortable temperatures. Tights with a fleece skirt is a great layering system for the bottom half of the body. Packing a warm beverage in an insulated bottle can be a good way to stay warm as well!
  • Wear bright colors. Fall is hunting season on National Forest land, so bright colors can keep you visible and safe on trail.
  • Hike early and/or on weekdays to avoid the crowds. Fall weekends are some of the busiest days both in town and on trail, as people travel to experience our beautiful fall leaves. Trailheads and roadways fill up early. We recommend and early morning or late afternoon hike if you must hike on the weekends. Weekdays are always less crowded. If you get to a trailhead and the parking is full, opt for a different hike instead of parking outside of allowed parking areas.
  • Research your hike ahead of time. Most of our trails, trailheads, and mountain roads have spotty cell signal. Download your driving directions and maps ahead of time, and be sure to check for rules about overnight parking, campfire restrictions, group size limits, etc. If you're hiking with a dog, check that dogs are allowed on the trails you'd like to hike, and be sure to follow any leash requirements. This is a good rule of thumb year round!
  • Be flexible with your hiking plans. If we have a storm that knocks leaves down early or leaves linger at higher elevations, you can adjust your plans to catch the best colors possible! If the trailhead for your planned hike is full, we recommend finding an alternate hike nearby. Some areas allow roadside parking, but many do not. If you are in an area where roadside parking is allowed, make sure all 4 tires are off the pavement so you don't impede vehicle traffic!
  • Hike outside of peak times. Trails are busiest on the weekends and in the middle of the day. Planning your hike for a weekday or opting for an earlier morning or later afternoon start time can help avoid overcrowding.


To book a trip with us this fall, visit our trip calendar, call our shop at 828-713-5451, or shoot us an email.