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Exploring Fall Foliage in the NC Mountains

September 27, 2010

After months of 90+ degree weather, this recent request from a member was a breath of fresh air.  Cool, fresh, North Carolina, mountain air. It helped put us in the autumn spirit and gave us something to look forward to (this is an occupational hazard of ours, particularly when researching a trip to Costa Rica.). We wanted to share it so you can get in the spirit too!

First and foremost, the Asheville Visitors Bureau offers a fantastic guide to exploring the fall foliage in the North Carolina Mountains, Below are highlights from the site. 

When to go

Consider late September or early November. The fall color season begins at the end of September and goes until early November due to the differences in elevation and many species of trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  You’ll be fighting crowds in mid-October. 

Keep an eye on weekly fall color reports from the (informal) Fall Color Prognostication Society.  “Leaf enthusiasts” (for a lack of a better term) give running commentaries and the bottom line on each of their mountains as well as a bit of science as to why the leaves are turning and when.

Scenic driving routes

In the early fall, the best scenic drives are at the highest elevations in the Asheville area, specifically Grandfather Mountain and Mount Pisgah. But if you can’t get away until later, no worries. Mid-season has you visit Waterfall Country, Hot Springs and Maggie Valley. For late October you have several options including Chimney Rock, Reems Creek Valley, Hickory Nut Gorge, and the North Carolina Arboretum. Specific route information here. 

Where to stay

Getting a room at an Asheville area hotel or bed & breakfast can be quite difficult in the fall. Here are a few tips to make sure you have somewhere to lay your head after a long day of “leaf peeping”.

Have Expedite Group book your room ahead of time!

  • Don’t just assume you’ll find one once you’re there. Chances are you won’t.
  • Plan a stay Sunday through Thursday nights. Room availability increases and rates tend to run a little lower.
  • Take advantage of your insider knowledge about the long leaf season. Book your room outside the popular October season.
  • If you aren’t an EG member yet and don’t have your own personal concierge, contact the Asheville Visitors Center and ask for Elaine Rich. Elaine has access to room availability, and can book directly. Contact her at or 828-210-2720. 

 Finally, for those with a more adventurous spirit (and more vacation days) consider taking a longer trip   AAA suggests a great fall route from Asheville, NC to Knoxville, TN, a 315 mile trip (“Leg 3”).

Planning a fall foliage trip or had a great experience in the past?  We’d love to hear about it!

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