The fall colors in the Asheville area generally begin in late September, with the highest elevations (above 6,000 feet) seeing the change first. During the six weeks after, fall color makes its way down the mountainsides and into our valleys. Our busy season at the Sourwood Inn runs through November; no matter when you plan your visit to our breathtaking mountain lodge, you will see plenty of colors to please the “Leaf Peepers” in your family. We created this 2021 Asheville Fall Forecast for Leaf Peepers to help you plan your Asheville Getaway.
What the biologists are predicting this year
With more than 100 leaf-shedding tree species spread over a wide range of elevations and a temperate climate where warm days and cool nights are possible, Asheville and our surrounding area experience one of the most colorful and long-lasting leaf seasons in the country. This year, biologists in Western North Carolina believe conditions are on track for a spectacular fall color display throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, starting in September. However, locals always say that the leaf colors are getting later and later, with one local expert predicting that there could be a four- to five-day delay if we see a warmer fall.
At the Sourwood Inn, we feel like the full autumn season is beautiful. And, no matter when the leaves change color, you will enjoy the crisp fall weather, mountain breezes, and our romantic wood-burning fireplaces.
Fall Colors at the Sourwood Inn
The Sourwood Inn is located at 3,200 feet, just 1/2 mile away from the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll find peak color at the inn during the latter part of October. But fear not if your travel dates are earlier or later; check out our list below to find the perfect destination in our area to experience peak colors.
2021 Fall Forecast in Asheville
While the color changes from year to year depending on the temperatures and the species of the trees and plants found in particular areas, we can make an educated guess of some of our favorite areas and when they will be at their peak color. Because there is such a wide variety of elevations, Asheville enjoys one of the nation’s longest and most vibrant fall color seasons. The timing of the fall color change also depends on the species of trees and plants found in each area. Shown below are different areas and estimates of color change by altitude. Our friends provided this list at our local chamber, Explore Asheville.
Fall color estimate-first two weeks in October
The first signs of fall begin to appear at the highest elevations (above 6,000 feet). Places to visit at this time:
- Graveyard Fields: While not at 6,000 feet, Graveyard Fields along the Blue Ridge Parkway traditionally is one of the first areas to see fall color because of the particular plant species found there. Take a hike here to see multiple waterfalls framed in fall color.
- Grandfather Mountain: Early leaves are also displayed at Grandfather Mountain, including the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge and several favorite hiking areas. (In the coming weeks, both Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell will provide great vantage points to see fall color in the valleys.)
- Mount Mitchell State Park: You’ll likely see the change beginning on the approach road up to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Drive or hike to the top for an unrivaled view, and bring a jacket—the weather is often much cooler up here! The summit is primarily evergreen balsam trees, so the fall color tends to be on the approach road and slopes below.
- Craggy Gardens: In the Craggy Gardens area, hike to Craggy Pinnacle.
Fall color estimate-third week of October
*October 12 through 16
Fall color is strongest above 5,000 feet in the N.C. mountains. Places to visit this week:
- Black Balsam: For Blue Ridge Parkway fall colors, head south to hike to Black Balsam Knob and Sam Knob, with expansive views of the surrounding mountains. While the colors won’t be at the summit (it’s a bald), the top provides a nice view of the changing colors below.
- Max Patch: This is also a great time to check out the recently updated trail to the summit of Max Patch Mountain, where you’ll find stunning 360-degree views and a perfect picnic spot.
*October 17 through 21
Fall foliage will arrive at elevations between 4,000-5,000 feet. Places to visit this week:
- Devil’s Courthouse: Ideal for a sunset hike, Devil’s Courthouse offers clear views of the surrounding mountains.
- Mount Pisgah: Along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the south, the area surrounding Mount Pisgahshould be showing fall color at this time. Enjoy a meal at the Pisgah Inn, or explore the ruins of George Vanderbilt’s hunting lodge at Buck Springs.
- Bearwallow Mountain: A shorter hike located a short drive from downtown Asheville, Bearwallow Mountain should be shaping up well this week. You may get to enjoy a walk with the cows!
- Pinnacle Park: If you’re up for a challenge (and a day trip), hike to the pinnacle at Pinnacle Park just outside of the community of Sylva.
Fall color estimate last week of October
*October 21 through 24
Then, the fall leaf change reaches elevations between 3,000-4,000 feet. This is a great time for a fall drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Many overlooks will provide a great view of fall color taking over the valleys below Places to visit this week:
- Pisgah National Forest: Just off the Parkway, visit the heart of Pisgah National Forest along Highway 276. Hike to Looking Glass Rock or John Rock. Or, walk through the forest on the way to Moore Cove Falls.
- Linville Gorge: To the north, check out Linville Gorge, where numerous hiking trails provide incredible and unique views of fall color.
- Montreat: Lookout Mountain in nearby Montreat should be looking nice.
- Downtown: In the city of Asheville, including downtown Asheville, many trees will have bright fall color. It’s the perfect backdrop for shopping or exploring the local neighborhoods.
*October 24- October 27
Elevations between 2,000-3,000 feet, including the city of Asheville, see the strongest fall color. Places to visit this week:
- Biltmore: This should be an especially colorful time on the Biltmore Estate. Grab a trail map and head toward the Lagoon for a magical view of America’s Largest Home. The trail also takes you along the French Broad River.
- North Carolina Arboretum: Driving south from Asheville, stop at the North Carolina Arboretum to take a stroll on the wooded trails or see a miniature fall color show put on by the resident bonsai exhibit.
- DuPont State Forest: Go on a waterfall adventure in DuPont State Forest, which offers easy hikes to several favorite waterfall areas.
- Wildcat Trail: For a new experience, hike the relatively new Wildcat Trail with views of Craggy Gardens off in the distance.
Fall color estimate- First part of November
*October 28 through November 4
Fall color hits the lowest valleys and foothills between 1,000-2,000 feet. Places to visit this week:
- Chimney Rock Park: This is traditionally an especially nice time to visit Chimney Rock State Park in Hickory Nut Gorge. Hike to Chimney Rock (you can now take the elevator up!) or hike to Hickory Nut Falls.
Come Stay with us at the Sourwood Inn
Come stay with us for an unforgettable fall getaway. It’s always fun to estimate when the leaves will be at their peak, but rest assured, we will make sure that your visit is filled with great food, relaxation, and wonderful hospitality no matter when you visit the Sourwood Inn. So check out your room choices here and book your stay today, as our rooms will sell out during this extraordinary time in Asheville.