Many North Carolinians will agree that our home state is strikingly beautiful any time of year. However, it is a well-known fact that autumn is when this state seems to come alive. Sightseers from all over the world travel to our state to view the fall leaves change color. Hues of yellows, reds, and greens paint our streets and parkways. Our mountains, valleys, and piedmont combine with perfect temperatures in the fall, drawing people in to soak in the grandeur. Plus, with over 200 species of trees, North Carolina is the perfect state for all to tour, and welcome the end of the hot summer season with the cooler days of fall.
When and where can one go to view this glorious fall foliage? Peak leaf season in our state can hit almost any time, as early as September and as late as mid-November. With this said, it is important to make sure to not plan one’s trip past November, yet also not before early September. Regarding locations to tour, there are many, which are just a short drive from Winston-Salem. Here are the top five locations to visit to experience the foliage.
NC Fall Foliage Spot #1: Blue Ridge Parkway. Hands down, taking a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the top spots to tour to view the leaves changing colors. The Parkway, which in North Carolina runs from the Virginia border south past Asheville to Cherokee, offers more than 200 miles and over 100 tree varieties. The intensity of fall colors on the Parkway varies and of course will be dependent on weather conditions. According to the website, “Travel Awaits,” the best spots on the parkway to tour include the northernmost section near Cumberland Knob, close to the Virginia border. Other sites include where NC Highways 89, 18, and the Blue Ridge Parkway intersect, just north of Cumberland.
NC Fall Foliage Spot #2: Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cades Cove itself seems to cast a spell over all its visitors any time of year. The broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains, is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. Cades Cove Loop Road offers visitors an 11-mile, one-way loop road, which circles the Cove. This allows motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Thanks to this spot becoming increasingly popular, make sure to allow at least 2 to 4 hours to tour. Traffic can get intense during the peak fall season.
NC Fall Foliage Spot #3: Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. When you think of Asheville, North Carolina, images of the Biltmore House immediately come to mind. The “vacation estate” built for George Vanderbilt, draws thousands from all over the world any time of year. Completed in 1895, the 250-room chateau was designed by Vanderbilt’s good friend, architect Richard Morris Hunt. The house is incredibly impressive, more so today as it was over a century ago, with the picturesque fall season being the time of year when the estate is most filled with visitors. Set in front of a backdrop of vibrant and colorful trees, the magnificent mansion is as beautiful outside as it is inside.
NC Fall Foliage Spot #4: Grandfather Mountain. While viewing fall’s changing landscape through a motor vehicle is pleasant, many may desire a more personal and hands-on experience. A short drive from Winston-Salem will offer this to all. Consider viewing fall’s vivid colors by walking over them on Grandfather Mountain’s “Mile High Swinging Bridge.” The Mile High Swinging Bridge, America’s highest suspension footbridge, was built to give visitors easy access to the breathtaking view from Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak. The 228-foot suspension bridge spans an 80-foot chasm with more than one mile in elevation. The bridge has been in place since 1952 and was originally built to give visitors easy access to the breathtaking view from Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak. Today, countless surveys depict how the journey to the other side of the mountain is always considered the highlight of a trip to Grandfather Mountain.
NC Fall Foliage Spot #5: Clingmans Dome. At 6644 feet, the Observation tower at Clingmans Dome offers a striking 360-degree view of fall leaves changing color from green to orange, yellow and red. The highest point in the Smoky Mountains, and the 3rd highest peak in North Carolina, Clingmans Dome is a perfect site to visit to see it all. Located off Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441), by a 7-mile access road near the Newfound Gap overlook, the tower requires a short, yet steep hike. The Appalachian Trail also comes through the area and is easily accessible as well.