It's here! Cooler temps, later sunrises and earlier sunsets all work together to signal the leaves on the trees to change. After a full spring and summer of capturing the sun's light and converting it to energy, it's time for them to shed and fall to the ground; but not before a little showing off.
The high country of NC is filled with incredible backdrops for that perfect instagram photo opp. With the highest elevations in the Southeast, our 'leaf season' is usually among the first to occur. Places like Grandfather Mountain, at almost 6,000 feet above sea level will see peak colors as early as next week. More modest elevations, like that of Blowing Rock at roughly 3,500 feet won't see peak leaf colors until October 8-ish, or the week thereafter. The point is, with Blowing Rock serving as your base camp, you're within a 20 minute drive to peak leaves and the perfect spot for a fall picnic almost all month.
Here's a quick list of some top spots for fall viewing & picnicking, as well as the estimate peak date for optimum viewing.
Rough Ridge - Estimated Peak: October 4-6 - Easily the most popular spot for long range views, no matter the time of year, Rough Ridge provides a perfect vantage point of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn CoveViaduct Bridge. The parking area at mile post 302 on the BRP is situated just a third of a mile below the first rock outcropping which is perfect for setting up a small spread. Keep it small though, to respect the other hikers who are passing through looking for that same view, and there will be plenty!
Bass Lake Loop - Estimated Peak Dates: October 8-10 - Always making an appearance on our top lists for views and peace, the very convenient trail is situated within walking distance to downtown Blowing Rock. During leaf season though, the colors of the trees reflect and dance in the ripples of the lake, providing double the color pallet.
Moses Cone Manor - Estimated Peak Dates: October 8-10 - Situated at mile post 294, Moses Cone Manor is the previous summer escape of textile giant, Moses Cone. Now a part of the National Park Service, this manor provides a lovely vantage point overlooking Bass Lake and the outskirts of Blowing Rock, providing ample opportunity to see the colorful tree canopy from above.
The Blowing Rock - Estimated Peak Dates: Varied - The namesake of the village, The Blowing Rock sits at the edge of the gorge, overlooking the Johns River Valley, some 3,000 feet below. The peak season at the rock itself is likely to be around October 8, but due to the great variation in elevation below, you'll see different shades of color, gradually transitioning to the summer green at the lower elevations.
Boone Fork Trail - Estimated Peak Dates: October 8-10 - This heavily traveled trail is probably the second most crowded trail, behind Rough Ridge. From the bathhouse at Price Lake Picnic area, take a right at the fork across the bridge and follow the Boone Fork Creek. The hike to Hebron falls (just under 2 miles in) follows the creek, which varies in flow and runs past environments from meadow, to hardwood to rhododendron tunnels, providing a varied viewing experience along the way.