The Carolinas leaf-watching season gets serious this weekend, with colors reportedly near peak conditions above 3,500 and 4,000 feet, and conditions improving markedly at some lower elevations.
Unlike last weekend, it appears as if the weather will cooperate. Rain and low clouds ruined leaf-watching in many parts of the Carolinas last Saturday and Sunday, but meteorologists are predicting beautiful conditions this weekend -- clear to partly cloudy skies and seasonal temperatures.
The best viewing this weekend will be along portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially around Boone.
But youll find colors in the trees at some lower elevations, even in the foothills areas near Hickory, Morganton and Rutherfordton.
Heres the report for this weekend:
NORTHWEST MOUNTAINS: Colors are near or at peak conditions between 3,500 and 5,500 feet. Conditions are excellent around Boone. Also recommended are Blue Ridge Parkway locations such as Craggy Gardens, Mount Pisgah and Graveyard Falls. Linville Gorge is beautiful now.
Look for some outstanding yellows (birch, beech and tulip poplar) and reds (maple, oak, sourwood, dogwood).
WEST OF ASHEVILLE: Howie Neufeld, an Appalachian State University professor, recommends traveling on the Cheohala Skyway near Robbinsville, and the Blue Ridge Parkway near Maggie Valley. Colors are 50 to 70 percent peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and parts of Pisgah National Forest also are reaching peak color conditions.
Incidentally, you might want to visit the Camping in the Old Style exhibit from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Cradle of Forestry, near Brevard. Its a re-created campsite from the early 1900s, led by Steve Watts of the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia. For details, call 828-877-3130 or check www.cradleofforestry.org.
FOOTHILLS: Some color changes are being reported. Youll see yellows (sycamore and sugar maple) and reds (maple, sourwood, sumac) in higher elevations north and west of Hickory, Lenoir, Morganton and Rutherfordton.
Colors are 20 to 30 percent of peak, but conditions are improving rapidly. Above 3,000 feet, the colors are 50 percent or more.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Officials report colors are 20 to 30 percent in northern Cherokee and Spartanburg counties. Peak conditions are still seven to 10 days away. Try S.C. 11, especially by the middle of next week.
NORTH OF WINSTON-SALEM: Colors are changing rapidly at Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain state parks. Theres been about 20 percent leaf color change at Hanging Rock, with peak conditions still a week away. Color change has reached 50 percent near the top of Pilot Mountain, with lower elevations seven to 10 days away.
PIEDMONT: As youve noticed, some of the sumacs are turning yellow in the area, but the best colors are still about two weeks away.