You won’t have to drive to the highest peaks of the western N.C. mountains to see the change of seasons.
The fall leaf color show is moving downhill now that wind and cooler temperatures are causing trees to drop their leaves at elevations of 4,500 feet and above.
“The color is good right around 3,000 feet,” said Howie Neufeld, a plant physiologist at Appalachian State University.
With the best of the fall colors moving down the mountainsides, your drive to scenic places may be shorter. Here are a few places worth visiting this weekend:
At 2,000 feet, Asheville is at its peak for fall color. This weekend may be the best time to visit.
Visit the North Carolina Arboretum if you are looking for a starting point or a second destination after a scenic drive. The 434-acre garden is close to the downtown area, which has shops and restaurants that draw visitors all year.
Asheville is also close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you can drive to higher peaks for a better view of the mountains and the layered range of colors they display at this time of year. The Folk Art Center is a popular stop on the parkway.
“The fall annual mum displays are at their peak this week,” Parker Andes, director of horticulture, writes in this week’s Fall Color Report from Biltmore, the 8,000-acre country home opened in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, grandson of industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt. Various kinds of salvia also add color to the estate’s Walled Garden, entry and Winery beds during fall.
The Grove Park Inn was built on Sunset Mountain by Edwin Wiley Grove, owner of a pharmaceutical company. It opened in 1913, covered with stones from the surrounding mountains. The oversized wood-burning fireplace in the lobby is a great place to warm your hands on a chilly day. The shops and restaurants draw visitors and plenty of return guests.
Park your car and stroll among the village shops that surround Chimney Rock State Park, or take a quiet walk along the river behind the stores. Inside the park are hiking trails, one of the state’s highest waterfalls and the 500-million-year-old monolith that offers panoramic views of the area from 2,280 feet.
A 200-acre lake and 1,200 surrounding hills and valleys make the town of Lake Junaluska, near Maggie Valley, one of Haywood County’s attractions.
Hiking, boating, miniature golf and quiet places are some of the things to do here. There are also two museums: The Southeastern Jurisdiction Heritage Center explores the history of United Methodist Church, and the World Methodist Museum tells of the formation and expansion of Methodism since the 18th century.
Hiking, camping, fishing and picnicking and mountain biking are some of the ways to enjoy the Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But streams and three waterfalls are part of what makes Deep Creek a memorable place. This is one of the few parks with a trail where bicycles are permitted. The highest elevation on Deep Creek Loop is 2,437 feet at Sunkota Ridge, making it an ideal place to see fall color this week.
Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms