Leaf colors near peak in higher elevations, experts say

The color show will be vivid this weekend in the higher elevations of North Carolina’s mountains, but anyone looking for peak conditions will have to wait a while, experts say.

Leaf-viewing experts say mountain locations above 3,500 or 4,000 feet are producing the best colors on this second weekend of October.

N.C. State professor Robert Bardon said leaves will change colors a bit later this year, because of the ample rainfall and moderate temperatures during the summer.

“Growing conditions have been good, so trees have postponed shutting down the food factories in their leaves,” Bardon said. “I expect the fall colors will arrive a little bit later than usual.”

Observers in the Asheville area, at the state parks north of Winston-Salem and near the Uwharrie National Forest northeast of Charlotte support Bardon’s theory. They report the forests remain mostly green, although some color has been noted in recent days.

Weather should be good for leaf-watching this weekend. Forecasters expect sunny to partly cloudy conditions, with temperatures at or slightly above seasonal averages.

Here is this week’s report:

Northwest mountains: Appalachian State University professor Howard Neufeld said colors are at 75 percent near the top of Grandfather Mountain and in the Tynecastle area along N.C. 105.

He said the best colors in the Boone area will be from this weekend to around Oct. 19. “Domestic maples in town (Boone) are spectacular this year, turning red first in the top of the tree and then working down through the crown,” Neufeld said in his weekly report.

The best colors are coming from the sassafras, sourwood and maple trees.

Park ranger Kelly Safley reports peak conditions this weekend at Elk Knob State Park, north of Boone in Watauga County. The park’s Summit Trail is a great place to see the colors, Safley said.

Asheville and west: The website is steering people to areas 4,000 feet or higher, including Mount Mitchell State Park and the Rough Ridge area near Grandfather Mountain.

There are some colors around Cullowhee and Sylva, but peak conditions are seven to 14 days away.

Foothills: Matt Popowski, a spokesman for Chimney Rock State Park, reports some colors in the higher elevations, with the dogwoods (purple), sourwoods (red) and poplars (yellow) putting on a show.

Only scattered colors are being reported in the Morganton and Rutherfordton areas, with peak conditions seven to 14 days away.

Stone Mountain State Park in Alleghany and Wilkes counties is about 10 days away from good color conditions.

Piedmont: We’re still weeks away from peak conditions in the Charlotte region, and also at Morrow Mountain State Park and in the Uwharrie National Forest northeast of Charlotte.

At Pilot Mountain State Park north of Winston-Salem, park manager Josh Hemric reports conditions are mostly green but some colors are being seen, especially from the maples, hickory, sourwoods and dogwoods.

South Carolina: About 10 percent color is being reported in the area north of Gaffney and Spartanburg.

Other states: Virginia is reporting peak colors in the Peaks of Otter area near Buchanan. Also, conditions are good around Wytheville and Mount Rogers in southwest Virginia.

Peak conditions are still about a week away in eastern Tennessee and northeast Georgia, experts say.