A trip to the mountains in western North Carolina could bring a double dose of delight this week: leaves changing to fall colors along with livelier waterfalls, thanks to so much rain over the past two weeks.
The cloudy, drizzly days that are now behind us slowed the progression of the leaf color show at the state’s highest peaks, according to Howie Neufeld, plant physiologist for Appalachian State University. The bonus is that rivers, streams and waterfalls are gushing.
“October is usually dryer,” Neufeld said. “This year the waterfalls are doing really good.”
If you are planning to take a drive to the mountains to see the changing of the seasons, this weekend would be a good time to add a stop to see one of the region’s rivers cascade down the rocks.
Here are a few places where you can see fall colorS and make a stop at North Carolina waterfalls:
▪ A visit to Linville Gorge and Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway puts you in reach of scenic drives, trails and the state’s most popular waterfall. Take one of two forest trails from the Linville Visitor Center, at milepost 316.4, to see the 90-foot falls. The Linville Gorge Wilderness area includes a 39-mile trail system with steep descents to the Linville Gorge Trail. Erwins View Trail also leads to an overlook for Linville Gorge. Shortoff Mountain and Table Rock are scenic areas for climbers.
▪ Meander on U.S. Highway 64 for 19 miles from Franklin to Highlands to see the 250-foot drop at Cullasaja Falls, along the Mountain Water Scenic Byway. Expect to see plenty of leaf color on the approach to Highlands. This is mostly a car ride, as there aren’t many places to stop to see the falls unless you’re up for a steep hike. End the trip by taking a stretch at Whiteside Mountain near downtown Highlands for more scenic views reaching to 4,930 feet. Continue along U.S. 64, if you’ve got the time, to see other waterfalls tucked into the forests.
▪ Cove Creek Falls and Daniel Ridge Falls are in the 500-acre Pisgah National Forest near Asheville. A Visitor Information Center at 1001 Pisgah Highway is a good place to stop to get oriented to the area. Take Forest Service Road 475 to Cove Creek and Daniel Ridge falls. Other waterfalls also will be nearby.
Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms