Visit areas downslope to see the last of this year’s fall leaf color show in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Many trees at the state’s tallest summits are already bare, due to cooler temperatures and brisk wind, said Howie Neufeld, plant physiologist at Appalachian State University.
“The colors have moved into the foothills,” Neufeld explained.
You can still see the change of seasons in vivid colors at these lower elevations. Here are a few places to consider that also offer other diversions as you enjoy the leaves:
▪ Drive along U.S. 64 and U.S. 74A to see Hickory Nut Gorge, a 14-mile canyon that cuts through the Blue Ridge Mountains as deeply as 1,800 feet. Locations along the gorge include Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, Gerton, Lake Lure and Bill’s Creek. The dam at Lake Lure is a famous feature of the Gorge. U.S. 64 is at a fairly low elevation as it runs through Hickory Nut Gorge, so the leaf colors should be vibrant. Fall is also a great time to visit the area to catch the end of Henderson County’s apple harvest. The county’s orchards produces 65 percent of the state’s apples. Local orchards and apple stands are easy to find for many varieties of apples, cider and other treats.
▪ The town of North Wilkesboro is on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northern Yadkin Valley. Attractions here include Stone Mountain State Park. It has more than 18 miles of trails, more than 20 miles of waters for trout fishing, campsites and rock climbing (by permit only) on the mountain’s 600-foot granite face. Also see the Hutchinson Homestead, a restored mid-19th-century mountain farm. The W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir is also a place for camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating and other recreation. Apple orchards and a public golf course called Highland Hills are other attractions. The downtown historic district has restaurants and a popular art gallery.
▪ Cades Cove is an isolated valley in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. A drive around its 11-mile, one-way loop road is a good way to see its features. These include a working grist mill and restored 18th- and 19th-century barns and log houses. A visitor center is located in the Cable Mill historic area. Riding stables for Great Smokey Mountains National Park are one more asset for this region. On horseback, you’re sure to see mountain wildlife, which includes white-tailed deer, coyotes, elks, foxes and black bears.
Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms
Fall photo tips
Here are a few tips on how to get the best out of your fall-color photographs:
▪ Underexpose your photos slightly to get better color saturation.
▪ Shoot early or late in the day to take advantage of the warmer light.
▪ Don’t be afraid to shoot on cloudy or rainy days. Softer light can make for better colors and more moody photos.
▪ Think about getting close. Detail shots are a great way to show the range of subtle color and texture in leaves. Chuck Liddy, The (Raleigh) News & Observer