Celebrate Autumn in Asheville

September 14, 2021

How is it already time to talk about fall foliage? The summer months were long anticipated and sped by fast with millions of American’s taking advantage of eased travel restrictions, the freedom to travel, and warm, sunny weather. The days are getting shorter and temperatures a little chillier as the fall season approaches but research shows fall is the favorite season of our nation and one of the most popular seasons to get outdoors and travel.

The Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains boast one of the most dramatic displays of fall foliage in the US and one of the longest leaf-peeping seasons, extending over five weeks from the high mountain peaks to the scenic valleys. The colors begin to change in late September in the mountain peaks and ridges, peaking mid to late October on Blue Ridge Parkway and in the mountain town of Asheville, continuing through to the early weeks of November in the foothills, gorges, and valleys of the North Carolina mountains, including Chimney Rock State Park and tranquil Lake Lure.

Asheville is a gateway to all of these top North Carolina attractions and the abundance of natural attractions and outdoor activities they offer visitors in the fall season, as well as a vibrant city atmosphere (dubbed “Paris of the South”). Local eateries prepare fresh harvest flavors, breweries serve chilled seasonal brews, outdoor adventures abound, wildlife viewing is prime with elk rut season in the colorful and historic Cataloochee Valley, and a world of color explodes around you in one of “The Best Small Cities in the US”.

Here are our top tips to experience the best fall foliage in the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains and the welcoming mountain town of Asheville.

Hiking in Asheville

Fall Foliage Hiking & Biking Trails

There are over 4,000 miles of trails in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains area ranging from family-friendly trails to strenuous day hikes for hardy adrenaline seekers. Wherever you roam, the thick foliage boasts breathtaking vistas and dramatic displays of vibrant fall colors.

Chimney Rock State Park is a favorite fall foliage destination only 25 miles from Asheville, home to one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi famous for an appearance in The Last of the Mohicans. The 404-ft tall Hickory Nut Falls is easily accessible on a family-friendly, wide, and gentle 1.5-mile woodland hike with picnic tables to take a break and embrace your vibrant surroundings. Other top fall foliage trails near Asheville include the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail, Pisgah National Forest trails, Max Patch, Bent Creek, and the garden trails at the North Carolina Arboretum.

Scenic Drives in Asheville

Scenic Drives from Asheville

Whichever direction you travel from Asheville you’re guaranteed a scenic fall view in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take a day trip from Asheville north along the Blue Ridge Parkway with plenty of hiking trails, picnic spots, and spectacular vistas from overlooks along the way. Top attractions along this scenic route include Craggy Gardens, Mount Mitchell, Crabtree Falls, Chestoa View, Linville Falls, Flat Rock Loop Trail, Beacon Heights Overlook, and  Grandfather Mountain.

For more fall foliage attractions close to Asheville, travel south on Blue Ridge Parkway. The first stop is the Bad Fork Valley Overlook, then enjoy a perfect sunrise at the Mills River Valley Overlook, followed by a heart-warming breakfast with views at the Pisgah Inn. Continue on past the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower, stop at the Cradle of Forestry in America, then brave a refreshing dip at Sliding Rock and onto Looking Glass Falls (one of the most photographed waterfalls in the south!), through the Pisgah National Forest back to Asheville.

Beautiful waterfalls in Asheville

Waterfalls Near Asheville

The terrain surrounding Asheville is scattered with majestic waterfalls accessible by easy trails or scenic roadside overlooks along Blue Ridge Parkway. The contrast of tumbling waters, towering rocks, deep gorgeous, and vibrant fall foliage reflecting on the water is unmatched. Skinny Dip Falls, Moore Cove Falls, and Looking Glass Falls are nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, Soco Falls in the Maggie Valley, and the famous Hickory Nut Falls in Chimney Rock State Park, all an easy driving distance from Asheville.

An hour drive north along Blue Ridge Parkway and you’re in The Grand Canyon of North Carolina where the Linville Falls plunges into the scenic Linville Gorge, one of the most popular waterfalls on Blue Ridge Parkway and a spectacular sighting during the fall months

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Autumn

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Travel in an open-air gondola for a roundtrip through the North Carolina mountains on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Book a fall foliage excursion along the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala River, across Fontana Lake and into Nantahala Gorge, or travel through the famous Cowee Tunnel to the historic town of Dillsboro.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a top NC attraction and departs only 65 miles from Asheville in the mountain town of Bryson City. A scenic drive and the chance to experience a rainbow of colors in the Smoky Mountains, with a dash of seasonal fun.

Biltmore Estate in Autumn

Biltmore Estate

The forested grounds of Biltmore Estate are beautiful in fall with manicured paths leading through thousands of colorful blooms and peak fall foliage. Take a tour of the mansion and gardens, immerse yourself in outdoor experiences including fly fishing, river floats, and horseback riding, dine in the on-site restaurants, indulge in wine and chocolate tasting at the Biltmore Winery, and enjoy live music at Live After Five in Antler Hill Village during Asheville’s peak fall foliage months of September and October.

Kids enjoying the fall festival

Fall Festivals

Fall is the season for festivities and Asheville does not disappoint. The Asheville fall festivities begin with the NC Apple Festival in downtown Hendersonville, NC over Labor Day weekend followed by the NC Mountain State Fair with fun activities for the whole family.

October begins with a bang with the Brewgrass festival offering the best NC local brews and live music on the banks of the French Broad River, then a taste of Germany at the Asheville Oktoberfest in Pack Square Park, and a great line-up of live music and festival experiences at the Leaf Festival, a spirited celebration with local and global artists in nearby Black Mountain.

Friends enjoying seasonal brews

Seasonal Brews

Asheville has won several awards for its craft breweries including 4-time winner of Beer City USA. There are over 20 breweries in and around Asheville, so if a “beercation” is on the cards, mix it with a little bit of spectacular scenery and fall foliage in Asheville while sipping on some of the best craft beer in the USA.


Where to Stay in Asheville

Enjoy the best fall foliage in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains of North Carolina from the comfort of home when you stay in Asheville with Xplorie. Our lodging partners offer all the comforts of home in prime locations with premier vacation amenities and spectacular views of the unbeatable fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains.

Carolina Mornings offer their Scenic Wolf cabins with 70+ mile views from the private hot tubs perched at 4,300 ft or visit later in the season and stay at a lower elevation, on the banks of Lake Lure with free fun local activities and attractions included every day of your stay in the North Carolina mountains with Xplorie.