If you are in search of fiery reds, burning oranges, and vibrant yellows, a trip to Haywood County should be in your agenda. But you better hurry….peak fall color is almost here! Fall color fanatics will be happy to know that the colors are really starting to pop at all elevations and peak weekend for Haywood County is projected for October 16 – 18.
Now, depending on where you choose to view the colors, you may experience more or less color in certain areas. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a definite must as it is the first place to peak and the colors are currently at their best. If you venture down the mountain into Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Lake Junaluska, Canton or Clyde, you’ll find the colors have been a bit slower to turn, with some green still hanging on strong. But regardless, if you’re looking for prime fall color, this week into next is when you want to travel to the NC Smokies.
Fall Foliage Adventures to Check Out
Best scenic drive: Hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Maggie Valley at Soco Gap via Hwy 19. Head North to drive 46 miles of incredible color at the highest elevations on the entire parkway.
Make stops at these mile markers for amazing photo opps, hiking trails, and more:
451.2: Waterrock Knob Parking Overlook. Visitor Information Center, Comfort Station. 4-State view including fine panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains. Trail, with pedestrian overlooks, to the Knob.
431.4: Richland Balsam Overlook. Highest point on Blue Ridge Parkway motor road. Alt. 6,047.
422.4: Devil’s Courthouse Parking Area. Strenuous 1/2 mile hike to “Courthouse” for 360 degree view.
Photo courtesy of the Blue Ridge Parkway/Vicki Dameron
418.8: Graveyard Fields Overlook. Loop trail of moderate difficulty, 2.3 miles, to Yellowstone Falls.
417: Looking Glass Rock. So named because it reflects light brilliantly when water and ice are on the rock’s granite face.
408.6: Mount Pisgah. Campground w/showers, picnic area, trails, (May-November). Mount Pisgah was part of the 100,000-acre estate bought in the late 1800s by George W. Vanderbilt. The first forestry school in America was established on the estate. A large part of the woodland, the first large tract of managed forest in this country, became the nucleus of Pisgah National Forest.
Other Prime Fall Foliage Viewing Spots:
Max Patch Hiking Area – Scenic Bald with a moderate loop hiking trail. Take I-40 West to exit 7 (Harmon’s Den). Take a right on Cold Springs Road and take the winding gravel road for a little over 6 miles to the hiking area.
Cataloochee Valley – Fantastic low elevation views, elk-viewing and historic areas to explore. Take I-40 to exit 20 to Hwy 276. Go 1/4 mile and make a right on Cove Creek Rd. Take this steep, winding road for 6 miles to cross in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue another 2 miles down into the valley, take a left for 3 more miles and you’ll find yourself in the valley.
Purchase Knob Hiking Area – Free hiking guides available in the Waynesville Visitor Center. Take Hwy 276 to Hemphill Rd. Take the road all the way to the top where it ends at a gravel road and a NPS gate. Park and walk from here.
Photo courtesy of Esther Blakely – Cataloochee Valley Tours