6 Best Places to Go Leaf Peeping Near Asheville, NC

6 Best Places to Go Leaf Peeping Near Asheville, NC

Jacqueline Kehoe
Jacqueline Kehoe

Good news for all leaf peepers: North Carolina’s incredible fall foliage display is over a week behind schedule this year, those gorgeous colors set to last through early November. Already one of the longest fall color seasons in the nation, there’s still time to plan and make that golden—and scarlet, and tangerine—Asheville getaway. Here’s where to go.


Hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway


“America’s Favorite Scenic Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway winds and wends just east of Asheville for a kaleidoscopic 469 miles come autumn. Get up high to view the colors from above, or keep it low, driving through tunnels of crimson and gold. For extra-sensational views, access the parkway from US Highway 70—near the Western N.C. Nature Center—and head north toward Craggy Pinnacle. Multiple trails snake through this area, along with incredible overlooks, for when you’re ready to stretch your legs and bust out the camera.


Tip: You could also rent a bike (or e-bike!) from a local outfitter, like Asheville E-Bikes, and chase the parkway’s rolling colors on two wheels. 


Hike the trails at the Biltmore


You likely already know the Biltmore Estate—it’s practically America’s finest castle. But the 8,000-acre grounds are as majestic as the palatial home, with 22 miles of scenic (and family-friendly) hiking trails that peak in color late in the fall season. 


After you’ve toured the 19th-century home, take the Deer Park Trail to the Lagoon, wandering through open meadows and along the French Broad River. The fall colors will stop you in your tracks—and so will views of the estate from a distance, framed in all that autumn glory.


Wander the Pisgah National Forest


Just 10 minutes from downtown Asheville, Pisgah National Forest contains weeks of adventure—take a scenic drive, hike between overlooks, go mountain biking, you name it. But whatever you do, don’t miss the waterfalls. 


One of our favorites for autumn is the uncrowded Douglas Falls, a 70-foot cascade in the forest’s Big Ivy area. There’s an easy one-mile round-trip approach or a moderate 6.6-mile round-trip option, both getting you up close with the forest’s many colors and, should you like, a walk behind the waterfall.


Go Farm-Touring Through “Apple Alley”


About 30 minutes south of Asheville you’ll find “Apple Alley,” one of the country's premier apple-growing regions. While it’s not exactly a walk in old-growth woods, you will find plenty of autumn color navigating corn mazes, picking 40+ kinds of apples, wandering pumpkin patches, going for hayrides, and drinking lots of apple cider. Orchard at Altapass has trails for hiking; Sky Top Orchard has barnyard animals for the kids; and Jeter Mountain Farm has the on-site Flat Rock Cider Co. for adults, with six delectable hard ciders on tap.


Stand atop Chimney Rock


The super-scenic Chimney Rock climbs into the sky at 2,280 feet, with the low-lying Hickory Nut Gorge flowing at its feet. In other words: From the top of Chimney Rock on a clear day—take the elevator or tackle the nearly 500-step Outcroppings Trail—you’ll get 75-mile views of the gorge’s late-blooming color, warm tones flowing from Lake Lure all the way to the Charlotte skyline! 


But don’t walk away just yet—from here, it’s a gentle three-quarter-mile hike through the woods to the incredible 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.


Gaze over the colors of Black Mountain


The town of Black Mountain—about 20 minutes from Asheville—will be in peak color around early November, and just wandering its cute downtown would be a cozy fall adventure. But knowledgeable hikers should scout out bird’s-eye views of the town’s hues on Graybeard Trail, a challenging 4.8-mile hike up to Graybeard Mountain. (Of course, you can turn around whenever you like!) 


Crossing some 2,400 feet of elevation—nabbing you views of the Seven Sisters and nearby Mount Mitchell—you’ll get to experience North Carolina’s entire fall display in one spot, from its lush, still-green valleys to its majestic scarlet-turned peaks. Autumn glory, indeed.

Jacqueline Kehoe

About Jacqueline Kehoe