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Fall is officially here (even if the weather doesn’t feel like it quite yet), which means it’s time for pumpkins, apples, crisper air and the changing of the leaves. There’s no better place to take in the beauty of the changing leaves than in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Although the mountain range extends all the way from Georgia to Pennsylvania, many of its most majestic peaks and breathtaking views lie within the borders of the Tarheel State. So, if you’re looking for some of the most beautiful places to see fall colors in the Blue Ridge, check out these top spots beginning around early October.
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Grandfather Mountain, located near Linville, NC, is the highest peak in the eastern portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is therefore, a popular destination for hikers and climbers. But, it’s also one of the best places to see fall colors in NC, thanks to its wide diversity of plants and trees. This variety of trees grow at different elevations in the area, with some parts reaching 2,000 feet and others reaching over 5,000 feet, so you’ll see all kinds of colors including bright yellows and oranges, blood reds and rusty reddish-browns, and even deep hues of wine and purple.
Just about a 20-minute drive from Grandfather Mountain is another beautiful spot for fall colors – Linville Falls. This breathtaking waterfall drops a dramatic 90 feet from the top to Linville Gorge below and is considered one of the most photographed waterfalls in North Carolina. Although you will have to get out of the car to capture the best views, there are two trails to choose from – one that is strenuous and one that is easily accessible by most everyone. There are plenty of overlooks where you can stop along the way including Chimney View and Erwin’s View, all of which are great places to take in the fall colors.
After you finish at the Orchard, it’s off to Mount Mitchell – the highest peak in the Eastern United States, where you can take in 360-degree views of the surrounding scenery. Although you can hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell via one of several hiking trails, you can also take a scenic drive all the way to the top and walk a short (0.25 mile) paved road to the observation deck where you can see for about 100 miles in every direction.
Whether you’re looking toward the famous view of Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway or you decide to venture the trail that takes you to the top, you’re bound to have good views of the fall foliage either way. Although only professional climbers should ever attempt to climb the actual rock face, you can take the Looking Glass Rock Trail, a moderately difficult trail, for just over three miles, where you can enjoy amazing views from the top.
Just because the Black Balsam area is known for having some of the most amazing bald mountains in the Blue Ridge and Southern Appalachians, it doesn’t mean you can’t still find some gorgeous views of the fall colors here. Although the summits are almost entirely treeless above 6,000 feet, you’ll still see beautiful views of the changing leaves in every direction that you look. Plus, since you can hike for nearly three miles without the obstruction of trees, you can easily snap some Instagram-worthy pics while you’re there!
If you want to take your leaf-peeping tour of the Blue Ridge to the next level, make sure you stop in at the Orchard at Altapass, located just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Linville Falls and Mount Mitchell. The Orchard at Altapass is not only a 105-year-old fully operational apple orchard but also serves as an Appalachian Cultural Center that celebrates the people and arts of the Blue Ridge Mountain area. In addition to taking in beautiful views of the surrounding colors, you can also take a hayride, pick your own apples, enjoy live music and sample lots of homemade goodies including sandwiches, snacks, ice cream and fudge.