It’s no small secret why more than 10 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year. Our area of Appalachia has some of the most beautiful mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and views in the world—and we don’t think we’re being biased. While the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, and areas in between see carloads of visitors throughout the warm months, there’s something truly magical about fall.
Due to the latitude, elevation, and biodiversity, Western North Carolina sees one of the longest and most colorful leaf seasons in the world. People come from all over to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and see local sights. But why stay in the car when there are so many wonderful spots to fully immerse yourself in the local environment? As experts in the region, our Beverly-Hanks associates are well versed in local hiking hotspots.
We asked them: Where are the best hiking trails in the region to view WNC’s beautiful fall colors?
Black Balsam Knob | Photo Karen Bosse
Moore Cove features a bridal veil fall at the end of the trail. Just off US 276 in Pisgah National Forest, it is less than a mile’s hike to the back of this lovely cove.
Shining Rock Wilderness is a protected wilderness area of over 18,000 acres, which makes it the largest wilderness area in North Carolina. While these hikes are difficult, they are well worth the effort! There are three main access points, but the trailhead located in the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp off of NC 215 provides the nearest access to the summit of Cold Mountain. A good trail map is strongly advised.
Boogerman Loop in the Cataloochee Valley is an approximately seven-mile loop trail with rustic bridge crossings over Caldwell Fork. Groves of “old growth” poplar trees and remnants of old settlements take you back in time. Finish up in the afternoon by watching the elk, which were reintroduced to the valley in 2001. Just beware of the Boogerman!
UNC Asheville’s [Chestnut Ridge] observatory trail is a super accessible, easy hike with some amazing views of downtown Asheville and the surrounding mountain ranges. From Broadway, take Campus Drive all the way to the top and park at the intersection of Lookout Road by the entrance gate. Hike along Nut Hill Road to reach the “Lookout Observatory” or jut into the woods and enjoy one of the wooded trail hikes to the top.
I recommend Graveyard Fields off the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 418.8). It has two waterfalls and is surrounded by the 6,000-foot peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area got its name years ago from the tree stumps and surrounding trees that looked like grave stones in a graveyard setting. Awesome colors—bring your camera!
Graveyard Fields | Photo Renee Miller
One of my favorite places to hike in the fall is right here in Fairview at Drovers Road Preserve.
I love walking beneath a canopied tunnel of old growth rhododendron and seeing the sunlight dance on the clear little creek while breathing in the cool freshness of the earth. Then when the trail opens up to the beautiful expansive view of our mountains, I am inspired to stop for a few moments and breathe in this wonderful feeling that can be felt almost anywhere in these mountains we call home. Once again, I am refreshed and remember why I love living here! Join me on October 22 for a hike in Drovers Road Preserve. The community will be open to share the beauty of a hike on the trails on Sunday from 1:00–4:00pm.
My favorite hike anytime is Black Balsam Knob, but especially in fall. The 360-degree view from up high is stellar when the foliage is in full splendor and the sky is clear blue!
One of the best things about living in WNC is that within one hour’s time, you can enjoy a beautiful fall hike in a wide variety of locations! I love loading up my two dogs to hike one of the many wooded trails of Montreat in Black Mountain.
One of the best fall hikes that I’ve discovered is at the Black Balsam Knob area off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Pisgah Forest. The 360-degree views are phenomenal, in addition to a landscape filled with natural wildflowers and native plants and fruits. There is also paved parking in the area.
I love Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway because of the amazing views! It is a short hike, so if you want something longer and more challenging, hike to Hawksbill Rock, which is 1.3 miles off the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in the picnic area of Craggy Gardens. Hans and Hazel, my labrador retrievers, love these hikes.
Graveyard Fields | Photo Diana Brock