CLEMSON, S.C. (WSPA) – Now that it’s officially Fall, many are planning road trips through the Carolina mountains to see bright fall color.
Clemson University’s Forest Ecologist Don Hagan said he has received many phone calls from across the country from travelers wondering when is the best time to see the leaves changing colors.
“Fall color in the Northeast might get the most attention, but we actually have the potential to have an even greater diversity of colors farther South here in the southern Appalachians because we have more species,” he explained. “Every additional species you have represents an additional potential color you might see.”
That color has been muted in recent years due to heavy rains and dim skies, but Hagan says the Appalachian mountains are in good shape this season. He does predict that there will be a delay in color thanks to hot and dry temperatures, until several cold fronts come through.
“Those cold fronts are usually followed by several days of real crisp clear weather with blue skies. It’s those sunny days after the cold front that really trigger this chemical reaction in the leaves that really brings out these colors, particularly the reds and the purples,” Hagan explained.
That means that at elevations above 5,000 feet, like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain, leaves may not be at their peak until mid-October. For elevations near 2 thousand feet, Hagan predicts that peak color may not be until late October or early November.
The key to timing autumn drives perfectly, he said, is to watch the weather and stay flexible.
“It’s better to go early where the Fall colors haven’t fully developed yet than to go a week late when the oranges and reds have been replaced by browns.”
Popular locations with panoramic views of Fall foliage include the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Pisgah Inn, Table Rock and Devil’s Courthouse.