(QUEEN CITY NEWS) — There’s nothing like seeing those yellows, oranges, and reds emerge for the first time each year.
The fall color has begun in the higher elevations of western North Carolina, and the region will welcome hoards of visitors in the coming weeks to view the spectacular foliage.
Two primary factors control the timing of fall foliage, Explore Fall explains: daylight and temperature. This means that the further north and the higher in elevation a tree is, the earlier it will reveal its colorful canopy.
The website tracks fall color across the country so that readers can plan their seasonal trips accordingly. The color-changing process all starts with photosynthesis.
“Over the course of a month or two, the concentrations of chlorophyll diminish, allowing less concentrated chemicals such as anthocyanin and carotenoids to dominate, turning the leaf red, yellow, or orange.”
While places like Utah and Colorado have already reached high-to-peak levels, closer to home “low color” is not only showing in the North Carolina mountains but also part of the northern Piedmont.
Tourism site SmokyMountains.com anticipates the entirety of the state’s mountains to be at least near-peak by Oct. 16 and peak or past-peak Oct. 23.
As for Charlotte and the southern Piedmont, the first week of November is when leaves are expected to be in peak color.
Traveling south for Thanksgiving? The colors remain strong in south Georgia and north Florida through much of November – though there’s not exactly any hilly terrain in that part of the country.
Where to take in the views
Fortunately, scenery that doesn’t require a plane ticket or an Instagram filter can be found throughout the state this time of year. Here are some places to take it all in, with how far they are from Uptown:
Distance from Charlotte: 32 miles
Just a short day trip for most to Gaston County, Crowders has two peaks, The Pinnacle and Crowders, that offer 25-mile views of the surrounding Piedmont, according to NCParks.gov. In addition to the 30 miles of hiking, the park also provides opportunities for paddling, fishing, picnicking, rock climbing, and bouldering.
Latta Nature Preserve
Distance from Charlotte: 14 miles
Nestled between Beatties Ford Road and Mountain Island Lake in Huntersville, the property has 16 miles of trails, offering hikers, nature enthusiasts, and horseback riders a variety of terrain with scenic views of the lake, forests, and streams. It is the only Mecklenburg County property open to horseback riding. The Hill Trail and Buzzard Rock provide especially expansive views of fall color.
Uwharrie National Forest
Distance from Charlotte: 48 miles
The 50,000-acre national forest is a high-elevation gem right in the middle of the state. With Badin Lake on its western edge, fall color can be viewed while hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping and spending time on the water activities.
W. Kerr Scott Reservoir
Distance from Charlotte: 90 miles
It may not feature the highest peaks in the state, but the terrain surrounding the Wilkes County lake is second to none this side of the Blue Ridge. Spend a weekend camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating or bird watching. The trails are accessible by foot – including a disc gold course — bike or horseback.
Distance from Charlotte: 111 miles
The Avery County peak is home to America’s highest suspension footbridge at an a elevation of 5,305 feet. The 228-foot Swinging Bridge spans an 80-foot chasm at more than one mile in elevation.
Distance from Charlotte: 161 miles
Max Patch is a “bald” mountain near the Tennessee border. Some call it “the crown jewel of the Appalachian Trail,” the famous footpath which crosses it at the top, as it lets visitors escape to a place of breathtaking wonder. Both Mount Mitchell and the Great Smoky Mountains can be seen on a clear day. Camping is not currently permitted.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Distance from Charlotte: Varies
If you don’t want to be fixed to a single location, then a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway is right up your (extremely long and winding) alley. There are numerous overlooks and unique driving vistas from the Great Smokies Virgin the Shenandoah National park in Virginia, featuring exceptionally rare habitats. Just be patient to access them during the fall season. Nearby at various points are Mount Mitchell, the New River, and Whitewater Falls.