Insider tips for visiting the Linville, N.C., nature preserve this fall
LINVILLE, N.C. – Fall is officially here, and the foliage on Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, is showing signs that the seasonal color change is already underway.
Buckeyes have been changing to yellow throughout the mountain. These, and locusts, are among the first tree species that turn at Grandfather every year, while maples will also start to get some red hue early on. The changing colors of the leaves is tied to several things, like length of day, temperature, soil moisture and precipitation. Moist soil from August rain, warm temperatures during the day and cooler temperatures at night have triggered the trees to begin the process of entering winter dormancy.
“This year I think is shaping up to be a good one,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “It’s really the perfect scenario up to today for good fall color because we’ve had a pretty wet summer – so, we’ve had good growth. The trees have good leaf foliage on them. The leaves have grown. They’re healthy. And, then in September, it’s dried out. We’ve had a drier September than we did August, and the nights are starting to cool off. All that is the scenario for a good fall. We’re optimistic.”
Grandfather Mountain offers an ample display of fall color due to the park’s dramatic elevation change. Leaves begin turning at the highest elevations and gradually work down the slopes into the surrounding areas over several weeks. Typically, in mid-to-late September, the earliest colors at the mountain’s highest elevations begin to appear on the shrubs and low-growing flora that call the mountaintop home. Peak color toward the summit is usually early October. The lower sections of the park will often peak in mid-October. The views of fall color brightening up the low-lying valleys below can last through October, and possibly beyond.
To help with your leaf-looking planning, follow the below recommendations to make the most of your mile-high adventures on the mountain.
Insider Tips for Visiting Grandfather Mountain in the Fall
- Book your timed entry and tickets in advance! Fall can be a busy time on the mountain, and you don’t want to miss out. Make your reservation online at www.grandfather.com/tickets.
- Wanting to hike? Plan ahead and choose the right trail for you at www.grandfather.com/hikes. Also, make sure to check the weather before your visit, dress appropriately (with multiple layers, including a waterproof jacket) and bring plenty of water and snacks!
- Check the schedule of daily events before your trip to pinpoint what you’d like to see: www.grandfather.com/daily-programs. (Tip: This schedule is also posted throughout the park via QR code.)
- Take part in the Fall Color Ramble, a 30-minute guided walk with park naturalists focused on the leaf change, at 2 p.m. Oct. 1-10 (with potentially more dates, depending on conditions). And, an All-Day Ramble is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15. More at www.grandfather.com/fall-color-ramble.
- Bring some layers in the car. Fall days at Grandfather are usually crisp and cool! (Tip: Visit our gift shops, located in the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and Top Shop, for Grandfather Mountain apparel.)
- Look for fresh ways to see the color show. The views up top are nice, but also check out the vantage points from the viewing areas around the bear and elk habitats. The Woods Walk is also nice!
- Look down. Fall is a great time to enjoy wildflowers and spot interesting fungi on the trails. Remember to leave nature for others to enjoy!
- Pack a picnic, or plan to eat lunch at Mildred’s Grill. (Tip: You can also get your food to-go so you can still enjoy the fresh air and views!)
- Speaking of a picnic, Grandfather has over 100 picnic spots – some with grills, ALL scenic! More at www.grandfather.com/picnics.
- Need to recharge after a hike? Pick up a fall treat like fudge, a slice of pie or hot cocoa from Mildred’s.
- Remember that Grandfather’s lofty peaks are an advantage during fall. Even if you’ve missed “peak” fall color in the park, it’s pretty spectacular to see the vibrant leaves in the valleys below from the upper half of the mountain.
- Posting your photos to social media? Be sure to tag #grandfathermtn, and your photo may just make it to www.grandfather.com.
In addition to the experiences offered inside the park in October, fresh fall color photos are posted throughout the month on the mountain’s website and social channels (@grandfathermtn), including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
To learn more about “how to do fall” at Grandfather Mountain, visit www.grandfather.com/fall. The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com.
Courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.