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Update on the Leaves at Grandfather Mountain, Colors Starting to Appear with Cooler Weather

Fall colors at Rough Ridge on October 18. Photo by Ken Ketchie.

By Hailey Blevins

After a week of cool temperatures, the leaves have started to develop some color. Hopefully, the color will continue to come on quickly after this week of lower temperatures. It’s finally starting to feel and look like fall.

By this time of year, we’re typically surrounded by the bold colors of fall leaves. This year, however, the High Country’s leaves are still mostly green even though it’s the middle of October. The Fall Color Guy, Appalachian biology professor Dr. Howard Neufeld, has noticed this development.

In his latest update for the week of October 14th, the Fall Color Guy noted that the trees in the High Country are behind their usual schedule, “I estimate they are 10-12 days behind normal. We should be past the peak at the highest elevations on Grandfather, yet they have barely begun to show color as of today (Sat, Oct 13).”

After a visit to Grandfather Mountain for the Fall Foliage Ramble at Grandfather Mountain over the weekend, the Fall Color Guy noted that the storms over the last week or so have knocked off many of the leaves that were changing, so the color that was there was gone and the view was back to green. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen retrograde fall color development!” he wrote in the update. The little color that remained was on the birch trees at the higher elevations.

Rain and fog clear for a moment of autumn brilliance near Stack Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 304.8). With cold fronts expected to pass through the East Coast early next week, experts are optimistic that conditions could improve for a significant boost in fall color. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Frank Ruggiero, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, has also noticed the delay in the leaves changing. However, he says that it is a blessing in disguise since more leaves would have been blown off by the storms. “The green leaves were able to hold on during the heavy wet rain from the recent hurricane. So now that we’ve had some nice, cool, clear weather, we’ve really been seeing the leaves start to dramatically change just even over the last two days.”

Ruggiero encourages leaf lookers to visit Grandfather Mountain to witness this theirselves. He says the color is appearing prevalently around the high elevations, like around Rough Ridge. “That’s not necessary the case around lower elevations, around 3,500 feet, but we’re expecting those to start changing over this weekend,” he says.

The Fall Color Guy also commented on the difference of colors between different elevations saying, “Trees below 3,500’ are still mostly green, which means that they still have the potential to turn color in the next two weeks. So, if you take the usual peak color dates and simply move them two weeks later, you’ll be on schedule for when the trees will change this year”

Grandfather Mountain on October 16. Photo by Ken Ketchie

The High Country offers amazing views of Grandfather Mountain, as Ruggiero pointed out, “The Parkway side of Grandfather Mountain is absolutely stunning, as is the Linn Cove Viaduct. Of course, when you’re on Grandfather, you can see everything spreading out below you. Even  once the peak has passed, you can still see the entire season spreading out in valley below. It’s a really cool thing we’re able to offer up here.”

Already, a wide variety of colors can be seen at Grandfather Mountain. Ruggiero commented that they’re seeing some nice gold spreads currently. “Anyone looking to come up and see some colors, this is the weekend to do it!” Visitors will see lots of reds, golds, oranges, and some browns, as well as some green from the lower elevations and the evergreens.

So just because the leaves were a little slow in changing doesn’t mean the High Country won’t see any color this year. The leaves are starting to show some color and those visiting Grandfather Mountain for the views will still get a glimpse of the wonders of fall.

For more Grandfather Mountain fall color photos, or to plan a trip, visit www.grandfather.com.

Pictures of fall colors around the Parkway by Ken Ketchie (Taken Oct. 18):