Where should you go to see some colorful fall foliage near Greenville, SC? In Greenville, we’re lucky to live close to a variety of hikes and drives that showcase this vibrant seasonal display of colors. Plus, nothing is better than the Western North Carolina leaves changing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. So, grab your camera and hit the road for what promises to be another fantastic year of color!
We have compiled everything you need to know for fall leaf peeping, including:
2023 fall foliage timeline
15+ fall hiking trail ideas
Packing for your fall foliage search
Western North Carolina Leaf Changing Forecast
Although the exact height of color varies from year to year, the time to go leaf-viewing is somewhat predictable based on geographic location and summer weather, and this year’s predictions are calling for a earlier-than-usual peak schedule.
The Blue Ridge Mountain Foliage Guide 2023 calls for peak colors:
- September 25th – October 2nd, 2023
Elevations above 6,000ft
This higher elevations will see the start of color changes around the end of September. This includes areas like Rough Ridge and Graveyard Fields, off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and you may see spotted change in other areas.
- October 2nd – October 9th, 2023
Elevations above 5,000ft
This includes Clingmans Dome and Grandfather Mountain as well as Mt. Mitchell.
- October 9th – 16th, 2023 for
Elevations between 4,000 and 5,000ft
This includes the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tweetsie Railroad, and Boone and Blowing Rock, NC.
- October 16th – 23rd, 2023
Elevations between 3,000 and 4,000ft
This includes Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala Gorge.
- October 23rd – October 30th, 2023
Elevations between 2,000 and 3,000ft
This includes Asheville, NC, Hendersonville, NC, and Brevard, NC. This is a great time to do our Waterfall Driving Tour or visit Biltmore.
- October 30th – November 6th, 2023
This includes Gatlinburg, TN and Helen, GA, also Chimney Rock State Park.
This covers most spots in the Appalachians, NC portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Blue Ridge mountains. To maximize your fall foliage experience, start north in the mountains late this month and early October, and mid-to-late October head to destinations closer to the Upstate.
Many of the State Parks and other popular leaf-viewing areas have up-to-date information on color levels on their websites. Here are a few links for current conditions for fall foliage changes for 2023:
- Blue Ridge Mountain Life: Fall Foliage Forecast and Guide
- The Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage Map
- Appalachian State University: Fall Color Map
- ASU Fall Color Guy
Where to Go to See The Best Fall Foliage: Hiking and Driving Ideas
Blue Ridge Parkway
A world-famous leaf-peeping destination is the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 469-mile drive meanders from North Carolina all the way to Virginia, and a longer drive on the Parkway in October through changing elevations and aspects will most likely yield some sections at peak color. The parkway gets pretty busy this time of year, so keep that in mind when heading out to see the North Carolina leaves changing.
Plan a hike or two at locations such as Graveyard Fields (milepost 418, elevation 5,120ft), Linville Falls (milepost 316.3, elevation 3,360ft) or Sam Knob (milepost 420, elevation 6,045ft) for the full experience. (For those looking for a longer road trip, the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is also an autumn leaf-viewing drive destination –Blackrock Summit is an awesome hike ending in almost 360˚ views of the mountains that will soon be bursting with color!)
High Country of North Carolina
North Carolina parks in the High Country of NC will give you an early preview of color and unbeatable views:
Western North Carolina
On your way north into the Appalachians, plan a stop at Looking Glass Falls. This waterfall near Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest will leave you breathless!
Looking for a destination closer to home? Chimney Rock is just over an hour from Greenville, and together with nearby Lake Lure and the Rocky Broad Riverwalk offers views, hikes, waterfalls, and lake views galore.
Autumn at the Biltmore Estate is a special time, and the mountains around Asheville are well-known for the hardwood forests that turn brilliant yellows, reds and oranges this time of year. Nearby, find the North Carolina Arboretum, the 343-acre preserve that becomes a kaleidoscope of colors every fall.
The Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, NC is also a fantastic place to see fall colors. There is a gorgeous lake there, hiking trails, and goats to play with at the barn.
Head to DuPont State Forest and the Hooker Falls area for a three-mile hike that encompasses three waterfalls including the majestic Triple Falls.
Want to learn more about a free kid’s incentive program for Mount Mitchell and other NC parks? Read all about our fun with the Kids In Parks Program.
Leaf Peeping in the Georgia Mountains
Been-there, done that in North Carolina? Head west to Georgia with a stop at the Chattooga River before making your way up to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state of Georgia. Scenic Anna Ruby Falls and Tallulah Falls in the awesome Tallulah Gorge also deserve a mention as two of the tallest waterfalls on this side of the Mississippi that, come autumn, cascade through a riot of color into their mountain coves.
Head a little further south, less than two hours from Greenville, and you’ll find Unicoi State Park, a beautiful spot for leaf viewing, hiking, and zip-lining through the colors of the season.
You can also head to Helen, GA for their annual Oktoberfest and watch the leaves change while exploring the little piece of Bavaria situated in the Georgia mountains.
Fall Foliage Near Greenville, SC
If you’re not looking to make the drive up into the mountains, go for a drive on Scenic Highway 11 which follows the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment and offers unbeatable views of the foothills such as the often-photographed Table Rock. Plan a stop at Table Rock State Park or Long Shoals Wayside Park for a picnic and some fresh mountain air.
If you want something spectacular, the viewing tower at Sassafras Mountain is open at the highest point in South Carolina for breathtaking views of the leaves turning in four states!
Any one of the dozens of waterfalls in the Upstate and nearby North Carolina will offer spectacular scenery with a backdrop of color as the leaves turn. Try Raven Cliff Falls, a 2.2 mile one-way hike to the overlook or the 8-mile round trip hike through the forest and over the suspension bridge.
The Blue Ridge Escarpment offers a multitude of hiking and viewing options this fall. Our favorite views are from Pretty Place (check ahead for accessibility!), Caesars Head State Park, Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, and Jump Off Rock, all around an hour’s drive from Greenville. The lower elevations mean peak leaf color will be in mid-to-late October.
Only have a few hours to spare? Head to Paris Mountain State Park for a hike to Mountain Lake, take a ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, or go for a stroll in Falls Park with a stop at the iconic beech tree with its exposed roots and effervescent yellow foliage. Pack an apple from one of the nearby orchards to snack on, and enjoy fall in the Upstate in all its glory!
What to Bring When You Go Leaf Peeping
Maps & Mile Markers
Maps and directions will come in handy when you lose cellphone coverage up in the mountains! If you’re headed into the mountains, bring an atlas or state highway map for easy reference to nearby cities and possible scenic routes.
If you plan on taking a cruise on the Blue Ridge Drive, print off a mile-marker map for easy reference to all the pull-offs, hikes, and visitor centers in the park.
Remember that higher elevations mean cooler temperatures, especially in the mornings; bring warm clothes and a steaming thermos of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or cider to warm up that brisk mountain morning!
Of course, do not forget your camera! This is my favorite part of heading to the mountains for leaf peeping because I can take gorgeous, frame-worthy pictures of my kids that didn’t cost a fortune.
Be sure to have a car emergency kit, just in case your car decides it needs a little help after climbing those steep roads in the BRP.
Pack a picnic and make a day of it! Most of the places on this list have areas where you can sit and enjoy a picnic in the crisp, autumn air.
Bring the Family!
Finally, bring your entire family. You’ll find that the pictures you take of your autumn excursion are nowhere near as vibrant as the memories you’ll make with your loved ones.
This article was originally published on Femme au Foyer.
Where is your favorite spot to see the South Carolina and North Carolina leaves changing color?
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