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Fall Leaf Color Road Trip In Maggie Valley, North Carolina

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The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

Visit Maggie Valley, North Carolina! Fall foliage colors in and around the area produce some of the most beautiful views you’ll see anywhere in the world, so get ready to make plans to head toward Western North Carolina this Fall.

Update for 2019: Factoring in many of the expected variables, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts that in the regions of North Carolina that are more aligned with the mountain ranges, peak fall color dates should occur between October 12th and October 28th, 2019.

Maggie Valley is adjacent to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it the perfect location to get your fall color on!

Undoubtedly, the mountains are beautiful every season of the year, but there’s something very special about Maggie Valley when it’s surrounded by fall’s cool and crisp air. The annual color show of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows make Maggie Valley one of the best places to participate in annual leaf peeper fun.

When?

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

Only Mother Nature truly knows when the prime fall color viewing time begins, but I’m here to help you out as much as I can! Read on to discover the predicted foliage forecast for Maggie Valley with potential peak color dates.

As a local, I know Maggie Valley well. For more information on fun things to see and do any time of the year, check out my recent blog post 48 Hours in Maggie Valley: 16 Must See Things to Do.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

Spotty color changes begin at elevations above 6,000 feet during the last week of September. From downtown Maggie Valley, you can literally be on the Blue Ridge Parkway in about ten minutes, so taking a leisurely drive on the famous BRP is a good place to start.

From the Maggie Valley parkway entrance, you can drive toward Cherokee and stop at any number of nice overlooks, but the altitude and views aren’t quite as remarkable as heading in the opposite direction toward Asheville.

If you choose the Asheville option, you’ll travel through the highest elevation point on the parkway and enjoy numerous scenic overlooks that offer long-distance views, all dappled in delightful Fall color.

Pro Tip: Use the Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for more information and pre-plan interesting stops along the way.

Cataloochee Valley

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

This one is definitely a favorite! If you prefer a remote, off the beaten path location, head to Cataloochee Valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cataloochee Valley is famous for its historic structures and is a much sought-after location for elk viewing.

Cataloochee Valley’s elevation is 2,600 feet, so fall color generally peaks in mid to late October.  For a real treat, the elk are in the midst of rut, the annual mating season for these stately animals.

During rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract female elk. Amazingly, bull elk bugling calls may be heard more than a mile away. Wow!

Rut occurs from mid-September to mid-October so it’s the perfect time to catch the leaf peeper views as well as hear the mighty bugle sounds.

Pro Tip: Be sure to check out the historic buildings in Cataloochee Valley as they make for memorable photo opportunities!

The Swag

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

When I first moved to Maggie Valley, I heard many locals talking about The Swag. Back then, I envisioned something else entirely than what The Swag actually is.

The Swag is a remote mountain top Inn and restaurant, nestled on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and at 5,000 feet in elevation, it sits between several peaks over 6,000 feet tall. The best leaf color here should be around the first to second week of October.

There are two routes to get to The Swag, the first being the most direct – booking reservations for an overnight stay or booking one of their awesome picnic lunches. With either of these options you will gain access to their gate and entry road that takes visitors up to The Swag itself.

The Swag can also be accessed via the Cataloochee Divide and Hemphill Bald trails, which will take you right by The Swag. That’s how I would get there!

Pro Tip: For a budget friendly option, skip an overnight stay and opt for picnic lunch reservations instead. You’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch served at a beautiful mountain overlook with outstanding high elevation views.  Book early so you aren’t disappointed!

Cataloochee Ranch

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

When colors are at their peak in mid to late October, there’s nothing quite like a mountain top horseback ride in the Smoky Mountains during the fall. If you fancy a leisurely mountain-top ride atop a gentle horse, Cataloochee Ranch is the place to be!

Located at the top of Fie Top Road in Maggie Valley, the Ranch is located right next to the Cataloochee Ski Area. At the Ranch, visitors enjoy lodging, cabins, a restaurant, guided horseback riding, and many other outdoor activity opportunities.

Choose from a high elevation horseback ride over Hemphill Bald, which provides stunning views, especially in the Fall when colors are peaking.

Pro Tip: Advance reservations required for all horseback rides. Minimum age limit: 8 years old; Minimum weight limit: 55 lbs.; Maximum weight limit: 225 lbs. Check out Ranch ride information here.

Purchase Knob

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

Purchase Knob, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a 5,000-foot-tall bald near Maggie Valley that provides stunning 360-degree long distance views from the Science Center located at the top. Peak views are typically early to mid October.

This is a beloved hike for many of my local Maggie Valley friends and they always return from hiking to Purchase Knob raving about how great it is! During the fall, the views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the west, and the Balsam Mountains to the east are the best they can be.

Pro Tip: While the gate from Hemphill Rd./Purchase Rd. is sometimes open, you should not drive further up the road unless you make arrangements with the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center. The best option is to park at the pull-off areas near the gate and walk up.

Drive Heintooga Round Bottom Road

The Best Fall Color Guide: Maggie Valley, North Carolina Travels with Bibi

For a delightful Great Smoky Mountains National Park scenic side trip, drive to Balsam Mountain via Heintooga Ridge Road, which begins at Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 458.2, just 11 miles from the southern end of the Parkway. This will take you to Heintooga Round Bottom Road, where you can begin a 24-mile perfect road less traveled scenic mountain drive from the Maggie Valley area to Cherokee, North Carolina.

I drove this route just a few months ago and loved it! Find more information about the entire drive on my blog post here. Since this road starts at over 5,000 feet and drops in elevation until reaching Cherokee, NC, peak leaf color times will vary from very early to late October.

Pro Tip: Plan your drive for mid October because Heintooga Ridge Road is typically open from late May through October, but could close due to weather events before or after those dates.

If you are traveling through other East Coast states, you can find awesome fall color in these road trip destinations too!

Ready to Go?

Experiencing any one of these leaf peeper options will lead to great fall color viewing opportunities in and around the Maggie Valley, North Carolina area. Pack up the kids, get in the car and go!

Are you planning a trip to Maggie Valley or the surrounding area this Fall? Please share your experience in a comment below.

If winter travel is more your style, Maggie Valley in the winter is simply spectacular and offers a fun and unique place to spend your winter holidays. If skiing is on your bucket list, Cataloochee Ski Area is known as one of the six best ski area in North Carolina. Come visit!

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63 Comments

  1. That place is gorgeous! I’m definitely putting Maggie Valley on my travel list. Do you know if it’s RV friendly? Our RV is big so we need nicely paved roads and big parking spots.

    1. Oh yes, Maggie Valley is very RV friendly. There are several different places where people camp and many even live in their RVs year round here.

    1. What! Not fond of Fall? No worries, embracing our differences is what makes the world an interesting place for everyone! I’m glad you liked the splendid colors of Fall in Maggie Valley; they are usually stunning every year. I’m looking forward to doing a few leaf peeper drives myself. 🙂

  2. Absolutely gorgeous! We don’t really have a change in seasons or “Fall” here in California like I did when I lived on the east coast but my sister moved to North Carolina and maybe it’s time for a visit this fall. I love your post and all of your pictures!

    1. After owning my Maggie Valley home for two years now, I’ve learned that Fall in this area has the best colors I’ve seen anywhere!

  3. Wow… so beautiful… i love the Fall. My favorite season. I have put maggie valley on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome! Maggie Valley is a great location year round! There’s even a ski resort less than 2 miles from my home so stay tuned for a winter things to do post too. 🙂

  4. So this is how fall looks like? We never experienced Fall over here but I must say that it is so AMAZING! The colors are very intriguing oh my! I would love to visit North Carolina someday!

    1. Yes! Fall is a magical season in places that experience the Fall foliage color change. Maggie Valley has the ideal climate for a spectacular leaf peeper show every September and October.

  5. The mapple leaf is truly beautiful when it changes the colors. The maples leaves in Japan are smaller than the mapple leaf in US and Canada. I have yet to see the changes of color of the maple leaf in the States!

    1. Oh, I hope that one day you will be able to travel here to experience it yourself Kumamonjeng. I have a Japanese maple tree in my yard and the brilliant red leaf color is pretty spectacular from Spring – Fall. I love it!

  6. Thank you very much for such useful information! I feel that I shall be benefitted and my friends will be benefitted!

    1. I love living in an area that has all four seasons and feel blessed to be able to view and enjoy the magical leaf color change every year. I’ll bet there are gorgeous places in Texas too!

  7. Wow, this looks like an absolutely gorgeous place to go. I would love to do some more traveling in the fall. Fall colors are so beautiful.

  8. Love this post. The images are BEATTIFUL. I live in south Florida and our trees definitely does not oook like that in the fall lol. I’ve never visited North Carolina, should add it to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Lory. Yes, you should try to come visit North Carolina soon! I’ll be just as pretty as my pictures in a couple of weeks.

    1. Hey Scott, thanks for your concern! Maggie Valley is in Western North Carolina so far from the coast. We will experience rain and wind no doubt, but not as severe as the coastal areas.

  9. I had no idea that North Carolona had fall foliage like we do in Connecticut. We get to enjoy this every year…then it’s blizzards..ugh. Hopefully you avoid the hurricane

  10. Oh gosh, this is such a serene post. The images are just breathtakingly stunning. Fall/Autumn has to be by far my favourite season because of all the beautiful colours. The image of purchase knob is divine. Just stunning. Fabulous pictures to go with a very informative post!

  11. These are some beautiful places to see fall colors. Fall is one of our favorite season and it has been our family tradition to see fall colors in different part of the region every year.

    1. That’s very cool! Family traditions are the best and if you make it to Maggie Valley one day, I hope you have a terrific time!

  12. These pictures are gorgeous! One of the many reasons that fall is my favorite season is because of the color changes. I would love to check this place out one day. Thanks for sharing!

  13. I live in N.C. and love driving through the parkway during fall! My ultimate favorite place is Asheville, or rather the outter towns!

  14. I am amazed by the enchanting colors of fall in North Carolina. I have only been there when the leaves were a lush green but I am thinking I need to visit again in the fall. Thanks for sharing!

    -Busytykes

    1. Yes, a visit in late fall is generally the best time for peak fall color, especially here in western North Carolina.

  15. More fall pictures! I love this time of the year. I´ve been to the Smoky Mountains two years ago, but it Spring! So maybe I should go back in fall in one of my future travels. Your pictures and the colors are incredible!

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