Leaf peeping isn’t just for out-of-state tourists! Last weekend, we enjoyed a two night getaway in the mountains of Asheville. It is one of the best places to travel in October. Our whole goal was to watch and photograph the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We had heard, via the fall color forecast, that peak foliage could be found at 3,000-4,000 feet elevation in the southern Pisgah National Forest. These fall colors would be most brilliant from October 18th to October 28th in the Brevard area. The town of Brevard is about 45 minutes southwest of Asheville.

To help you out, I have made a simple fall foliage route that will provide amazing views of the mountains and cozy, tucked away waterfalls. It’s an easy loop that will take you about 4 hours with the stops and activities I suggest below. Half the foliage portion of the road trip is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with 18 miles of mountain views. The other half is on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, or U.S. 276,  with 15 miles of woods and waterfall views.

Below is a handmade fall foliage map, designed by ME, to help you out. You can always ask me questions in the comment section below! Tip: This fall color map can be used from year to year. Just watch the peak foliage color timeline for 3,000 to 4,000 foot elevation.

1. start: Blue Ridge Parkway Entrance

You can hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) right by the French Broad Overlook, milepost 393.8. There is a large sign that you can’t miss. Here’s the address I used: 3938 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Arden, North Carolina. We didn’t stop here for pictures as it was still dark out. Point #2 is about 20 minutes from here.

2. Mills River Valley Overlook (60 – 75 minutes)

I had read that Mills River Valley Overlook was one of the best places to catch the sunrise. Here’s the view from my camera. What do you think?

Mills River Valley Overlook Sunrise with Clouds and Sun Rays
Nikon D300S, Lens: Nikon 24-70mm 2.8, 100 ISO, 35mm, f/18, 1 sec

I would highly suggest catching a sunrise on the first stop of your fall foliage tour. This lookout point was fantastic, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any mountain view. Plan to arrive 30 to 60 minutes early and stay 15 to 30 minutes after the sun rises. Our lookout point was 80% full and we were there half an hour before sunrise.

Read this tip…

When you arrive early to the leaf peeping route, you have beautiful morning light that gives the leaves a warm glow. This is perfect for photographing those beautiful, fall colors! 

3. Pisgah Inn (15 minutes)

Pisgah Inn has been welcoming guests since 1919. It’s at the top of Pisgah Mountain, an elevation of 5,000 feet! The day we visited, it was 22 degrees and extremely windy. We popped inside to warm up and get a view from the restaurant inside.

Read this tip…

Stop at the Pisgah Inn to use their public restrooms. If you woke up early to see the sunrise, check out their breakfast menu

4. The Cradle of Forestry Overlook (15 minutes)

This overlook is found at milepost 411. My favorite part of the lookout is the mixture of modern with timeless nature. You can see part of the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway jutting out from the leaf covered trees.

Read this tip…

When viewing the mountains, make sure to turn around. Sometimes, the most beautiful views are the unexpected.

5. Sliding Rock (30 – 45 minutes)

I don’t think you can Google Asheville without encountering information on Sliding Rock. This natural water slide is still on our summer bucket list! It is THE place to go to cool off during the hot, southern months. Even then, the water is only 50 to 60 degrees.

Sliding Rock will be your first stop on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. There was plenty of parking as we were there so early in the morning.

Read this tip…

Wander around the northern part of the parking lot. This is where the waterfall begins. There are beautiful views tucked away in the forest.

6. Looking Glass Falls (15 – 20 minutes)

Looking Glass Falls is only a few minutes up the road from Sliding Rock. Parking is on the left side of the road. Be prepared to make a quick stop.

There are multiple lookout points to see this beautiful, 60 foot waterfall. While we were there, a fisherman was fishing in the frigid waters. This is a steep walkway and may be difficult for some.

Nikon D300S, Lens: Nikon 24-70mm 2.8, 200 ISO, 32mm, f/14, .5 sec
Nikon D300S, Lens: Nikon 24-70mm 2.8, 200 ISO, 36mm, f/9, 1/4 sec

7. Pisgah Ranger Station & Visitor Center (15 minutes)

This point brings us to the end of our fall foliage trip. It is the perfect time to use the public restrooms. If you are equipped with hiking gear, there is a short hike located in the parking lot. We took advantage of the spot to have an early picnic lunch we had packed.

8. Asheville Outlet Mall

Upon leaving U.S. 276, hop on 280 to head northeast back to Asheville. On the way, you don’t want to miss out on the Outlet Mall! The address is 800 Brevard Road, Asheville, NC. You are almost there when you close the fall foliage map loop at the Blue Ridge Parkway Entrance.

The reason for ending our scenic drive by shopping, was the Restoration Hardware Outlet. I had never been to one before and could not believe how expansive it was. I included a few photos for you to shop before you visit!

Conclusion:

I hope you enjoy your leaf peeping adventures! If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know. If you are visiting in Asheville be sure to check out my post on 5 Must-Visit Gluten Free Restaurants and Where to Stay and Eat. I’ll be visiting the mountains again in October of 2019 and will share a new autumn scenic drive then. Until then, “Happy Fall, Ya’ll”!

Author

Diagnosed with Celiac Disease eight years ago, I've been on a journey discovering what it means to be truly healthy. Join me as I share my personal fitness goals, recipes I've tried, travel tips, beauty product reviews, DIY home organization and all things creative.

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