The Blue Ridge Parkway is an immensely popular destination for trips to see the leaves change in Autumn. When planning for more than a day trip during October, it is crucial to make overnight accommodation reservations many months in advance to secure lodging in any area near the Parkway.
During the month of October, usually mid to late month, but it depends on your elevation. Leaves will begin changing first on the highest peaks and conclude in the lower elevations.
There is no simple formula for predicting Fall color. The Parkway includes east and west facing slopes, and varies in elevation from just under 650 feet at James River in Virginia, to over 6,000 feet south of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina.
Many visitors have been frustrated trying to go to one spot on one day in October, hoping to find the leaves in full color. A far better plan is to drive some distance along the Blue Ridge Parkway, changing elevations and north-south orientation. Any one who does this around mid to late October will likely catch at least some sections at or very near their peak color.
The intensity of Fall color and time of peak color vary and are determined by complex environmental factors, as well as the genetic makeup of the plants themselves. The “best” Fall color for an area occurs during the shortening days of autumn when days are bright, sunny and cool, when nights are cool but not below freezing, and when there has been ideal rainfall. Adequate rainfall also keeps the leaves on the trees longer and enhances the color. Wet, cloudy, warm weather or exceptionally low temperatures in early fall tend to mute the much anticipated autumnal display.