Experts predict best NC fall leaf-looking season in years

CULLOWHEE, NC (WSPA/WNCN) — It’s starting to feel like fall outside, and it won’t be long before it looks like fall too.


Kathy Mathews, of Western Carolina University, says because of the dry weather,  this year’s fall leaf colors will be the best they’ve been in recent memory.

“Plus, with the weather already cooling way down in the evenings, we can also expect there to be a great peak of color with many trees changing color at the same time,” said Mathews via email.

Mathews says she expects the peak to happen by the first week of October in the highest elevations above 4,000 ft, and then by the second to third week of October in the middle elevations from 2,000-4,000 ft.

“Three words explain it – unusually dry weather,” Matthews said.

The region had been drier than normal for most of the year, but with enough rain, particularly in the months of April and June, the area managed to avoid drought and keep the trees healthy, she said.

Leaf-lookers always want to know when the “peak color” will happen, but the timing of the color change is highly dependent on the decreasing amount of sunlight that comes with the passing days, plus the elevation of a particular location, she said.

“The peak of fall color often arrives during the first and second week of October in the highest elevations, above 4,000 feet, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, 2,500 to 3,500 feet,” Mathews said.

Visitors can look for leaves to be peaking in color intensity a few days after the first reported frost in any particular area, she said.

Regardless of all the factors that affect leaf color, visitors to Western North Carolina always will find a pleasing leaf display somewhere in the mountains from September into November, with a wide range of color made possible by the region’s elevations ranging from 1,500 feet to over 6,000 feet and the more than 100 tree species, Mathews said.

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