One of North Carolina's more colorful natural treasures is leaf season in the mountains.
The spectacle can be seen any time between mid-September and early November. The Blue Ridge Parkway is an ideal spot to take in the beauty of autumn.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the parkway, which stretches for 469 miles from North Carolina to Virginia. The following are popular attractions along the parkway that are perfect for leaf viewing.
Grandfather Mountain at milepost 305
Grandfather Mountain offers an ideal vantage point for seeing the fall color in the valley below. The mountain is an internationally recognized nature preserve. Main attractions at the site include the mile-high swinging bridge and habitats for native wildlife such as black bears, river otters, cougars and eagles. The preserve also features more than 12 miles of hiking trails. grandfather.com
Craggy Gardens at milepost 364
Craggy Gardens are high-elevation summits known for their spectacular floral displays in the summer. But fall is also a prime time to enjoy the glory of the changing leaves. The Craggy Pinnacle trail at the site offers a stunning 360-degree view of peaks and forested slopes. Bonus! The gardens are not far from Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi. blueridgeparkway.org
Cold Mountain Overlook at milepost 412
Yes, this is the Cold Mountain - the place that inspired the popular novel and major motion picture. The site features four main hiking trails. The overlook is at Milepost 412, but to explore the mountain drive farther down the road to the Black Balsam parking area at mile marker 420. hendersonvilledirectory.com
Looking Glass Rock Overlook at milepost 417
Looking Glass Rock is one of the best-known rock climbing areas in the state. The site offers friction and face climbing of a 500-foot rocky face mountain. A permit is not required to climb. The Looking Glass Rock trail is off U.S. 276, about 10 miles north of Brevard. exploreashevile.com