Below is an informative press release from Grandfather Mountain regarding their peak fall foliage For more information on our trail write-ups at Grandfather Mountain click Here.
Grandfather Mountain is considered one of the best fall color destinations in the Southern Appalachians because of Grandfather’s amazing diversity of plant life. As autumn approaches and the chlorophyll begins to fade from the leaves, the yellow and red pigments that lay beneath the green chlorophyll begin to show through. And because each different species of plant revels a little bit different hue and shade, the abundant variety of plant species at Grandfather reveal an abundant variety of autumn colors.
Contributing most to the seasonal spectacular is the fact that Grandfather is blessed with a wide diversity of hardwood trees. Bright yellow cottonwoods, golden poplars, pumpkin-colored beech trees, orange sugar maples, blood-red sourwoods, rusty red oaks, crimson-colored huckleberries, wine-colored sweetgums and purple dogwoods all contrast against the gray boulders and evergreen firs for a kaleidoscope of color.
Elevation also contributes to the diversity of plant species and diversity of color. Because Grandfather Mountain rises abruptly from the valley floor, 4,000 feet in elevation above the Catawba River Valley to the east and 2,000 feet in elevation above Linville Gap to the west, different ecosystems exist at different levels. There are sixteen distinct ecological communities in these various zones, which is one reason why the United Nations made Grandfather the first privately owned unit in its international network of biosphere reserves.
Glaciers are another reason for the diversity of plant species and diversity of color. In the North, the slowly shifting glacial ice of the last Ice Age ground away the top soil, destroying all plant life as it moved. Plants and trees that were common in those areas only survived south of the glaciers’ range. As the temperatures rose, those northern plants found havens in the high elevations of the Appalachians.
Similarly, many Southern plant species find the northernmost terminus of their range in the Grandfather Mountain area. That produces a unique blend of plants that co-exist nowhere else on earth, and they in turn produce a unique blend of showy autumn hues that can be found nowhere else in the South.
The changing of the fall colors is always a miracle, and anywhere you travel in the North Carolina mountains to look at leaves will be a treat. But if a friend tells you that the Blue Ridge Parkway between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain is the best fall color destination in the South, don’t dismiss it as hype. Because diversity of plant life means diversity of colors, and Grandfather Mountain is the most biologically diverse mountain in the East.