Autumn has finally arrived in the Southeast, bringing with it cooler temps and spectacular fall foliage. Known for sweeping mountain views, the Western North Carolina mountain towns of Jackson County are expecting spectacular color this year. Whether this is your first or hundredth time visiting Jackson County, now is the best time to plan a trip to enjoy all the beauty the region has to offer.
The best time to experience the fall colors with lighter crowds is during the week. Monday through Wednesday is the ideal time to plan your stay to receive the lowest rates, experience smaller crowds and have the colorful views to yourself thanks to the lightest foot traffic of the season. In addition, there will be low wait times at resident favorite restaurants, less traffic resulting in shorter drive times between attractions and more one-on-one time with the people that make Jackson County so special at locally-owned businesses. So, go ahead and take advantage of those unused vacation days to get the best out of the fall season here!
Due to Jackson County’s geographic location between 2,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level, fall’s colors last well over a month here, ranging from early October to mid-November. Plus, the area’s mild temperatures lend themselves to a very vibrant season, with prolonged color in the lower elevations.
Best views for fall hues
Throughout Jackson County, you’ll find a wide array of opportunities to experience the brightest fall color. Whether biking, hiking or driving, you’ll find elevated views from the most named peaks in North Carolina, resulting in kaleidoscopic vistas of golds, oranges and reds. To help you plan your itinerary, check out these notable views.
Shadow of the Bear: Every year, a unique phenomenon occurs in the Western North Carolina mountains. On sunny days at 5:30 p.m. between mid-October and early November, the shadow of a bear appears for 30 minutes behind Whiteside Mountain. Many people travel from near and far just to see this natural spectacle. The best place to catch sight of the shadow is off Highway 64 at the Rhodes Big View Overlook. Take care to navigate the crowds that turn out to see this event.
- Pro-tip: the shadow of the bear phenomenon also occurs in late February, offering area visitors two opportunities to experience the magic.
Waterrock Knob, Whiteside Mountain, and Pinnacle Park: Throughout the county, there are numerous overlooks perfect for taking in the panoramic landscapes of the Western North Carolina mountains. Some overlooks range from a simple park-and-look excursion while others require light to medium hikes.
The Waterrock Knob Trail offers a 1.2-mile roundtrip hike that is steep in nature, but results in breathtaking views from the 6,292-foot summit. Along the 2-mile loop that makes up the Whiteside Mountain Trail, you will hike to the 4,930-foot crest, where the landscape literally spreads out beneath your feet. The truly adventurous thrill-seeker will enjoy the 7-mile round trip Pinnacle Park Trail that ascends more than 3,000 feet in elevation, revealing incredible views.
America’s celebrated scenic motor route can’t be missed – a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a must during fall.
Bear Creek Lake: A wonderful way to enjoy a different perspective on fall color is by setting out on the waters of Bear Creek Lake. This popular boating spot is also ideal for kayakers and canoers who want to surround themselves with striking autumnal colors.
ColorFest and Cashiers Leaf Festival: Turn your leaf-peeping adventure into a celebration of the season with a visit to the area’s annual festivals. With local artisans and vendors from around the country, these festivals are prime for holiday shopping. At ColorFest in Dillsboro, more than 40 local demonstrating artists will display their autumn-inspired art from around the state. Visitors will be able to purchase art directly from the artisans themselves as they stroll down Front Street.
At the Cashiers Leaf Festival, between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors from around the country turn out to enjoy this Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 award-winning event. The three-day festival brings together more than 100 artisans and merchants at The Village Green’s park.
During your visit to Jackson County, you’ll find a variety of accommodations to rest and recharge after a long day of hiking, leaf-peeping and sightseeing. During the season, Jackson County’s many restaurants and breweries celebrate autumn with unique flavors and special events.
To help you plan your fall escape, download your free visitor’s guide and book your trip today.
Feature photo courtesy JP Gannon