CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's always hard to gauge exactly when the fall foliage will begin to change in the Carolinas. This year, record-high temperatures in September, along with a lack of rain, have experts predicting it may take a little longer than normal for fall colors to show, but one thing is for sure -- the vibrant oranges and rusty reds bring thousands of locals and tourists to the North Carolina mountains each year.
Here are our picks for the Top 10 must-visit places for fall colors, in no particular order:
1. Grandfather Mountain – Take in the autumn views from a mile-high swinging bridge! Cross over to the other side and climb to the top of the mountain; the remarkable views are totally worth the apprehensive feelings you may get before crossing.
2. Table Rock – Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Table Rock soars 3,950 feet above sea level and overlooks the Linville Gorge. It's quite a hike to the summit, but the payoff is huge when you witness the aerial view.
3. Chimney Rock – Spend the day exploring the old-fashioned mountain town and then hike to the top of the rock to take in an array of colors surrounding the famous landmark.
4. Blowing Rock – Not only are the views impeccable, but this mountain town reeks of fall. From the town square being overrun with pumpkins and mums to the local candle shop creating hand-made autumn scents, Blowing Rock is the perfect place to enjoy peak leaf season.
5. Little Switzerland – A picturesque retreat that sits just off the beaten path -- or Blue Ridge Parkway, in this case -- this charming little town offers incredible views of Mount Mitchell, Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain, to name just a few sites. There are also gem mines to explore.
6. Uwharrie National Forest – Hike one of the many scenic trails to take in the colorful leaves and crisp air and see where the first documented gold rush took place. You might even run into one of the ghosts from local folklore.
7. Sugar Mountain – Visit the resort and take the ski lift all the way to the top of the mountain for remarkable views of the area below.
8. Crowder's Mountain – A short 30-minute drive from the Charlotte city limits will make you feel as if you're escaping all the hustle and bustle. Climb to the top to see for miles in every direction. You can even see the Queen City's skyline in the distance. We suggest packing a picnic to enjoy along the way.
9. Banner Elk – This is a great option for anyone looking to enjoy more than just colorful leaves. The quaint town will not only be blanketed in a kaleidoscope of leaves but will also host a number of fall festivals that are sure to keep you busy.
10. Asheville – This eclectic town brings not only beautiful fall scenery to the table but also award-winning food and drink. Take in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the city or spend the day exploring the Biltmore and taking advantage of its leaf-peeping opportunities.
So, we said we'd only list the Top 10, but we couldn't pass up one last place.
11. Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery – OK, so this one isn't your typical fall tourist attraction, but the views of the surrounding mountains and valley from the winery's deck and expansive patio are spectacular. Plus, why not enjoy the view and a glass of local wine at the same time?
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