The brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of fall leaves create a "rich display [that] often starts at the highest elevation in late September and early October, gradually progressing to the lowest elevation by late October and early November," the Forest Service says.
"Peak season occurs around mid-October," the Forest Service says, and with a rainy summer in the mountains this year, 2013 should be a better than usual year for fall color.
The guide, which has information about the trees at each elevation and the colors they produce, recommends leaf-viewing spots at various elevations. Their online guide doesn't provide links, but we do where we have them on Carolina Outdoors Guide:
High elevation (above 4,500 feet)
Middle elevation (2,500 to 4,500 feet)
* Chunky Gal Mountains from Standing Indian to Shooting Creek along US 64 in Macon and Clay Counties
* Along NC 28 and 143 within Graham County from Fontana Village (see also Fontana Dam) to Stecoah Gap, within the Moses Creek drainage along Forest Service Road 4651 in the Roy A. Taylor forest in Jackson County (see also Wayehutta ATV System)
* Along US 19E in the Poplar area of Yancey County from the Cane River to Spivey Gap
* Along Curtis Creek Road (FSR 482) and US 70 in McDowell County, and the Harper Creek area in Avery County
Low elevation (Below 2,500 feet)
* Joe Brown Highway in Cherokee County
* US 64 in eastern Clay County
* US 441 in southern Macon County
* NC 28 in Swain County near Fontana Lake (see also Fontana Dam)
* US 25-70 in the Hot Springs area
* Along NC 181 and the other forest roads in the Steeles Creek area in Burke and Caldwell counties.
Also in the mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers numerous overlooks, parks, trails and other leaf-viewing opportunities, though fall is its peak - read "most crowded" - season. The Parkway averages about 3,000 feet in elevation north of Asheville, but south of Asheville climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.
The view from Wayah Bald (elev. 5,385 feet), seen below in summer, is one of the prime fall leaf-viewing opportunities in the Nantahala National Forest. Click on the photo for more information about Wayah Bald.
Morrow Mountain State Park will open Monday after being closed for seven weeks while massive storm damaged was repaired.
The park will thank local volunteers and businesses that helped with cleanup work with a "free re-opening" event that suspends fees for swimming in the park's 1930s-era Olympic-size swimming pool and offers one-hour boat rentals for free, according to the State Parks blog.
In addition to the pool and boathouse, the boat ramp, fishing pier, museum, restored Kron House and campsites will be open and operating beginning Monday morning.
Camping areas set to reopen include Loops A and B of the family campground (sites 1 to 68), the organized group camping area (sites 1 to 6), and cabins 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, according to the park's website. The Quarry, Laurel and Three Rivers trails, and the campground-to-pool access trail will also reopen.
The Morrow Mountain summit overlooks and picnic area; picnic shelter A; bridle trails and the bridle trail parking area; vacation cabin 4; and the Backpack, Fall Mountain, Hattaway Mountain, Morrow Mountain, Mountain Loop, Rocks and Sugarloaf Mountain trails remain closed.
A June 14 storm that hit the Stanly County park included a suspected microburst that downed trees, crushed camper shells, damaged park buildings and stranded dozens of visitors, the blog says.
A news release at the time said several hundred trees had fallen in the 4,496-acre park. Nearly 100 state park rangers and maintenance mechanics from other parks across the state, plus volunteers, have been at work on damage since, the blog post says.
Boat rentals will be $3 an hour after the first hour Monday. Swimming, which is free all day Monday, usually costs $4 a day for ages 3 to 12 and $5 a day for older swimmers.
Boat rentals are available 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The pool will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
The summit overlook and picnic area at Morrow Mountain State Park, below, and several other areas of the park remain closed because of storm damage, but the swimming pool, boathouse, fishing pier and campsites reopen August 5. Click on either photo for more information about Morrow Mountain State Park.
A 20-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville is closed because of damage to the road from recent rains.
The Parkway's web page has an alert that says the scenic road is closed from Milepost 376 at Ox Creek Road to MP 355 at Mount Mitchell State Park. The popular Craggy Gardens area of the Parkway is at MP 367 on the closed segment.
Steve Stinnett, parkway chief ranger, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that there is "an apparent slope failure below the roadway" one mile north of Ox Creek Road just north of the Tanbark Tunnel.
"There is a 2- to 4-inch-wide, 100-foot-long crack in the road, so we’re concerned about the road failing there," Stinnett told the newspaper. "We’ll have to have it assessed by an engineer before we can reopen."
Stinnett said July is the Parkway's second-busiest month after October.
Work includes building a new access road from behind the shooting line and constructing a new earthen backstop for each shooting line, as well as filling and leveling along the firing line, a news release says.
Moss Knob has four firing lanes or stations on a 150-yard range with frame targets set at 25 and 50 yards.
Moss Knob "is projected to reopen by the end of September, weather permitting," the release says.
We wanted to note a few significant closures in the state parks system, following up on our previous post about Morrow Mountain State Park being closed due to storm damage:
* South Mountains State Park has closed the family campground (drive-to sites) for the 2013 season as work progresses to add a bath house with hot showers and several new campsites. Some sites may be open for Friday and Saturday nights as construction permits.
* The Hickory Nut Falls Trail at Chimney Rock State Park is closed indefinitely as workers deal with a rock slide and significant damage to the trail.
* Lake Norman State Park begins a yearlong project to build a new visitors center July 15 and will close boat rentals at 6 p.m. on the 14th. The visitors center is to be built on the opposite side of the parking area from the Itusi Trailhead (near the boat rental building), and the park will limit or restrict access to nearby shelters, the picnic area and fishing dock, and the Alder Trail.
* Heavy rains have damaged foot bridges on several trails at William B. Umstead State Park and have caused major erosion on the multi-use trail. Bridges are closed but trails remain open, and the park advises visitors to keep a look out for temporary closings and heavy equipment being used for repairs.
DuPont State Recreational Forest reopens the Hooker Falls area on July 1 along with the dedication of a new visitors center and the Hooker Falls pedestrian bridge over the Little River.
The visitors center is a first for the 10,400-acre forest. DuPont State Forest became a "state recreational forest" in 2011 and a new plan to manage natural communities, wildlife habitat and recreation in the forest was created.
DuPont, which straddles the Henderson and Transylvania county border, features four major waterfalls on Little River and five lakes. It has more than 80 miles of roads and trails available for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Seasonal fishing and hunting are also allowed in the forest.
Hooker Falls and the Hooker Falls Access Area have been closed this month for construction of the trail bridge. The 120-foot bridge will improve safety by allowing visitors to reach Triple Falls without walking along the highway or crossing the highway bridge, the state Forest Service says. There's also a new parking lot near the bridge.
The Aleen Steinberg Welcome Center at the High Falls Access Area will serve as a central location for educating the public about the forest’s history while stressing the need for safety around waterfalls in the forest, the Forest Service says.
Steinberg is a local conservationist who was instrumental in the state obtaining the forest.
Remarks by Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will precede opening of the pedestrian bridge at 11 a.m. on Monday. At noon, Troxler, Steinberg and L.T. Ward of WNC Communities will speak before a ribbon-cutting that opens the visitors center.
The events are open to the public and will take place rain or shine. The visitors center will be open to the public following its dedication ceremony.
The center will contain educational exhibits and will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day beginning Tuesday.
We've been away from this blog and have failed to note the indefinite closing of Morrow Mountain State Park after wind storms on June 14 downed hundreds of trees and damaged several structures, including the park office and one cabin.
A news release says several hundred trees fell in the 4,496-acre park.
State park crews must assess damage to the park’s 34 miles of hiking and bridle trails, remove hazardous trees and clear debris from around facilities, roadways, camping areas and trails, the release says. The state may need to hire contractors to remove hazardous trees on steep terrain.
At least five structures in the park were damaged in the storm, along with several vehicles owned by park visitors. Some campers were trapped in the park for a night by fallen trees blocking the road.
Repairs to damaged structures must be completed before they can be reopened to the public. No reservations for park campsites, picnic shelters or vacation cabins are being accepted.
If you already have a reservation, contact the central reservation center for a refunds or transfer to another park at 877-722-6762.
The Clay County Progress says the Forest Service has chosen the controversial Perry Creek site near the end of Passmore Spur Road (Forest Service Road 351D).
The Forest Service news release only identifies the site as about nine miles east of Hayesville. Hayesville is east of Murphy in the Tusquitee Ranger District.
The Perry Creek site is 0.7 miles west of the Chunky Gal Trail, a 21-mile-long footpath in the Fires Creek Recreation Area that connects to the nearby Bartram National Recreation Trail from the Fires Creek Rim Trail. Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine has said a shooting range at the Perry Creek site "would make the sound of gunfire a constant companion on the trail."
The Forest Service has been conducting an environmental assessment for the project since 2010. It has received hundreds of comments from citizens and groups, the news release says.
The shooting range will consist of five to eight shooting lanes with covered shooting stations and clean soil backstops, sign boards and a portable restroom on three to five acres. Roads to the site will be improved to accommodate motor vehicles.
The Clay County Sports Club will build the shooting range, but it will belong to the Forest Service and all revenue will go to the government, a news release says. It will be open to the public.
If you have previously commented on the proposal to build the shooting range, you have 45 days to file an appeal. Once that period is up, the Forest Service has 30 days to respond to any appeals received.
The Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests and partners are hosting Kids' Fishing Days as part of National Fishing and Boating week, June 1 to 9.
Two sites in the Pisgah National Forest will hold events May 10 and 31.
No experience is needed for families to participate. Adults must accompany all children.
Events are scheduled for:
* Cedar Swamp Pond, just south of Newport off of Hibbs Road – June 8, 8 a.m. (catch hybrid sunfish or catfish)
* Boone Fork Pond, near Lenoir. Two events, one for the handicapped on May 10, 10 a.m. (register with the Grandfather Ranger District office at (828) 652-2144) and a second May 11, starting at 9 a.m.
* Lake Powhatan, near Asheville. Two events, one for special needs children on May 31 at 10 a.m., and a second June 1 at 9 a.m.
* Carolina Hemlocks, near Burnsville – June 1, 9 a.m. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.)
* Max Patch, near Hot Springs – June 8, 9 a.m. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.)
* King’s Mountain Point, on Badin Lake near Troy – June 8, 9 a.m. (catch hybrid sunfish or catfish).
The National Forest Service is proposing* a ban on alcohol at Fishers Landing, a small campground overlooking the Neuse River in the Croatan National Forest.
"The restriction is the result of resource and facility damage along with visitor complaints of alcohol-related incidents at this recreation site," a news release says.
Fishers Landing offers nine sites for tents and access to riverbank fishing, along with vault toilets, access to running water, fire rings and picnic tables. It is about eight miles south of New Bern on U.S. 70.
The Forest Service is taking comments for the next two weeks via email at [email protected] or at Croatan National Forest, 141 E Fisher Road, New Bern, N.C. 28560; or by fax at 252-637-9113.
*This post originally said the ban was in effect. The National Forest Service issued a correction to its news release moments later.
Damage to the property and "visitor complaints of alcohol-related incidents" have prompted a ban on alcohol at Fishers Landing campground in the Croatan National Forest. Click on the photo below for more information about Fishers Landing.