Watching and listening to local waterways while viewing the changing autumn leaves is a sight to behold by High Country residents and visitors alike.
According to High Country Host, the fall peak leaf color season in the High Country region is typically from late September to early November due to varying elevations. Areas such as Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain that are in the 6,000 feet in elevation range may see leaves changing the last week of September while places such as Wilkesboro or the Stone Mountain State Park in the 2,000 feet range could see leaf change in the fourth week of October.
Listed below are trails for those who are looking to observe the fall leaf colors reflected on the waters of High Country rivers, creeks and waterfalls. Be sure to dress appropriately for the cooler weather as well as proper football for possible slippery conditions. Hikers should research each of the below trails to ensure hiking opportunities are appropriate for their skill levels.
Boone Fork Trail: Boone Fork Trail is a strenuous 5-mile loop that leads to the 25-foot Boone Fork Falls or also known as Hebron Falls. The trail is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 296.4 at the Julian Price Park Picnic Area. There are several other creeks that hikers will cross along the way. This area is visited frequently, but worth the hike.
Price Lake Trail: Price Lake Trail is an approximate 2.7 mile loop trail that’s flat and goes around Price Lake. According to the National Park Service, the trail can be reached from the Price Lake Overlook (milepost 296.7) or the Boone Fork Overlook (milepost 297.1) on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Linville Falls trails: At Linville Falls, hikers can take either the moderate Erwins View Trail or the strenuous Linville Gorge Trail to see views of the waterfall that drops 90 feet into the 12-mile long Linville Gorge. Erwins View Trail is a moderate 1.6 mile round-trip walk that offers hikers four overlooks at the top of the falls. Whale Linville Gorge Trail can be strenuous, it offers beautiful views from below the falls. The National Park Service advises to avoid weekends for a less crowded experience. Trails can be found off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 316.4.
Crabtree Falls Trail: The 2.5-mile loop trail to Crabtree Falls is moderate to strenuous with a steep incline and rocky terrain. According to the National Park Service, hikers should allow one and a half to two and a half hours for the entire hike. At the base of the trail is Crabtree Falls with water cascading over a 60-foot rock cliff. The park service advises that hikers do not climb on the rocks as they are slippery. Find the trailhead at the Crabtree Falls campground at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 339.5.
Crab Orchard Falls Trail: Crab Orchard Falls is located on the property of the Valle Crucis Conference Center. Crab Orchard Falls Trail is a 1.5 mile out-and-back trail that features a waterfall. Parking is located behind the paved part into the gravel which is marked “waterfall parking.” The trail is located on private property, so hikers are asked to be courteous to the area.
Conley Cove: A favorite trail for many hikers of the Linville Gorge, Conley Cove is about 1.3 miles to bottom. Conley Cove descends more than 1,200 feet into the Linville Gorge with several switchbacks, with views of the Linville River as the trail finally flattens toward the bottom. Some areas are rocky, and hikers will have to hike back out through the trail to get back to the start.
Spence Ridge Trail: A strenuous hike, Spence Ridge Trail is best accessed from the Table Rock parking area — about four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway intersection with N.C. 181. The trail is a moderate 1.7 mile decent that requires hikers to execute a wet crossing to proceed as the bridge has been washed out.
Hunt Fish Falls: Rated as moderately strenuous, this 1.4 mile roundtrip trail takes hikers to a popular, but smaller, waterfall. The area provides a lush forest sure to provide beautiful fall colors, and an approximate 10-foot two-part waterfall. The trail can be found several miles from the Mortimer Campground in Collettsville by taking forest service road 464 (Pineola Road).
Harper Creek Trail: A strenuous 6.3 mile trail, Harper Creek Trail offers creekside scenes, to long-distance views of the mountains and closer encounters with two major waterfalls. The parking area can be found near 7973 Brown Mountain Beach Road in Collettsville.