Are you looking for the best fall hikes near Asheville, NC? Check out these stunning Asheville leaf hikes to catch the brilliant North Carolina fall foliage.
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I had no idea that Asheville could be this beautiful in the fall. A native New Englander, the leaves spoiled us with stunning colors ensconced within beautiful Victorian homes filled with spooky ghosts. Nothing could beat a New England fall, right? Isn’t that where all of those leaf-obsessed baby boomers head like candy-junkie toddlers?
However, when we first moved to Western North Carolina (WNC), we headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) looking for the best fall hikes near Asheville. Elevations sneak up pretty fast along the gorgeous, twisty two-lane road filled with terrible drivers and waterfall hikes. The mountain colors and leaves always blow us away. I could have driven right off the cliff and never noticed. Take that, New England!
So as locals, where do we love to hike around Asheville in the fall? Below, we’ll share our favorite Asheville fall foliage hikes, let you know what to expect, and tell you when to go. Let’s get started!
When Can You Catch The Best Fall Foliage Hikes Near Asheville?
Most years, the fall hits Asheville, North Carolina like sour beer hits my taste buds. One week, we see temperatures creeping into the 90s. I might sweat my butt off in that corn maze at Stepp’s Orchard. The following week?! Sneaky fall has arrived with literally no warning along with those 40-degree evenings.
Every year, Romantic Asheville predicts the AVL Fall Color Forecast. Peak fall foliage typically depends on the weather that season. Usually, the third and fourth weeks of October are a solid time to catch vibrant fall colors.
What You Need To Know About The Blue Ridge Parkway In The Fall:
I always feel like I am driving in Iceland with the sporadic and sometimes scarier road closures on the BRP:
- Always check with the National Park Service (NPS) before heading out on the Blue Ridge Parkway if you start seeing rather sketchy weather. Long stretches may close, which sometimes you’ll catch first on your GPS as well. See all of the NPS closures here and look under ‘Weather,’ specifically to see if the Blue Ridge Parkway gates are closed.
- Know that the fog rolls in and out just like at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. One second the road is there and the next, it’s gone. The same goes for those gorgeous views at places like Craggy Pinnacle. I do love driving in a cloud, though.
- I recommend driving with your lights on for the safety of everyone — not just in the tunnels.
- Many tourists will crawl under the speed limit — those winding roads are tricky if you are not used to them — so allow for extra time vs what your GPS says.
- There are a ton of overlooks on the BRP. Expect the car in front of you to dive off on one without signaling at any given time. Please signal. Please.
- Watch for black bears and wildlife crossing the road…and people walking down random parts of the BRP when they shouldn’t.
- Also, please beware of bikers and cars going around bikers, especially on those blind turns.
Our Favorite Fall Hikes Near Asheville On The Blue Ridge Parkway: Less Than 1-Hour Away
Truth: I am pretty terrible at navigation. In Florida, I’d always say that we were heading “down to CT.” It’s a form of expression, right? Right?!
With that said, these are the best fall hikes near Asheville, NC on the Blue Ridge Parkway from north to south that we love.
Don’t forget that we have a master list of hiking near Asheville, too, for all seasons.
Craggy Pinnacle is one of the easiest and shortest fall hikes near Asheville. Many love ascending Craggy Pinnacle to catch a stunning sunset, too. The Craggy Pinnacle hike is only about 1.4-miles roundtrip, and we always take a few detours up when it’s not foggy. You’ll find at least three scenic viewing areas around the top.
Fair warning: Fog loves to hug up on Craggy Pinnacle. Sometimes you’ll see nothing but the clouds. The trail also becomes icier late into October/early November, especially after rain. The foliage dissipates around then too. One year, Asheville had unseasonably chilly temps in the 20s. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
We’ve hiked Craggy Pinnacle during both the fog and ice, and I promise you, it’s slippery. Wear good hiking shoes. While a moderate hike up, at the peak you can see the Asheville Watershed, Craggy Gardens, and Mount Mitchell.
How To Get To Craggy Pinnacle
Craggy Pinnacle is located at milepost 364.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway past the tunnel after the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (driving north from Asheville). The lot entrance isn’t well labeled as you turn in, but you’ll see a two-tiered parking lot and signs once you enter. ‘Craggy Dome’ is the official trailhead. There are no bathroom facilities here.
A hot spot for fall hiking near Asheville, Craggy Gardens is 20-miles away with a variety of hiking options and accessibility.
The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center has great views of the fall foliage along with restrooms, snacks, and a souvenir shop. You can even pick up multiple trails — Douglas Falls and Craggy Gardens — although parking is limited and a tad stressful.
You can also park at the Craggy Garden Picnic Area before the Visitor Center where there is an abundance of parking, charcoal grills, restrooms, and another entrance to the trails. The main trail is just a little under 2-miles roundtrip with a gazebo and beautiful fields. Of course, you’ll find flowers and heart-stopping mountain views.
Don’t forget that the temps are a tad chillier up here. The air can be at least 10-15 degrees cooler than downtown Asheville, if not more. I always recommend wearing layers.
Craggy Gardens Access Points
Craggy Gardens (not including the Dome) has two easy access points off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One is at the Visitor Center, and the other is from the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Milepost 364.4-367.6 will help guide you.
Craven Gap is pretty special and probably one of the most local fall hikes in Asheville. You won’t find a ton of breathtaking vistas here, but this trail is much more off of the beaten path. …Unless you are Michelle and Barack Obama.
Yup, back in 2010, the Obamas hiked here, allegedly because the trails see much more privacy and security. You can check out their visit on Blue Ridge Outdoors here.
I love the Craven Gap hike for fall foliage, and the trail spits you out literally onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at the other end.
Find mini-caves, a wooden bridge, and ladder steps, along with endless baby streams. To some, Craven Gap is underwhelming if you want those Craggy Garden views. To others, enjoy the local quiet.
Craven Gap is part of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail and is a little under 5-miles roundtrip. You can pick up other trails, too. While moderate, the Craven Gap hike is a tad tiring as well as narrow. Follow the blaze on the trees to make sure that you are still on the trail, but truly, it’s not that confusing. If we can do it, so can you.
Craven Gap Access
The trailhead to Craven Gap is actually unmarked and sits at the end of a winding dirt road. Look for the off-road parking lot with a tiny staircase. I’m not kidding. There are no facilities here so it’s just you and Mother Nature…and maybe some black bears. You will want to look for Milepost 377.4 or GPS N35.6479, W82.4910.
Graveyard Fields & Graveyard Loop Trail & Waterfalls
Located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway past the Mount Pisgah area, Graveyard Fields is one-hour+ from Asheville. The trails boast of two unique, rocky waterfalls: Upper and Lower (Second) Falls. You’ll find many hiking trails/runoffs here — that can get a little confusing. A lot of sites describe things that aren’t quite correct or are inconsistent.
Low Falls is about .4-miles at the trailhead when you take a right after the footbridge. You will need to loop back to hit the actual Graveyard Loop.
Be forewarned, heading to Upper Falls is confusing. The hike is about a 2.9-miles roundtrip out and back – or so we clocked at the big intersection. I’m pretty sure that we climbed the harder way up along the face of the falls; whoops.
A much harder hike, you will climb slippery rocks and have to wade through sometimes higher streams. The mud is for real after some rain. My husband started humming the song from the NeverEnding Story. I totally felt Artax-triggered.
This beautiful fall foliage hike near Asheville also catches a view of Black Balsam Knob and intersects with the Mountains-To-Sea Trail. There are other trails around here, like Graveyard Ridge Trail, which is easy to accidentally turn onto.
Graveyard Fields Address
Graveyard Fields is at Milepost 418.8, south of Asheville. The tiny parking lot fills up, but you can safely park on the side of the road right before the entrance. Don’t leave your car hanging into the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will also find restroom facilities here.
Also in this area, don’t miss the Mount Pisgah Trail and hike to the summit for 360-degree views of the fall foliage.
Best Fall Nature Trail Hikes & Gardens In Asheville
These fall walks and hikes are all located within and around the downtown area of my favorite city, Asheville! Also, know that these are the most accessible places for non-avid hikers.
Biltmore Estate & Hiking Trails
Spying the Biltmore Estate’s fall foliage is the perfect way to get to know Asheville. Biltmore is rich in history and forestry education.
Did you know that Biltmore has over 22-miles of trails and gardens? For those looking for fall hikes in Asheville paired with wine, visitors can easily spend a day here. Encounter walking, running, and biking trails. Some trails are as long as 3.5-miles and range from moderate to challenging.
In addition, the gardens are perfect for accessibility and are, of course, quaint and beautiful. You might also like our full Asheville parks and gardens list.
The Biltmore is located at 1 Lodge Street Asheville, NC. Read more about the Biltmore Estate Trails.
Full disclosure: In order to enter any part of the Biltmore Estate, you must have a ticket or annual pass. This goes for the winery and restaurants, too. Tickets will cost you around $60+.
Botanical Gardens At Asheville
Imagine 10-acres of non-profit botanical gardens with small and easy nature trails at your disposal. Located near UNC-Asheville about 10-minutes from downtown Asheville, that’s exactly what you will encounter at the Botanical Gardens At Asheville.
I’m not really sure why all of the big tourism sites don’t mention the Botanical Gardens in Asheville for fall foliage hiking. Yes, they aren’t the Blue Ridge Parkway or as vibrant, but the landscape is cozy and sweet. Plus, you can bring a picnic or a book to just chill.
These hikes are more like nature walks, but they are perfect for families, couples looking for romantic places, and some brisk exercise. During the day, the grounds are especially peaceful. Find a literary cabin in the woods, beautiful bridges, rock formations, labeled flora and fauna, and large streams.
Asheville Botanical Gardens Address:
Admission and parking into the Botanical Gardens is free. The Botanical Gardens At Asheville are located at 151 W.T. Weaver Blvd. Asheville, NC 28804.
I feel like the North Asheville locals might shoot me for this one (and I am one sooo whatever…). Although Beaver Lake has sensible rules that you must respect, anyone is allowed to park in the lots around the lake and walk the gorgeous grounds. The lake is technically private but open to all. We talk all about Beaver Lake Trail and Bird Sanctuary here.
What you will find is a gorgeous fall walk — a flat ‘hike’ — in the heart of well-established Asheville neighborhoods filled with trees and a sun-reflecting lake. Perfect for leaf-spying and bird watching, like the Botanical Gardens At Asheville, bring a blanket to surround yourself with the mountains.
Fair warning: you do need a special permit if you have a pooch or for boating. And unlike the unfriendly Trip Advisor reviews, Beaver Lake is both beautiful and friendly.
Beaver Lake Address
Beaver Lake is about 8-10 minutes from the heart of downtown Asheville. There is no one address for the lake but you can use the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary as an idea: 1020 US-25, Asheville, NC 28804. Past the sanctuary, you will find small lots off of Merrimon Ave. next to the lake. Parking is donation-based.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
Personally, I love that you can walk to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary & Trail from Beaver Lake or vice versa. Plus, the sanctuary is another free gem that no one knows about. Would I call their boardwalk trails serious hiking? No. However, you can enjoy a beautiful fall walk in nature in North Asheville.
Here, discover birds, dragonflies, and butterflies across 8-acres. Stay on the boardwalk and marked paths. They also host bird walks on the first Saturday of the month.
This Asheville fall hiking suggestion is more for those looking to get outside and breathe in some fresh air versus trekking up a mountain.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary Address
Read more about Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. The Bird Sanctuary is located at 1020 US-25, Asheville, NC 28804. Parking and entry are free, but you can leave a donation.
The North Carolina Arboretum
Located in the southern Appalachian Mountains south of downtown AVL and off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, adventure to The NC Arboretum with botanical gardens and some of the easiest fall hikes in Asheville. We also love their Winter Lights exhibit, which typically opens in November.
You can read all about The NC Arboretum here, and like Biltmore, we are annual passholders.
The North Carolina Arboretum Address
As of 2020, there is a $16 parking fee for personal vehicles. Visitors have access to their Bistro and be sure to check their website for special exhibits.
The NC Arboretum is located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806.
Fall Hikes Near Asheville: Hendersonville & Brevard
DuPont State Forest
Get ready for another one of our favorite fall hikes near Asheville: The Hunger Games waterfalls will always land on my hiking posts. This beautiful waterfall-filled State Park does not disappoint. DuPont State Forest is about 45-minutes from Asheville.
If you park at the Hooker Falls Access Area, head straight before crossing the scenic bridge. Follow the trail about .25-miles in for Hooker Falls. Then, loop back up over the bridge for a moderate climb to see Triple Falls and High Falls. DuPont also has a walking loop with picnic areas, a covered bridge, and a visitor center. You can go one step further to Bridal Veil Falls, too.
DuPont is truly one of the best fall hikes near Asheville if you are hoping to catch multiple waterfalls without a treacherous hike. DuPont Forest will fill up in the fall. Get there early.
DuPont State Recreational Forest Address
Read more about DuPont State Forest. It is free to park at DuPont. We typically park at the Hooker Falls Access Area, which has restroom facilities. If parking fills up, you might have to drive to other lots. You cannot park on the side of the road.
Our Bucket List Fall Hikes Near Asheville, NC
Although we hike a lot, there are quite a few fall hikes near Asheville, NC that we still need to complete in October. Below, find a few top-recommended fall hikes from friends or that we’ve researched for upcoming weekend trips.
Other fall hikes near Asheville, NC that I’m hoping to add that are not mentioned below include Beacon Heights, Mount Mitchell (another hike rumored to be tough), and Rough Ridge at Tanawha Trail.
Looking Glass Rock Trail
We’ve seen Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway heading back from the Mount Pisgah area after hiking at Graveyard Fields. We’ve also parked at the overlook to hike to Skinny Dip Falls.
About 45-minutes from downtown Asheville in Brevard, you can find an easy hiking trail off of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. I’ve heard Looking Glass is a beast that will take you 4-5 hours for about 6-6.5 miles roundtrip. I’d say you deserve some beer after this one.
You can read a little more about Looking Glass Rock Trail on Explore Asheville.
Looking Glass Rock Trail Location
The Looking Glass Rock Trail GPS coordinates are N35.290937, W82.776548.
Chimney Rock is another area seething with tourist popularity. Just 25-miles from Asheville, all of our non-native North Carolina friends have visited except us. Sigh.
Head up to the top of the rock where you can either take the stairs or elevator to see views of Lake Lure. Check out one of their numerous hiking trails that range in length and difficulty, or rest up in Chimney’s little shopping and restaurant village.
Yes, unlike most of the other fall hikes on this list, you will need admission tickets. As of 2020, adult admission is $17 and a youth admission ticket is $8.
Fall Hiking Near Asheville, NC & Need A Place To Stay? We Recommend:
Asheville, NC Hotels
Hotels and B&Bs tend to book up fast in Asheville, especially in the fall, spring, and around holidays. Make dinner reservations wherever you can, too. A few hotels to consider that either we, our friends, or others highly recommend include:
Near The Asheville Outlets/Biltmore
Hampton Inn And Suites Asheville Biltmore Area *Our second favorite pick. We stayed here before we moved.
DoubleTree By Hilton Biltmore/Asheville
Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville
The Omni Grove Park Inn *We frequently stop by the Grove Park Inn for sunsets, drinks, and food.
1900 Inn On Montford
Don’t miss our Top Asheville Hotel, Resort & B&B Picks Here.
Which of these fall hikes near Asheville, NC have you tried?
What are your favorite fall hikes near Asheville so far? What’s on your Asheville fall bucket list? Are you a leaf chaser, too? What are your favorite states to see the foliage? Mine are Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.
Let us know in the comments!
This post originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for 2020.