Best Places to see Fall Foliage in Maggie Valley NC

Fall Maggie Valley NC

Fall foliage colors in and around Maggie Valley NC are some of the most beautiful Fall colors you’ll see anywhere in the world.   Maggie Valley NC is adjacent to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two of the most visited National Parks in the United States, especially in the Fall.

While the mountains in and around Maggie Valley are beautiful year round, there is just something magical about the cool crisp air, the smell of the leaves, combined with the beautiful red, oranges, and yellows of trees as they turn color in October.

But with so many places all around Maggie Valley NC, what are the best places to see the Fall colors?  

That’s a question asked by many visitors coming to Maggie in the Fall.  We might also argue that anywhere in and around Maggie Valley NC is the best place to see Fall Color!  Downtown Maggie itself has beautiful Fall colors.  But that answer wouldn’t really be  the answer you’re looking for.

The best places to see Fall colors in Maggie Valley NC is a bit subjective of course, but we want to help you out by giving you OUR top picks for more scenic and exciting locations.

You might also be wondering WHEN is the best time to visit.  Read over our Fall Foliage Forecast for Maggie Valley for peak color dates.

The Best Places to see Fall Foliage in Maggie Valley NC

Here are our top picks for the best places to see Fall Foliage in and around Maggie Valley NC!

1 – Take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Maggie Valley NC is next to the most popular and one of the most beautiful sections of the The Blue Ridge Parkway.   From Maggie Valley, you can literally be driving on the Parkway within 10 minutes, and within just a few more minutes, viewing breathtaking scenes.

In the Fall, it’s a gorgeous drive all the way from Maggie, up onto the Parkway, and all the way down.

From the Maggie Valley entrance to the Parkway, you can drive to Cherokee.  There are a number of nice overlooks along this stretch, but the altitude and views aren’t as tremendous as going towards Asheville.

Fall Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall color on the Parkway, between Maggie Valley and Cherokee

You can also head towards Asheville, which takes you through the Highest Elevation point on the parkway, and there are numerous scenic overlooks that in the Fall that offer up long distance views, and a mix of Fall Colors that are sure to make just about anyone nearly speechless.

“Wow” seems to be the most common word we hear when we’re up there.

The great thing about the Parkway is that the elevation varies as you drive along it.  Since Fall foliage colors also vary by elevation, based on when you’re there, you’re almost guaranteed to see beautiful colors along the way, when you visit during October.

Fall Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking towards Waynesville, NC on the Parkway

We would recommend driving one morning from Maggie Valley up to the Pisgah Inn, and grabbing lunch there.  Along the way, you’ll pass a number of overlooks to stop at, enjoy the views, colors and take photos.

>> Use our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for more information and interesting stops along the way.

2 – Visit Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cataloochee Valley is a remote, off the beaten path, and beautiful area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cataloochee Valley is famous for it’s historic structures, and for Elk.

Cataloochee Valley Elk

Cataloochee Valley is a wonderful place to visit, but Fall has some added benefits.  The first is the Fall colors.  Cataloochee Valley elevation is 2,600 feet, meaning it generally peaks in Mid to late October (October 18-26).  The other reason is Fall Mating season for the Elk, called Rut.

Rut occurs from Mid September to Mid October.  During this time, male elk (called Bull Elk) make their legendary bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract female Elk (called Cows). Bull Elk calls may be heard more than a mile away.

Bull Elk use their antlers to  spar with other Bulls, pushing each other back and forth using their antlers, which by this time of the year can be very large.  Most encounters are harmless, with very little physical contact other than the antlers.  During Rut season, the most dominant males gather up more than 20 cows, and breed with them.

We highly recommend visiting Cataloochee Valley during the Fall, both for the colors and to see Rut season.  Fall color at Cataloochee Valley, combined together with the historic buildings, makes for some incredible photo opportunities!

Fall Cataloochee Valley

Fall at Caldwell House, Cataloochee Valley

>> See our Cataloochee Valley Guide, which includes photos and directions, and more.

3 – Max Patch

Not far from Maggie Valley, is one of the most beautiful scenic balds in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Max Patch.

Fall Max Patch

Fall at Max Patch

Max Patch is a nearly 5,000 foot in elevation, scenic bald that provides 360 degree views.  The famous Appalachian Trail travels right through the peak of the bald, and provides a unique opportunity to hike along this trail.  The top of max patch provides amazing views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well.

Visiting Max Patch during early to mid Fall offers some tremendous views and color.    The peak of Max Patch is accessible via a short but strenuous hike up to the top.   The hike is worth the reward, as the views are stunning.

>> See our Max Patch Guide for more information and photos.

4 – Big Creek

One of our favorite places to visit and hike in the Fall is Big Creek, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fall Big Creek

Late Fall in Big Creek

Big Creek has a wonderful creekside picnic area, that is very pretty and serene in the Fall.   From the parking lot, you can also hike up Big Creek Trail for access to two different waterfalls, and a stunning Fall walk through the woods, that is full of color and the rushing sounds of Big Creek.

The first waterfall is a popular summer swimming hole call Midnight Hole.   This is a very photogenic waterfall when wrapped in Fall color, and makes for a great place to just sit and enjoy the sounds, smells, and numerous colors.  The second Falls, Mouse Creek Falls is equally gorgeous and much taller.

Fall Midnight Hole

Fall Colors at Midnight Hole, Big Creek

>> See our Big Creek Guide for more information, including trails, photos, and directions.

5 – Purchase Knob

Purchase Knob, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a 5,000 foot in elevation bald, near Maggie Valley NC that provides stunning 360 degree long distance views from the Science Center located at the top.

The hike up to Purchase Knob makes for the perfect walk through woods and fall colors, and the views from the top some of the best around.   The view will display a rainbow of colors as you look out into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the West, and the Balsam Mountains to the east.

>> See our Purchase Knob Guide for more information, photos, and directions.

6 – West Fork of the Pigeon River/Highway 215

Sunburst Falls

Sunburst Falls, by The Wandering Viewfinder

Not only is the West Fork of the Pigeon River, along Highway 215 near Balsam NC,  an awesome place to Trout fish, it’s also incredibly gorgeous, especially in the Fall.

Highway 215 winds its way south, from the small town of Bethal up to the Parkway.  This two lane highway follows along the West Fork of the Pigeon River.   Along the way there are numerous pull overs and side roads you can use to access the West Fork.

Highway 215 itself is an absolutely gorgeous drive alone, but then couple that with the beautiful crystal clear creek, it’s a real Fall treat.

7 – Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam Knob is a peak located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and about 40 minutes from Maggie Valley NC.  The trail up to Black Balsam Knob offers some incredible 360 degree scenic views of Pisgah National Forest.

Fall Black Balsam

Late Fall at Black Balsam Knob

There are very few trees here, so the view is unobstructed, and pure mountains.  During the Fall, color can be seen across the Parkway and Pisgah National Forest as far as the eye can see.

>> See our Guide to Black Balsam Knob for more information, photos and directions.

8 – The Swag

We’re honestly quit surprised at the number of people that haven’t heard of The Swag.  The Swag is a remote mountain top Inn and restaurant, nestled on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and between eighteen different mountains over 6,000 feet tall.

The Swag

The Swag View

There are two way to get to The Swag, the first being the most direct route – Booking reservations to stay there or booking one of their awesome picnic lunches.  Either of these will get you access to their gate and entry road that will take you up to The Swag itself.

The Swag can also be accessed via the Cataloochee Divide and Hemphill Bald trails, that will take you right by The Swag.

We would of course highly recommend staying overnight, but for the more budget conscious, make reservations for one of their picnic lunches, where you’ll get a gourmet lunch served at a beautiful overlook (Gooseberry Knob) that provides outstanding high elevation views.  Book early for Fall, as they fill up fast!!

>> For more information, visit The Swag’s website.

9 – Cataloochee Ranch on Horseback

There is nothing quit like a mountain top horseback ride in the Smoky Mountains during the Fall, when colors are at their peak.  Cataloochee Ranch delivers.

Cataloochee Ranch

Located at the top of Fie Top Road in Maggie Valley, the Ranch is located next to the Cataloochee Ski Area.   The Ranch provides Inn Lodging, Cabins, and Restaurant, along with numerous other activities and amenities, including guided horseback riding.

The Ranch offers a number of times, dates and riding locations from their historic horse Barn.   One of which is a high elevation ride over Hemphill Bald, which provides stunning views, especially in the Fall when colors are peaking.

>> Book your reservations or learn more about Cataloochee Ranch Horseback Riding on their website.

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