Fall Foliage Round-up 2015

The fall season is almost over. It’s not too cold down here in North Carolina, but a lot of trees have shed their leaves already. Over the last month or so, I’ve been out enjoying the beautiful fall foliage that NC had to offer, and here’s a collection of photos from my autumn adventures.

Pilot Mountain State Park
The distinctive Pilot Mountain.(click to enlarge)

Pilot Mountain State Park

My fall foliage experience this year has been primarily through hiking, and the first hike of note was to Pilot Mountain State Park. Located a bit northeast of Winston-Salem, Pilot Mountain State Park is known for… you guessed it, Pilot Mountain. Due to its distinctive raised pinnacle, Pilot Mountain has been used as a navigational landmark for centuries.

Pilot Mountain State Park
The view from one lookout point to another.

I went with a hiking group and did over 10 miles during the hike, which is probably one of the longest hikes I have been on. Most of the distance is on the forest trail that circles the mountain, but the toughest and most rewarding part of the hike is going up to the top and going around the raised pinnacle of Pilot Mountain. The fall foliage was light to medium at that point, but the views are still gorgeous. You can get Pilot Mountain and the nearby Hanging Rocks State Park in one piece of impressive scenery.

Pilot Mountain State Park rock climbing
Rock climbing is a popular activity within Pilot Mountain State Park.

Stone Mountain State Park

Stone Mountain
The Stone Mountain in all its autumn glory
Stone Mountain Falls
The 200 ft Stone Mountain Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park.

My next fall foliage hike was at Stone Mountain State Park, located a bit more to the west than Pilot Mountain. The star attraction of the park is a dome of exposed granite that is known as Stone Mountain. The park also contains a number of pretty waterfalls, and a preserved homestead. The climb up Stone Mountain was a great workout since it had a lot of stairs, but the views were worth it. There was the colorful foliage, and we got to walk around on the granite slopes of Stone Mountain.

Stone Mountain homestead
A neat little homestead is preserved within the park for visitors to peek into life in the old days.
Stone Mountain State Park summit
Finally reached the top of Stone Mountain after a whole lot of stairs
Stone Mountain top
Walking about on the granite slopes of Stone Mountain (click to enlarge)

Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains

vacation house view
The view from the porch of our vacation home. Not too shabby.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Looking down from the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River (click to enlarge)

Just like last year, I spent a weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains with some friends. This year we stayed near Asheville, and we drove the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway north of the city, up to Mountain Mitchell State Park. At an elevation of 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain in the eastern United States. The mountain is tall enough that the forest up there is mostly spruces and firs. There isn’t much fall foliage up there, but you do get an unobstructed 360 degree view from the observation tower at the peak. It was already late October, so most of the foliage at higher elevations were gone, but we found plenty of bright colors once we got back down to below 4000 ft on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway foliage
Vibrant fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Glassmine Falls
A waterfall seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Can you spot it in this picture?

In addition to the scenery along the parkway, I also sneaked in one short but steep hike to the lookout point at the aptly named Lookout Mountain. Most of the group weren’t into hiking, so this was the best I could get. It was still a nice hike though, and the scenery at the lookout at the top was excellent.

Lookout Mountain
View from the lookout on top of Lookout Mountain.

We had planned to go to more places such as Biltmore Estates, but the weather didn’t cooperate. We did go into downtown Asheville for a look. The downtown area is not big, but it is pretty lively with a number of shops and restaurants. It seemed like a pretty cool small city. I’m sure I’ll be there again to explore some more.

Asheville Vance Memorial
The Vance Memorial in downtown Asheville

Hanging Rock State Park

Moore's Knob
One half of the panoramic view from the lookout tower at Moore’s Knob (click to enlarge)
Moore's Knob (2)
Some daredevils in my hiking group went way out onto one of the cliffs.

The last fall foliage outing was to Hanging Rock State Park. I’ve been to this park twice before already, including during the fall of 2014, but this time I went with a hiking group and did a 10+ mile trip to cover the five major peaks inside the park. I don’t know which exactly are the five peaks, but we started our hike going up to the Moore’s Knob, which was the highest point in the park. The Knob is the highest point in the Sauratown Mountains which includes both Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain, and it was 360 degrees of views for miles. After stopping by various other peaks and scenic viewpoints, we ended the hike going to Hanging Rock, which is the namesake of the park. We definitely saved the best for last, as the views from the cliffs down to the red and orange fall foliage was absolutely spectacular. The 5 peaks of Hanging Rock was one of the toughest hikes I’ve been on as my legs felt like lead when we were going back to the parking lot, but the effort was worth it.

Hanging Rock
Breathtaking views at the Hanging Rock (click to enlarge)

Couldn’t go to Hanging Rock without hanging on a rock (Click to Enlarge)

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