Fall Visits: Insider Tips
The fall season on Grandfather Mountain (September & October) is certainly a favorite for many as the crisp cooler temperatures ushers in the leaf color show that lasts for many weeks. See our Fall Color Gallery for color updates. Here are some insider tips for getting the most out of your mile-high excursion to Grandfather.
- Book your timed entry and tickets in advance! Fall can be a busy time on the mountain, and you don’t want to miss out. Reserve here.
- There’s certainly enough things to do on the mountain to spend an entire day. But you have less time, you have many options. See our full list of Things to Do. Top destinations for visitors are the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and the Wildlife Habitats.
- Wanting to hike? Plan ahead and choose the right trail on our Grandfather Mountain Hiking Guide. Also, make sure to check the weather before your visit, dress appropriately (with multiple layers, including a waterproof jacket) and bring plenty of water and snacks! Get hiking tips.
- Check the schedule of many daily programs included in admission before your trip. (Tip: This schedule is also posted throughout the park via QR code.)
- Take part in the Fall Color Ramble, a 30-minute guided walk with park naturalists focused on the leaf change, at 2 p.m. Oct. 1-10 (with potentially more dates, depending on conditions). And, an All-Day Ramble is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15. Read more.
- On weekends, sign up in advance for “behind-the-scenes” Experiences with a naturalist or wildlife expert.
- Bring some layers in the car. Fall days at Grandfather are usually crisp and cool! (Tip: Visit our gift shops, located in the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and Top Shop, for Grandfather Mountain apparel.)
- Look for fresh ways to see the color show. The views up top are nice, but also check out the vantage points from the viewing areas around the bear and elk habitats. The Woods Walk is also nice!
- Look down. Fall is a great time to enjoy wildflowers and spot interesting fungi on the trails. Remember to leave nature for others to enjoy!
- Pack a picnic, or plan to eat lunch at Mildred’s Grill. (Tip: You can also get your food to-go so you can still enjoy the fresh air and views!)
- Speaking of a picnic, Grandfather has over 100 picnic spots – some with grills, ALL scenic! See our Picnic Guide for details.
- Need to recharge after a hike? Pick up a fall treat like fudge, a slice of pie or hot cocoa from Mildred’s.
- Visit our gift shops, located in the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and Top Shop, for Grandfather Mountain apparel and souvenirs.
- Posting your photos to social media? Be sure to tag #grandfathermtn, and your photo may just make it onto our website home page!
- When is peak color? Leaves begin changing color at the highest elevations and gradually work down the slopes into the valleys over several weeks. Typically, the first fall colors appear on Grandfather Mountain in mid to late September. Peak color toward the summit is usually early October. The lower sections of the park peak in mid October. Color views into the much lower valleys extend into late October.
Check the schedule of events before your visit to plan what you’d like to do. Some require advance registration and fill up quickly. Here’s a sampling:
- Hawk Watch (September): Grab a front-row seat to one of nature’s most stunning spectacles — thousands of raptors migrating over the mountains and heading south toward their wintering grounds.
- Junior Naturalist Day (September): A day’s worth of special programming to spark participants’ curiosity about the natural world.
- Girl Scout Day (September): Nature hikes, hands-on activities, weather exploration, presentation, habitats tours and more are enjoyed by Girl Scouts and their troop leaders – free admission if in uniform.
- Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delights (October): A nighttime event that features fun and spooky stories told by firelight, along with exclusive after-dark tours. This is an unique opportunity to see the new world that is Grandfather Mountain after the sun goes down.
- Fall Color Ramble (October): These easy-going rambles, led by members of the park’s naturalist staff, give guests an opportunity to learn more about color change and explore the species of plants and trees native to Grandfather Mountain.
- Beary Scary Halloween (October): This spooky selection of fun, interactive programs, features Halloween-themed activities and trick-or-treating. Guests can try their hands at Halloween crafts, along with games like Pin the Tail on the Bear, bean-bag toss and more. Park educators host interactive, autumn-themed nature programs.