Best Fall Hikes in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective

Last Monday morning, as I shivered in my short sleeves and observed the leaves gathering into heaps, it occurred to me that fall truly is upon is. What does this mean? Well apple cider for one thing. And for another: Asheville’s famous fall foliage.


It may be hard for us locals to appreciate the leaves when we’re elbow-deep in our fifth hour of raking but I find if I look up every once in a while I can in fact see what all the fuss is about. And so, here I’ve gathered a list of five of the best fall hikes in Asheville, so that you too can appreciate the local leaves.

1: Beacon Heights Trail

An often-overlooked trail due to its proximity to Grandfather Mountain, Beacon Heights offers an excellent opening to your circuit of fall hikes in Asheville. At just 0.8 miles round-trip, a hike here will lead you gently up through mossy forests, to rocky, wide-ranging vistas.


Along the way you will pass flat expanses of pockmarked stone, perfect for a picnic. And at the aforementioned vistas, you can capture some pictures of Asheville’s glorious colors and of the not-so-distant peak of Grandfather Mountain.


The Length of The Drive: An hour and a half from downtown. With such a distance, it may be wise to hit this spot either on your way to or from Asheville, if you live north of here.

2: The Biltmore Estate’s Trails

In contrast to Beacon Heights, this fall hike in Asheville lies practically smack-dab in the city’s center. You wouldn’t know it though. Situated on a vast series of rolling fields, a hike here can run from two to six miles roundtrip, depending on how many detours you take. The scenery here is composed of meadows, sunflowers, the French Broad River’s shaded shores, and of course, fall leaves.


The trails lie more-or-less flat, making this a perfect place for those more inclined towards strolls than mountain climbing. Should you get hungry, you may make your way to any number of the Estate’s eateries, many of them located in Antler Village. I am told in that they have some particularly worthy ice cream there.


Now the obstacle to this entry may be its cost. Entry runs $84 per person, so I suggest you plan to spend the day here, visiting the Estate’s interior, tasting wine, and just about exhausting what they have to offer.


The Length of The Drive: Fifteen minutes from downtown.

3: The North Carolina Arboretum

This local staple contains a cornucopia of well-maintained trails. And while I’d usually suggest going off the beaten path, avoiding the Arboretum’s manmade upper gardens, I actually think those gardens are best seen during this time of the year. With the colors changing, a walk through the upper gardens will reveal some of the most photogenic vistas in town. The best, however, is somewhat hidden. It lies on the twisted trails behind the Education Center. Tell no-one you heard it from me.


If the weather should take a turn for the worse, the rotating exhibits in the Baker Center offer an excellent indoors respite from autumn’s cold winds.


Like the Biltmore Estate’s trails, this entry strikes a balance between civilization and the great outdoors. However, with an entry cost of only $16 per vehicle, you can see how this fall hike in Asheville may be a more economic option.


The Length of The Drive: Twenty minutes from downtown.

4: Graveyard Fields

Longtime readers of my posts may think I recommend Graveyard Fields suspiciously often. In response I say: its not my fault this hike is good in every season. In the spring the fields are lush, temperate, idyll. In the fall, this hike displays its true, vibrant colors. At times, it almost looks painted.


The Graveyard Fields Loop trail offers a nice mid-tier roundtrip of three miles, hitting the highpoints of this fall hike in Asheville. However, if you’re feeling especially energetic, you can follow the trial west along the river to find the Upper Falls in full swing.


In any case, be advised: things can get muddy here following a good rain. Following such weather, plan to give things at least a day to dry off.


The Length of The Drive: One hour from downtown.

5: Black Balsam Knob

I suggest this fall hike in Asheville for those who want a thoroughly mountainous experience. Lying just a little further down the Blue Ridge Parkway from Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam’s deceptively shallow paths lead you up through shadowed pine forests, where the air is clean and cool. From there you’ll ascend into wind-swept mountain balds, and rocky crests.


As you approach the first peak, with its plaque for famous local hiker Art Loebe, you’ll find patchwork views of fall foilage and evergreen groves, unlike anything you’d see at a lower altitude.


You can turn back from the Art Loebe plaque for a roundtrip of just under two miles, or soldier on through the boulder-strewn switchbacks towards Tennent Mountain. Here, if the sky is clear enough, you can gain a distant view of the luminous quartz peak of Shining Mountain. The walk back from this second peak will land you a roundtrip distance of four miles.


The Length of The Drive: Just over one hour from downtown.


Places Mentioned

Beacon Heights Trail

(540)-298-9625

Beacon Heights Trail, Linville, NC 28646

The Biltmore Estate

(800)-411-3812

1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803

The North Carolina Arboretum

(828)-665-2492

100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806

Graveyard Fields

(828)-257-4200

Blue Ridge Pkwy, Canton, NC 28716

Black Balsam Knob

East Fork, NC 28716

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