Smoky Mountain Fall Motorcycle Ride Leaf Report and Lots of Photos

It has started. The fall leaf change has begun in the Smoky Mountains.

Photo - blue ridge Parkway fall leaf on motorcycle

Following Jackie on an evening ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville

It’s confined to the highest elevations at this point. Nearly all these photos are above 5000 feet.

Photo - fall leaves on the Blue Ridge Parkway

It's not nearly the full show even at the high elevations. You hit pockets of color.

As it’s mostly confined to the highest areas, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best spots to observe the emerging color. With the leaves also comes increased traffic.

Photo - fall color on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View from Waterrock Knob. There is still plenty of change and more color to come. It's just getting started.

You’ll find some nice color around Mt. Mitchell State Park along the parkway. It’s the highest mountain in the east. Craggy Gardens is mostly disappointing right now. It has no big trees and the leaves are gone from the low brush. Things will improve as the color spreads down the slopes it overlooks.

Photo - fall color at a Blue Ridge Parkway overlook

It's rare to find a deserted overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway right now. This one wasn't empty long.

There’s some decent color just north of Asheville, but most of these photos are taken on the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway – south of Asheville. It’s the highest and most scenic.

Photo - view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

The skies have been unusually clear lately. You can see several states from almost any overlook.

Things will probably peak up high next weekend or so. Not to worry, the show moves down the slopes once the high parts are done. There’s still a lot of green.

Photo from Blue Ridge Parkway

Right now the show will be up on the parkway. In a couple weeks, you'll find the color on the back roads which it overlooks and in the valleys below.

Living here you can see the change every day. It’s amazing how fast this all seems to happen.

Photo from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Still a lot of green at the lower elevations. The exposed ridges turn first.

We had a cold snap that set things off – 3 inches of snow on Mt. Leconte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Recently, it’s been unusually warm. Temperatures in the 70’s today, you couldn’t ask for better motorcycle riding weather.

Photo from the Blue Ridge Parkway

This scene will get better over the next week or so. You should be here.

Motorcycles are everywhere. This warm weather won’t last. Be sure to pack some warm gear. Mornings will get frosty again soon.

Photo - leaf changing on the blue ridge parkway

This rugged scenery is not confined to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The roads I've mapped in the surroundings are just as good if not better.

Enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway now. When you tire of the crowds and congestion, get out on some of the great back roads which surround it. I’ve mapped more than 3000 miles of them and am still finding more.

Photo - motorcycle cruising on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Remember, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just the beginning of the adventure. There is so much more to see.

UPDATE – here are a few more photos from today. We did a little hike out to one of our favorite panoramic spots on a 6000 foot bald this morning.

Photo from Max Patch

Wayne and Jackie, with Ajax and Sophie, at Max Patch. Awesome views from 6000 feet.

We know the colors come in first at the high points. Max Patch is just across the North Carolina border in Tennessee. On a clear day like today, it was a good time to go see the start of the leaf show.

Photo from Max Patch

It's so wonderful to have such clear skies. You can see the pockets of leaf color that stretch to the horizons.

It’s a magic time in the Smoky Mountains and I’ll be out riding as much as I can over the next few weeks. I’ll do my best to slow down and snap a photo or two to share now and then, but somehow the colors just make the great motorcycle rides all that more fun. It’s hard to stop.

Photo from Max Patch

No enhancement or PhotoShop on any of these photos.This is just as they came out of the camera.

I hope you’ve made plans for a visit. If not, add this to your list for next year. You’ve got to plan ahead for lodging and such during leaf season. The rides are always there and are just as enjoyable in the spring and summer. If you’re hard core like me, it’s a year round passion. Hope you’ve enjoyed these pics, and with luck I’ll have more soon.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer

 

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com
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Some Photos of the Diamondback Motorcycle Ride

Sorry there are no great shots of bikes tearing it up on this great motorcycle ride, but it was early in the morning and I was alone. I missed the couple bikes that did pass and fortunately the early morning turkeys strolling up the road.

Photo-Start-of-the-ride

While you've already hit some curvy sections on NC 226, once you get on the Diamondback NC 226A, the traffic disappears. The sign hints at what's ahead.

The photo (above) gives you an idea of where you start from relative to where you are going – up on those smoky mountains in the background. There’s a good trout stream along this section if you’re packing the fly rod, and some nice places to stop and cool your feet in the frigid waters.

Photo-section-of-the-Diamondback

Once you start climbing, the road begins a series of turns and switchbacks that grow tighter as you gain height.

This ride will appeal to both the cruiser and the sports bike rider. You can take a leisurely approach and simply enjoy it, or you can attack it with vigor and challenge yourself. There are a few short and relatively straight sections between the curves, but they are not long enough to get you into too much trouble if you keep a lid on your enthusiasm.

Photo-section-of-the-Daimondback

As you get higher and higher, the road looks more and more like this. One curve after another, the occasional hairpin switchback to keep you on your toes.

Once you reach the highest sections, you’ll want to be wary. No guardrails, the terrain drops off precipitously and going off the road is going to guarantee you some air time followed by a very nasty landing from which only the luckiest will walk away.

Photo-section-of-the-Diamondback

The great ride ends at the intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway at Little Switzerland. While Nc 226 is more direct, and still very curvy, as it's the shorter route it gets all the traffic.

As you approach the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Diamondback runs parallel to it for a stretch. You’ll pass through Little Switzerland, though it’s hardly noticeable. The Switzerland Inn lies sandwiched between the two roads.

Photo - Switzerland Inn sign

The Switzerland Inn is sandwiched between the Diamondback and the Blue Ridge Parkway near the top of the ride.

It’s unusual to find such a nice resort that actually invites and enjoys motorcycle travelers. You can live it up and get some fancy accommodations or get an affordable room in the Diamondback Lodge bunkhouse. Don’t be fooled by the lower prices, it’s still really nice and you can access the bars and restaurants to enjoy the full experience of the Switzerland Inn. The views are free to all and they are priceless.

I’ll be shooting a video of the Diamondback, the Switzerland Inn, and some of the surrounding rides ASAP similar to the NC 209 video. Once the Asheville Bikefest is done it’s next on the list.

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