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Greening Up the Mountains

This week's Color Report covers the Waterrock Knob and Balsam Gap section where you'll find all types of colors ranging from full leaf out/early summer greens at the gap to bare coverage as you climb above 5200' heading toward Waterrock Knob Visitors Center. Now through late May is the best time to experience all the phases of spring in one drive, with several outlooks showing the greening up of the mountains as leaf out climbs from the valley floor to the ridgelines; plenty of time remains till the highest ridgelines leaf out.

To provide a better vantage point of the Plott Balsams I drove the opposite side of the gap towards Standing Rock Overlook, ultimately stopping at Steestachee Bald Overlook (4780') to see Richland Balsam and the slow unfolding of colors in Cherry Cove below.

At the Balsam Gap entrance you will find near 100% leaf out, although the color remains a lime green - early summer green and not the dark greens we see during the summer months. Below is a feature returning to the website, the before and after slider! We'll be adding more over the coming weeks to show how fast the color can change each spring and fall season. Head over to our Slider webpage to interact with and view a higher resolution slider than the one seen below.

Balsam Gap; 20 days apart

Moving up the mountain we come across the transition line between full leaf out and spring colors around 3900 - 4200', with places like Standing Rock Overlook (3915') around 80% leaf out, while just further up the hill at Village of Saunook Overlook (4375') you'll notice roughly 20 - 30% leaf out and much more vibrant spring colors.

from above Standing Rock Overlook
looking down upon View of Waynesville Overlook
the view from View of Waynesville Overlook

Go through the Pinnacle Tunnel and just up the road you'll come across Steestachee Bald Overlook (4780') and a wide view of the Great Balsams.

We turned around at Steestachee Bald Overlook (4780') and headed back to Balsam Gap and up the other side toward Waterrock Knob. The transition zones were roughly the same and most color and leaf out stopped around the 5000 - 5200' mark.

Mt Lyn Lowry Overlook at 4000' is putting on a show right now with a gorgeous display of green along the upper portion of Scott's Creek to bare sticks at the highest points above 6000'.

Balsam Mountain Inn on the way to Mt Lyn Lowry Overlook
view from Mt Lyn Lowry Overlook (4000')

The star of the show however is Wesner Bald Overlook, especially during the afternoon hours as the sun is at your back, with a full view of Waynesville, Mt Pisgah, Cold Mtn, Richland Balsam, Hwy 74, and Balsam Mountain Inn.

view from Wesner Bald Overlook
wide view from Wesner Bald Overlook

Not much going on past Scott's Creek Overlook at 5050', with mostly bare coverage as of May 1st. The whites you are seeing are from the serviceberry tree, which is a sign that vibrant spring colors are right around the corner.

We added one new 360° view with this update, focusing on Wesner Bald at 4914' and be sure to check out the new Slider Comparison page!

We'll stop here and circle back next week, focusing on the Richland Balsam Overlook section. Stay dry this weekend!


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