In Praise of Fall in North Carolina

In Praise of Fall in North Carolina

Fall on Grandfather Mountain. Autumn is the season that asks us to enjoy nature the most. (Shutterstock)

By Billy Ball

September 21, 2023

We talk about nature a lot in NC. And fall is the season that invites us to revel in it the most. 

Seasons in NC do not have a hard open or close. They fade into each other. They’re like the score of a soundtrack, a mood you can feel on your skin. 

And they are distinct. They look, feel, smell, and taste different. Fall might be the best-looking, best-smelling, best-tasting season of them all in NC. 

The first official day of fall is Saturday. But we can feel it already.

Read More: How to Get the Most Out of Fall in NC’s Three Regions

Some states, especially other Southern states, wish they had four distinct seasons like us. Which is why today we’re celebrating the season change with a special fall edition of Cardinal & Pine’s newsletter, including fall tips for hiking, cooking, festivals, and more. Sign up for it here. 

Why Is Fall So Great?

Fall is when we reclaim the outside. Anybody from North Carolina knows what I mean. 

The morning air comes cool. Afternoons are pleasant and warm. Overnight we open our windows. The weeds, which are tougher and smarter than us, slow their growth. The birds at your feeder change. Mosquitoes are on borrowed time.  It smells like a campfire.    

People come outside to be with each other. Fall is festival season for a reason.

And the foliage, those riotous leaves, beg us to say, think, and write clichés. Hiking is invigorating. Camping, which is like a punishment in the summer, becomes a possibility. Those of us who skimp on gym time look better in coats anyway. 


What if we told you we’ll see fall foliage in NC in about 45 days? Not bad, right? 🍁 In the latest Billy Ball Explains NC, we’re talking about fall foliage. Generally speaking, the higher the elevation, the sooner you can start to see those beautiful reds and browns that make western NC look like a painting. According to the travel experts at @blueridgemountainlife, the highest elevations — think Grandfather Mountain and Clingman’s Dome — could see the change in early October. That’s less than a month! The lower you go, the later you go. Mid-October for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Late October for Boone, Blowing Rock, Asheville. And so on. For more #NC news and culture, follow this page! #northcarolina #fallfoliage #fall #ncweather #blueridgemountains #billyballexplainsnc

♬ original sound – Cardinal & Pine – Cardinal & Pine

Sweet potatoes are in season, in your salad, your sides, even in your beer. And NC, the largest grower of sweet potatoes in the U.S., is a super-producer of this superfood. NC is no slouch in producing apples either.

And if you don’t like this version of fall, go down the road a bit. NC—which has coastal, central, and mountainous regions—has three different falls. 

Fall’s not for everybody. Not everyone loves a three-dimensional metaphor for death and dying. 

And while pumpkins are perfect, pumpkin spice is usually applied too heavily and with too much sugar. Give us the savory fall. The one that pleases your heart and your head.

But fall is for a lot of us. In a state where we talk about nature a whole lot, it’s the season that invites us to revel in it the most. 

So happy fall, NC. See you out there.


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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