Dr. Howard Neufeld, an expert in Plant Physiological Ecology at Appalachian State University, said the key to almost every season is the temperatures and amount of sunshine in September.
Neufeld told the Asheville Citizen-Times that sunny days with cool nights help bring out both vibrancy and variety as the autumn leaves turn.
Fall tourism brings big bucks to North Carolina -- an estimated $800 million -- and hotels and businesses in the mountains are getting ready for the tourists to arrive.
When's the best time to go? That depends on the elevation.
Neufeld said the wide variety in elevation extends the fall color season in the North Carolina mountains. It starts in September at the highest peaks around Mount Mitchell and runs down to Piedmont in early November.
Here's a Fall Color Guide with tips on some of the best places to check out in the NC mountains and the predicted peak color times.