Champion Trees: The Estate’s Finest Fall Foliage

Today, Biltmore is home to a variety of Champion Trees—but when George Vanderbilt purchased the acreage that would become his estate, much of the land was overworked and actually vacant of trees due to activity from the previous settlers. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted made the following recommendation:

“Make a small park into which to look from your house; make a small pleasure ground and garden, farm your river bottom chiefly to keep and fatten live stock with a view to manure; and make the rest a forest, improving the existing woods and planting the old fields.”  

Landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted, George Vanderbilt, and other key Biltmore figures, 1892
Landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted (seated, center) and George Vanderbilt (standing, center-right) with other key Biltmore figures, 1892.

NC Champion Tree Program

Several of the trees handpicked by Olmsted are now recognized as North Carolina State Champion Trees. According to the NC Forest Service, the Champion Tree Program highlights native or naturalized species that have garnered attention because of their size, age, or historical significance. 

Naturally, these trees are some of the superstars of our historic gardens. Let’s take a look at a few and discover why there is no better time to seek out these estate beauties than leaf season.

The golden-rain tree (right) can be found in Biltmore’s Shrub Garden.
The golden-rain tree (right) can be found in Biltmore’s Shrub Garden.

Golden-Rain Tree

Perhaps one of the more unusual Champion Trees, the golden-rain tree in the Shrub Garden lends grace and charm to the landscape. Its showy fall color generally includes various shades of yellow and chartreuse. If you look closely, amid the autumn foliage you’ll find inflated seed pods, reminiscent of Chinese lanterns, hanging elegantly.

The katsura tree lives in the heart of Biltmore’s Azalea Garden.
The Katsura tree – which has a scent like cotton candy – lives in the heart of Biltmore’s Azalea Garden. The Katsura was one of the trees hand-picked by Biltmore landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. This Katsura is on the NC Forest Service Registry of Champion Trees. Photo credit The Biltmore Company.

Katsura Tree

Among the larger Champion Trees is the Katsura tree, found in the Azalea Garden. This tree has magnificent fall color with hues ranging from gold to apricot, accompanied by an unusual, sweet fragrance that permeates the area around the tree. Some describe the smell as cinnamon-like, while others think it is more similar to cotton candy—either way, it’s sure to satisfy the senses!

The dawn redwood is located in Biltmore’s Azalea Garden.
The dawn redwood is located in Biltmore’s Azalea Garden.

Additional Champion Trees

Other Champion Trees of note on the estate are the dawn redwood in the Azalea Garden with its lush bronze fall color and the Persian ironwood boasting brilliant warm autumnal hues between the Conservatory and the Gardener’s Cottage.

The Persian ironwood can be found next to Biltmore’s Conservatory.
The Persian ironwood has a showy fall leaf color, and can be found next to Biltmore’s Conservatory. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted hand-picked tree species including the Persian ironwood as part of a plan to reforest overworked farmland purchased by George Vanderbilt for the construction of Biltmore House. Photo credit The Biltmore Company.

Fall is a favorite season for strolling the gardens and grounds of the estate. During your next visit, we invite you to explore our Shrub Garden, Azalea Garden, and beyond to catch a glimpse of these Champion Trees at their finest: bursting with rich fall color.

Feature image: Persian ironwood with peak fall color

Top 8 Spots for Fall Color at Biltmore

Biltmore’s 8,000-acres of Blue Ridge Mountain beauty is hands down one of the best places to view dramatic fall color. An autumnal palette begins just inside the Lodge Gate and continues around every turn. But where exactly are the best places on the estate to find views of spectacular fall color?

Fall view from Diana
The view from the top of the Esplanade is certainly worth the hike.

1. Top of the Esplanade

Found at the top of the Esplanade near the statue of Diana is a “signature shot” of Biltmore House, framed by enormous hemlocks, pines, and rhododendron, with a majestic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.

Fall Color from South Terrace
The South Terrace offers sprawling views of Biltmore’s Deer Park area and beyond. Image by @ahuntforhealth.

2. South Terrace

The wide open terrace on the south end of Biltmore House offers long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains with dramatic ever-changing fall color.

Rooftop fall color
Fall is the perfect time to check out this behind-the-scenes tour.

3. Rooftop

The Rooftop Tour of Biltmore House provides you with a bird’s-eye view after a climb up the Observatory’s spiral staircase and onto the balconies and rooftop of America’s Largest Home®.

Mums in the Walled Garden
The dramatic mum display is different each year, but never disappoints.

4. Walled Garden

The fall color continues as this formal garden is transformed with hundreds of vibrant mums in autumnal shades. Our landscaping crew does an incredible job with this display every year.

Bass Pond fall
The reflection off of the Bass Pond boasts fall’s glorious palette. Image by @dailysojourns01.

5. Bass Pond

Follow the Azalea Garden path to the Bass Pond path and discover vivid leaves reflecting upon the water. The geese and other birds and wildlife around the water also add excitement to the season.

Lagoon Biltmore House in background
The Lagoon is a guest favorite year-round, but the views during autumn are epic. Image by @bbansen.

6. Lagoon

Any spot near the Lagoon offers dramatic fall color from the wide variety of hardwoods that surround it, but the Boat Ramp towards the middle provides particularly vibrant hues with a view of the west façade of Biltmore House in the distance.

From view Inn's Terrace
The Grand Terrace at The Inn offers a relaxing setting for leaf peeping.

7. The Inn on Biltmore Estate

Set upon a hilltop near Antler Hill Village, grand panoramic views at The Inn on Biltmore Estate™ are not to be missed. Relax on the Grand Terrace and enjoy a glass of Biltmore Wine as you take it all in.

Estate trails during fall
From easy walking paths to more intense hikes, each of our estate trails is a unique fall experience. Image by @mattvanswol.

8. Estate Trails

Lastly, Biltmore’s more than 22 miles of trails offer spectacular views throughout each season, but fall provides full immersion of color as your stroll through the beautiful woodlands of the estate.

Don’t miss these special must-see estate locations to experience fall color at its absolute finest. The beauty of autumn is fleeting. Plan your visit today!

Feature image by @selery_is_good

8 Great Reasons to Visit Biltmore This Fall

There are more than 8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall, like the fact that the season is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping,” and Biltmore offers the best Blue Ridge Mountains views around.

The estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for your fall trip.

Here are 8 of our favorite reasons to make Biltmore the center of your getaway this fall:

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
Biltmore House surrounded by gorgeous fall color

1. Prime location in Asheville, NC

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Biltmore is located minutes from downtown Asheville—a vibrant city known for great dining, quaint shops, and its strong arts community—and just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to your visit to Biltmore House & Gardens, you could easily spend several days enjoying the surrounding area.

2. Rooftop Tour of America’s Largest Home®

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
In addition to enjoying our Building Biltmore House exhibition, enhance your visit with a Rooftop Tour that includes spectacular views and stories.

Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see. This 60-minute guided tour offers wildly impressive photo ops—during autumn, especially—and provides a closer look at the design and construction of Biltmore House in areas that many guests never visit.

3. Outdoor adventures

8 great reasons to visit Bltmore this fall
Enjoy beautiful fall color along our trails

Enjoy the crisp air and glorious fall colors while hiking or biking along our nearly 22 miles of paved and unpaved trails. Admire the scenery along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate. Stop by the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village for a detailed trail map and orientation.

4. Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn

Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn
Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn

Located in the heart of the estate, this historic structure is the headquarters for Biltmore’s Carriage Rides and Horseback Trail Rides. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant carriage or a western-style adventure on a horse that suits your riding style, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.

5. Biltmore Gardens Railway

Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village at Biltmore
Marvel at Biltmore Gardens Railway–a botanical model train display in Antler Hill Village

All aboard for family fun with Biltmore Gardens Railway! Experience our grounds in an engaging new way with a botanical model train display that is sure to delight all ages. Located in Antler Hill Village, the displays feature replicas of iconic train depots from around the country. Each beautifully executed piece was handcrafted from such natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.

6. Get ready for the holidays!

Golden cherub ornament on a Biltmore Christmas tree
Christmas decor in Biltmore House

After strolling through a kaleidoscope of fall colors in the Walled Garden and enjoying the beautiful hues of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, reserve at time to visit Biltmore House and get a sneak peek at what the Floral Displays team is planning for the holidays. Even though we don’t officially kick off the season until early November, you may catch glimpses of their hard work in the weeks leading up to Christmas at Biltmore!

7. Vineyard harvest season

Harvesting grapes in Biltmore's vineyard on the west side of the estate
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate

Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate the harvest season. Make reservations to savor complimentary tastings of handcrafted wines and learn how science and nature intersect as you learn about the estate’s vineyards, discover the unique factors that affect grapes grown in North Carolina, and take an in-depth look at our winemaking process.

8. The ultimate fall getaway

Guests entering The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Enjoy a grand fall getaway at The Inn on Biltmore Estate

An overnight stay at Biltmore offers the unique experience of waking up on George Vanderbilt’s estate with autumn beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®, or experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®.  

Plan your visit today and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall getaway.