Best Times to Come
"The storm starts, when the drops start dropping
When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping.”
-- Dr. Seuss
The Asheville area has a mild, temperate climate with four distinct seasons. In general, Asheville is significantly cooler in summer than other cities in the Southeast and somewhat colder and snowier in winter than other Southeastern cities.
There are many different microclimates, however, not only in Western North Carolina but even in the immediate Asheville area. That’s one reason why you’ll see so many different numbers used on rain, snowfall and average and high and low temperatures.
The main difference, of course, has to do with elevation. Asheville itself, in a large valley, has an average elevation of about 2,160 feet above sea level, but the mountains around Asheville range up to almost 6,700 feet. That extra 4,500 feet makes a tremendous difference in temperature and snowfall. In the Western North Carolina mountains, average temperatures decline about 4 to 5 degrees F. with each 1,000-foot increase in elevation above sea level.
On top of that, the side of the mountain you’re on has a great deal to do with the amount of precipitation. Moist winds from the southwest drop an average of 80 inches of precipitation on the western side of some mountains in Western North Carolina, while the northeast-facing slopes average less than one-half that amount.
Recognizing that averages will vary from site to site, here are some statistics on weather in Asheville:
Average annual temperature: 55
Average rainfall: 38 to 47 inches
Average snowfall: 13 to 14 inches
Average relative humidity: 74% (average 57% at 1 pm)
Average high and low temperature:
January 47 hi 25 lo
April 68 hi 43 lo
July 83 hi 63 lo
October 68 hi 48 lo
Record high: 99 degrees (August 1983)
Record low: -16 degrees (January 1985)
Average number of days a year with maximum temperatures over 90 degrees: 9 (with range of 0 in many years to 32 days in 1952)
Number of days a year with minimum temperatures below freezing (32 degrees): 98
Number of clear or only partly cloudy days per year: 212
Days of year with measurable precipitation (0.01 inch or more): 126
Average wind speed: 7.5 mph
Spring sees variable weather conditions in the Western North Carolina mountains, with mild temperatures in the lower elevation areas but snow possible at higher elevations. Later in the spring, in April and May, the mountains warm up, with temps frequently in the 70s or low 80s except at the highest elevations.
Summer tends to be humid and fairly warm in the mountains, especially at the lower elevations, where temps can reach the high 80s or low 90s, with rain showers or thunderstorms common in the afternoons. With global climate change, the summers are warmer than they used to be. Still, on average in July, the hottest month, only five days in Asheville see temps above 90. Evenings generally are much cooler, and at higher elevations it’s always chillier.
Fall is glorious in the mountains, typically with brisk, clear days and cool to chilly nights, depending on elevation. Peak fall leaf color around Asheville is usually from mid to late October. Sometimes, the color at lower elevations lasts almost until Thanksgiving. The first frosts in the Asheville area usually occur in late October. By November, you’ll have some below freezing temperatures at night, though what used to be called Indian Summer usually brings a few warm days.
In winter, snow is light and infrequent at lower elevations around Asheville, though the mountains around the city are frequently capped with snow or rime frost. The highest peaks around Asheville get an average of five feet of snow a year. Snowfall in Asheville varies considerably from year to year. Some years there will be several sizeable snowfalls, and others, such as the winter of 2012-2013, almost none. January usually sees more snow than any other month, but some of the heaviest snowfalls in Asheville have been late, in March. For example, in March 1993 about 14 inches of snow fell in Asheville in a single day. The National Weather Service says the heaviest single snowstorm in Asheville’s recorded history, 26 inches, fell in December 1886.
When to Visit
For many local residents and visitors, spring and fall are the best times of year in the mountains. Spring, especially the period from late March to early May, is when the mountains come back to green life and the wildflowers bloom. Weather is mild, with none of the hot, sticky days of mid-summer. Fall, particularly late September to early November, almost guarantees brisk, invigorating weather, and beautiful fall leaf color. The color season extends for six weeks or longer. Be aware, however, that hotel rates tend to peak on October weekends, and traffic on busy mountain roads can be heavy. Summer, of course, is vacation time for many families, and although you may hit a string of hot and humid days, the evenings cool off. If you want to escape the heat all you have to do is to head up to the high mountain peaks, where it’s rarely over 75 to 80 degrees even in July and August. The warm sunny days of June through early September are also great for water sports like rafting, river tubing, fishing and boating. If you like snow skiing, boarding and tubing, or sitting by a crackling fire, naturally you’ll want come in the winter. As noted, don’t expect a lot of snow in Asheville itself, but the surrounding mountains get a good bit of snow, and all the ski resorts have snowmaking equipment. In most cases, except in ski areas, winter also is the cheapest time to visit, with hotel rates sometimes one-half or less of prime summer and fall rates.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.