Almost everyone has heard of the vibrant New England fall colors that draw thousands of visitors every year to the storybook villages and rolling hills. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, however, the Smoky Mountains put on a spectacular display of their own with red, gold, orange and yellow. As the temperatures cool and the days are cut shorter, it becomes just another reason to take a road trip to eastern Tennessee and have a break from the hectic pace of everyday living.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Smoky Mountains for Fall Colors?
The smoky mountains have recently begun to bring in waves of visitors every year to the Asheville and Gatlinburg region to watch the leaves turn. This happens mostly in October, and while they aren’t as massive as those who flock from the most popular areas of the park in the summer months, this place becomes rife with activity.
When to See Peak Foliage?
The Smoky Mountains have the best fall foliage in mid-October to early-November where it’s closer to the lower to mid-level elevations. Many times the landscape in these parts will be populated with hickories, sweetgum, sugar maples, scarlet oaks and red maples. You have more than 100 species of native trees. Enjoy a colorful display from Mother Nature that lasts up to seven weeks. Unfortunately, determining the peak foliage forecast in the Smoky Mountains depends on the length of the day, the temperatures and a number of factors.
How Mountain Fall Foliage Works
A lot like the flowing cascade of the autumn hues, the fall colors of the Smoky Mountains probably start up towards the highest parts of the mountain close to mid-September. After that, it slowly spreads down the mountain and the hills within a matter of weeks. The green pigment within the trees will break down, and the deciduous trees at the higher altitude like the yellow birch or the American beech will transform into what’s a deep golden color. After a while, the leaves and their other pigments like anthocyanins and carotenoids will produce the warm colors associated with the fall season. The deeper you travel in the mountains, the cooler the weather will be, and the richer the colors will be.
How Far in Advance Should You Plan Your Trip?
If you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will find that the area boasts the most visitors every fall. During the last three weeks of October, the peak foliage has the highest likelihood of occurring, and if possible, you want to plan your trip two or three months in advance.
Best Ways to See the Fall Foliage
The most common and simplest way to take pleasure in the foliage of the fall season is through driving. However, beware of how Cades Cove and Newfound Gap Road turns somewhat congested over the mid-October season. Some of the other ways you might look at the fall foliage include:
- Segway tours through Pigeon Forge
- Helicopter tours
- Motorcycle rentals
Where to Find the Best Views of Foliage?
Throughout the Smoky Mountains and around Asheville and Gatlinburg, you have countless viewpoints to check out astounding lookout points and view the colors. Some of the possible places include:
- Clingmans Dome Road
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Foothills Parkway
For those who want a little piece of paradise all to themselves, you can head to the Cosby entrance of the National Park. Here you will be the least likely to run across heavy traffic and thick crowds. As far as options go in Asheville, you have plenty of options to enjoy the foliage and the activities of your outing. Outside taking pleasure in the countless colors of the foliage, you will also enjoy the fall-related events within Gatlinburg. If you visit the side of the park in North Carolina, you can visit a little earlier and still take in nature in all its glory. For example, you could drive to Blue Ridge Parkway, and you will have some great views of the fall colors.
When to Visit the Smokies?
If you want a less crowded experience in the Smokies, you should reserve your hotel room as soon as possible. It grows increasingly crowded, especially on the weekends when everyone is off from work. If you want an experience more to yourself, then visit on a weekday. You never know when the leaves will change colors, but the colors will depend on the year because of a hot or dry summer. From mid-October to the final week of the month, you have a prime time to check out the leaves. In general, however, you have plenty of things to do in the park whether the color in the leaves are there or not.
The Gatlinburg Space Needle
The tallest attraction of downtown Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Space Needle lets visitors experience the beauty of the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains. You remain at the heart of the action, but you can see all the scenic leaves. As most people know, you can only see so many leaves before you want to do something else. If you head downstairs, you can visit the Gatlinburg’s arcade area or eat at one of the many restaurants within walking distance.
Sometimes people have taken a hot air balloon ride in Sevier County called the “Wonders of Flight.” It’s located at WonderWorks, and it’s a big attraction of Pigeon Forge. Like the name implied, you can ride in a hot air balloon and go about 200 feet in the air to get a bird’s eye glimpse of the Smoky Mountains. Whether you go by yourself, with some friends or make it a family outing, the Smoky Mountains over the fall season look phenomenal. The region has started to gain popularity over the fall season because you already have the natural beauty, but it’s amplified because of the many colors of the leaves. In general, the best time to visit Smoky Mountains for fall colors is from mid-October to the end of October.