Fall is Here! See the Fall Colors from the Bests Places in the Smoky Mountains

Fall is upon us. The kids are in school. The nights are cooler, and the leaves are changing. Get to the Smoky Mountains to see the autumn colors.  Because Mother Nature is ever changing, an exact date is hard to predict.  However, this year, the Fall Foliage predictor believes the leaves will be peaking around the second week of October.  No matter when in October you visit the Smokies, you’re sure to get a good leaf peeping show.

One thing to remember is that the leaves at lower altitudes may be green but up high are already changing their coats.

An autumn drive is the perfect way to take in the expansive gorgeous scenery our area has to offer!  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding area have gorgeous places to see the fall colors without walking or hiking a mountain peak.  A few of our favorites include:

Foothills Parkway

smoky mountains in the fall

This years-in-the-making scenic drive outside of Pigeon Forge, TN has recently been extended to reach Wears Valley.  Visitors to the Foothills Parkway can expect to see breathtaking mountain views and stunning fall colors in October and November.

The 16 miles between Wears Valley and Walland were only completed in 2018 and offer multiple pull offs to hop out of the car, stretch your legs, and take in the scenery. If you’re wanting to see more, continue underneath Highway 321 and drive up the east side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for another 17 miles.  The Foothills Parkway ends at US-129, also known as The Tail of the Dragon. If you can handle 318 curves in 11 miles, continue the drive for more sightseeing! Be mindful: there are no services, such as gas stations, on the Parkway.

Scenic Stops

There are many scenic stops to see fall colors along the way including Parson Bald Overlook where visitors can see Parson Bald mountain on the right and Gregory Bald on the left. Parson Bald stands at 4,732 feet tall; Happy Valley Overlook; Look Rock, which is the tallest point on the parkway; and Great Smoky Mountains Overlook with its panoramic view of the mountains; this area has one of the largest parking lots.

The parkway provides a great connecting route for tourists heading to the Tail of the Dragon from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. It also is part of what locals call the Great Smoky Mountain Loop, a 141/153 mile, an all-day tour that takes visitors to some of the best spots the mountains have to offer.

The crest of the Great Smokies runs in an unbroken chain of peaks that rise more than 5,000 feet for more than 36 miles. Elevations in the park range from 876 to 6,643 feet – at Clingman’s Dome.

Clingmans Dome

Check out our blog post on Townsend and The Foothills Parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

You’ll understand why the Blue Ridge Parkway is so popular once you see it’s fall colors. There’s a photo opportunity at every turn.

It has been one of America’s most visited tourist attractions for more than 60 years. Fall in love with the beautiful rolling hills and foliage.  While only a small portion of the parkway is in the Smoky Mountains, this 469-mile scenic drive connects The Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia.

You’ll adore the surroundings of three stunning landmarks in this area:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Mt. Mitchell – the highest point on the east coast
  • The town of Cherokee, NC

Before heading out, always check the interactive Parkway map to make sure the area of the parkway you want to visit is open.  Weather can change quickly in the higher elevations of the mountains.

Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road is also known as US highway 441.  This road traverses the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is a classic scenic drive.  This 32-mile long highway connects Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC. Along the way, there are multiple pull off spots for you to hop out, stretch your legs, and take in the stunning scenery.  When you reach the state line approximately 15 miles from Gatlinburg, stop and take a walk along the famous Appalachian Trail. Or, continue your drive to Clingman’s Dome or even Cherokee!

Clingman’s Dome

The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is easy to access.  Enjoy driving on the highest road east of the Mississippi River to get to the parking area of Clingman’s Dome.  When you arrive, follow the paved trail for a steep half mile to the observation tower. On a clear day, stunning 360-degree views await.  Observe the fall color from the high elevation. Depending on your visit, you’ll see that it’s changing slowly on it’s way up the hillsides.

Make sure to bring a jacket on this hike.  Temperatures at Clingman’s Dome are 10-12 degrees cooler than they are in Gatlinburg.

Chimney Tops Trail

hiking trails for seniors in the Smoky Mountains

The trail to Chimney Tops has been extensively changed since the 2016 wildfires.  This hike may be less than 4 miles round trip, but don’t let the distance fool you.  This steep hike is definitely a workout! You’ll climb nearly 1100 feet in less than 2 miles to the overlook.  Take in the fall colors of the valley below and look to the Chimney’s “next door neighbor” – the famous Mt. LeConte.

Looking for more fall color hikes?  Check out our blog post dedicated to the best fall color hikes in the Smoky Mountains.

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a favorite destination for many people visiting the Smokies.  In fact, if Cades Cove was its own National Park, it would be the third most visited national park in the country! With more than 11 million people coming through the Smokies each year, and nearly 4 million of them choose a trip to Cades Cove.

The 11 mile, one-way road through Cades Cove makes a scenic drive through an amazing valley.  If you need to stretch your legs a bit more though, there’s no shortage of hiking trails! If you’re looking for something short and gentle for all ages in the family, check out the Cades Cove Nature Trail. This 0.8 mile walk is a loop hike gaining only 210’ in elevation.  Pass over creeks through the dense forest and get a new appreciation for the valley.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5-mile long, one-way drive just outside of the heart of Gatlinburg, TN.  Feel like you’re driving through history while taking in historic buildings, a mountain vista or two, and listen to the babbling streams.  You’ll forget you’re only minutes away from town when you see wild turkey, grazing deer, and even the most famous Smokies resident – the American Black Bear.

Looking for the easiest route to get to these scenic roads?  Be sure to check out our post on how to avoid traffic while you’re in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Get your Fill of Festivals

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge always have great festivals taking place.  Fall is no exception! Visiting a festival during your vacation in the mountains is a great way to take in the local flavors and get into the fall spirit.

Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival

fall at The Island

Fall begins here with the Harvest Festival – a 9-week-long event that includes the transformation of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville into a quaint fall wonderland. This year, there will be life-size 3-D Scarecrow people in Gatlinburg and all kinds of adventures.

Starting September 16th and running through November 21st, the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival is an annual tradition that was extended to Thanksgiving week this year.

Gatlinburg‘s special Harvest Festival events include the Halloween-themed Legend of Hallow Mountain at Anakeesta (through 11/2), OktOBERfest at Ober Gatlinburg (through 10/31), Ripley’s Fright Nights at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure (weekends in October), Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair (10/13 – 10/30), Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff Nov. 11 and a Veteran’s Day celebration also on November 11.

Sky lift in autumn

OktOBERfest at  Ober Gatlinburg

The 11th Annual OktOBER Fest takes place from September 25 through November 1, and is a continuous indoor AND outdoor festival.  Styled after traditional Bavarian festivals, OktOBER fest has lots of beer and food to try.  Sample a variety from the Bier Garden.

Check all the fall festival fun here.

Book your Autumn trip to the Smokies now!

If you’re looking for a vacation that will put you right in the middle of beautiful fall foliage, look no further than the Smoky Mountains and staying with American Patriot Getaways. But don’t come here without a plan. Follow our guide to visiting the Smoky Mountains in the fall to get the best views.

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Give our Reservations staff a call at 800-204-5169 or check out our website.  No matter your group size or budget, American Patriot Getaways has a cabin for you!

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