Inside Look: Fall in the Smoky Mountains

A stream running through the national park during fall in the Smoky Mountains.

Whether you’re visiting for the beautiful fall colors or to enjoy the cooler temperatures, fall in the Smoky Mountains is one of the most popular times to vacation in East Tennessee. We decided to take an inside look at the fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you can experience the beauty of the Smokies right from your home.

Meredith:  Hi, I’m Meredith with Visit My Smokies, and today we’re at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We’re here to take an insider’s look into autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains. And joining me today is Brent, he is a park ranger with the National Park Service. Thank you so much for having us.

Brent:  It’s great to have you here.  Welcome.

Meredith:  Okay, so today we are at the base of Clingmans Dome, which I have heard is the best place to view the fall foliage. Tell me a little bit about that.

Brent:  Absolutely. Clingmans Dome is the highest peak within the national park, and it is an excellent place to see the fall colors, especially early on. Here from the parking area, but especially up at our observation tower where you can get a full 360° view of the park.  So if you’re ready, we’ll head on up.

Meredith:  Okay, sounds good. Lead the way.White Smoky Mountain trillium flowers

Brent:  So it’s about a half mile walk up to the tower, and one of the great things to see during the fall while we’re making this hike is actually the wildflowers. The wildflowers here in the Smokies bloom not only in spring, but also in the fall. So this is a great place to kind of sit back, take your time. It’s a steep hike so take your time and enjoy the flowers.

Meredith:  Well aside from being in a helicopter, this is really the only place to get this kind of view.

Brent:  Oh, absolutely.

Meredith:  So here we are on top of Clingmans Dome. So can you tell me a little bit about this view?

Brent:  Absolutely. Right now as you look directly behind us, we’re looking back into Tennessee, and behind us is Mount LeConte, and you can see some amazing color back there. And this is one of those really great spots to look and see the fall colors, especially as it progresses from the higher elevations, down and through the valley.

Meredith:  So when is the best time to come to see the leaves change? I know that is like the number one question people always ask.

Brent:  Absolutely. You know, the beginning of October, Clingmans Dome begins to change, you start to see color at those higher elevations. We talk about the lower elevations really turning at the last two weeks of October into the first week of November. So anytime in October.

Meredith:  Okay, so really it’s a pretty long season, depending, and that’s the great thing about the Smoky Mountains–is there’s so many different elevations.

Brent:  Absolutely, yes, yes.

Meredith:  Well now that we’ve seen Clingman’s Dome, I’m really anxious to see Cades Cove.

Fall color behind a fence in the Smoky Mountains National ParkBrent:  Oh, it’s a wonderful part of the park. One of the most popular areas in the park.

Meredith:  Okay, let’s head to Cades Cove!

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Meredith:  Here we are in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the park. And with us today is Mike, he’s a park ranger here, and he’s been so gracious to have us tag along with him to tell us a little bit about Cades Cove. So I know it’s a popular destination. Can you tell me why in the fall especially, what makes this so special?

Mike:  I think at fall time is probably the colors more than anything else. We get over 100 species of native trees in the park, and with that, we get a rainbow of colors. So I think what makes this our second most visited month of the year is the fall color.View of fall colors across the Smoky Mountains

Meredith:  I was just speaking with Brent over at Clingmans Dome, and because it’s a higher elevation, he was saying that towards the beginning of the month, I guess in the higher elevations you see the fall colors, and then as it gets later in the month it trickles down. So really, you can’t go wrong any time, it’s just a matter of where you’re hitting.

Mike:  Yeah, and it’s just temperature related. As you’ve noticed today up at Clingman’s Dome, it’s a lot colder and windier, so fall color tends to come up there quicker than down in the lower valleys here.

Meredith:  Well thank you for having us here today.

Mike:  You’re welcome. Okay.

Meredith:  For more information about fall or any of the seasons in the Great Smoky Mountains, head to VisitMySmokies.com.  And if you have any ideas for what you’d like to see in our upcoming videos, comment below. See y’all later. Bye!

If you enjoyed this video about fall in the Smoky Mountains, take a look at all of our other Insiders View videos where you can see behind the scenes looks at attractions and things to do in the Smoky Mountains!

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