Your Ultimate Guide to the Smoky Mountains Fall Colors

Smoky Mountains fall colors 2014

Autumn is just around the corner! Here at Visit My Smokies, we can’t wait for the official start of fall in the Smoky Mountains. It is nearly time to break out your favorite sweaters, order an extra glass of your favorite pumpkin-flavored drink, and begin planning your annual trip to see the Smoky Mountains fall colors.

However, there is one catch. Do you and your family know where inside the national park to go to see the best views of the Smoky Mountains fall colors?? If your answer to this question is “no”, then don’t worry. We at Visit My Smokies have put together a nifty map to help you decide when and where to see the leaves change colors this year.

Smoky Mountains fall colors map

Mid to Late September

As you can see, the leaves in the higher elevations are the ones that begin to change first. This is usually thanks to the cooler temps found the higher above the ground you go. In the coming weeks, the Smoky Mountain fall colors will linger at the top of the mountains before slowly working their way down to the meadows and the valleys.

If you plan on visiting the area but want to avoid all the traffic that is associated with the Smoky Mountain fall colors, this is the time to do it.

Clingmans Dome Parking Area 

Clingmans DomeClingmans Dome is the tallest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the observation tower at Clingmans Dome is closed for repairs in 2017, visitors can still enjoy spectacular mountain views from the parking area. Due to its high elevation, Clingmans Dome is one of the first places visitors can go to see the Smoky Mountains fall colors begin to change.

Beginning of October

Experts anticipate that the fall colors are going to peak around the start of October in the highest elevations of the Smoky Mountains. Visitors will see the leaves transform from shades of green to stunning reds, oranges, and yellows. Here are some of our favorite places to see the Smoky Mountains fall colors at the beginning of the month:

Newfound Gap Road in AutumnNewfound Gap Road

There is no questioning Newfound Gap Road’s popularity throughout the fall season! Visitors will love driving along this scenic road and pulling over at the many overlooks to take in majestic views of the mountains covered in fall foliage. During your drive, be sure to stop and see the Franklin D. Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., memorial on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line.

Wonders of Flight

The only hot air balloon ride in Sevier County, Wonders of Flight is located at the WonderWorks attraction in Pigeon Forge. As the name of the ride implies, guests here will ride in a hot air balloon a couple hundred feet in the air to capture a bird’s eye view of all the Smoky Mountain fall colors. Don’t worry Mom, you and the kids will be tethered to the ground, so there is no fear of you accidentally floating away.

Gatlinburg Space Needle

Gatlinburg Space NeedleThe tallest attraction in downtown Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Space Needle is a great place for visitors to go who want to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountain fall colors, but also want to remain in the heart of the action. After you have admired the gorgeous views, be sure to head downstairs to the Gatlinburg attraction’s spacious arcade or grab a bite to eat at one of the delicious restaurants that are within walking distance.

Early October

While the fall colors are expected to be at their best in the highest elevations around October 1, 2017, the foliage in the rest of the area will peak about a week later. At this point, all the leaves that are going to change will have made their transition, and they will reflect the sun’s light in a way that makes them appear almost as if they are glowing. When you see first hand how truly stunning the leaves are during this time of year, you will understand why fall in the Smoky Mountains is such a special time of the year.

Our favorite places to visit during the peak time for the Smoky Mountains fall colors are:

Cades Cove FallCades Cove

Cades Cove is hands down one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An area that is known for its beauty year round, it is no surprise that we at Visit My Smokies want to encourage guests to drive the loop road when the leaves are at their peak. If you want to capture the true majestic beauty of the Smoky Mountains fall colors, you will see them from Cades Cove.

Wears Valley

A peaceful mountain hideaway located between Pigeon Forge and Townsend, the Wears Valley area of the Smoky Mountains is a great place for families to go who are looking for a relaxing retreat away from the hustle and bustle. This area is best-known for its rolling mountain view and quiet atmosphere.

Great Smoky Mountain Wheel

Located at The Island in Pigeon Forge, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel takes guests on a rotating aerial tour of the Parkway. From the top, riders can see the scenic leaves change for miles around. There is an added bonus to guests who decide to ride the wheel both during the day and at night because when the sun goes down the wheel is known to put on a spectacular LED light show.

fall drives in the Smoky MountainsWould you like to learn more about fall in the Smokies? Be sure to check out our blog post on the top 22 most shocking facts about fall in the Smoky Mountains.

You can also learn more about all the fun and exciting things to do in the Smoky Mountains by visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park information page on our website. There you will find up-to-date information on all the great hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and driving tours found within the park’s boundaries.

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  • Kris Bradley

    Where do you recommend staying overnight when visiting the Smoky Mountains?
    We will be able to stay one night … thanks for all the info in your article 🍁

    • Kris Bradley

      Just saw your info on where to stay 👍🏼

  • Hi-tech_redneck

    An easy place to see some nice fall views is from the 4 scenic overlooks on the Foothills Parkway in Cosby… Just pull over and take pictures. In my experience the fall color is usually gone by early Nov, from those overlooks.