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Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the Smoky Mountains to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous fall foliage. Oranges, yellows, and reds are scattered across the mountains, providing picture-perfect scenery paired with beautiful weather. We want you to make the most of your time in the Smokies during this popular season, so we’ve put together some of the best places to visit on a day trip! Here is your guide to the perfect day trip to the Smoky Mountains in the fall:
Breakfast: Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
Any perfect day has to start off with a delicious breakfast, and there is no better place to enjoy your first meal of the day than in Gatlinburg! For a hearty meal that will give you the energy you need for the fun-filled day ahead of you, dine at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is known for serving some of the best home-cooked breakfast in the Smoky Mountains! The menu features everything from pancakes, to omelets, to signature dishes like Postmasters Favorite, which is chicken fried steak, sausage gravy and 2 farm fresh eggs. This restaurant is located right on the Parkway in Gatlinburg, which will put you less than 5 minutes away from your first stop! Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is just one of many great breakfast restaurants on the Parkway.
First Stop: Newfound Gap Road
The best place to begin your day trip in the Smoky Mountains during fall is Newfound Gap Road. Newfound Gap Road is one of the most popular places to see the amazing fall foliage. We recommend starting this scenic driving tour at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, which is about 2 miles from Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. Visitors love driving along this road and pulling off at the many overlooks to admire the fall colors blanketing the mountains. Along your drive, you will pass Newfound Gap, which is where President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. About .1 mile after you pass Newfound Gap, turn onto Clingmans Dome Road, where you will find your next stop.
Second Stop: Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Clingmans Dome Road is a 7-mile road that leads to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, which is by far one of the best spots to take in the fall colors. Along the road, there are several scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys. At the end of the road, you will reach a large parking area. From here, hike the .5-mile trail to the observation tower. Clingmans Dome is 6,643 feet high, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From the observation tower, you can see 360-degree views of the Smokies and beyond. On clear days, views can stretch over 100 miles.
Lunch: Chimneys Picnic Area
After admiring the views at Clingmans Dome, it’s time for lunch! What better place to enjoy it than in the great outdoors? About 30 minutes away, you will find Chimneys Picnic Area. This picnic area has 68 picnic sites, each with a picnic table and a raised grill for cooking. Visitors love the river that runs along one side, allowing kids to splash around if it’s not too cold outside. Pack some sandwiches and snacks for everyone to enjoy while you soak up the fresh air and the fall foliage around you!
Third Stop: Alum Cave Trail
After lunch at Chimneys Picnic Area, you will be ready for a hike! One of the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains is the Alum Cave Trail. The trailhead is about a 10-minute drive from the picnic area. The hike to the bluffs is 4.6 miles roundtrip. It’s one of the most family-friendly hikes, although there are a few steep sections. The high elevation of the trail provides spectacular opportunities to experience the beauty of fall in the Smoky Mountains.
Fourth Stop: Anakeesta
After taking some time to explore the sights, visit one of the most popular attractions in Gatlinburg! Just a short drive from the Alum Cave Trail, you will find Anakeesta. This outdoor park lets you experience the true magic in the mountains. You adventure begins with a scenic Chondola ride up 600 feet to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain, during which you will see stunning views of the Smoky Mountains and the City of Gatlinburg below you. One of the best things to do at Anakeesta during the fall is the Tree Canopy Walk, where you will walk 40 to 60 feet above the forest floor on a series of sky bridges, putting you right in the middle of all the beautiful fall colors! You can also ride the Dueling Zipline, which offers great views of the Smokies from high above the ground. There are also plenty of spots where you can kick back, relax and enjoy the view!
Dinner: Cliff Top
After a busy day full of fun, we’re sure you’ve worked up quite the appetite! Luckily you don’t even have to leave Anakeesta for dinner. For a delicious meal with an even better view, dine at Cliff Top in Black Bear Village. This restaurant serves everything from fresh salads to hand-cut steaks! When you dine at Cliff Top, you will be surrounded by breathtaking scenery everywhere you look. It’s also a great spot to catch the sunset!
Where to Stay: Gatlinburg Cabin
For the perfect end to your day, spend the night in a Gatlinburg cabin! Your cabin will provide your own private views of the Smoky Mountains in the fall. Gatlinburg cabins come with all the comforts of home, along with benefits of staying in the Smokies, like hot tubs, fireplaces, spectacular mountain views, and so much more. Enjoy a relaxing night in your cabin, then wake up early to catch the sunrise on your private deck before heading back home. There is no better way to end a trip in the Smokies.
The leaves will start to change and cover the mountains in stunning shades of orange, yellow and red before you know it! Now that you know how to take the perfect day trip to the Smoky Mountains in the fall, it’s time to start planning your adventure. Take a look at all of our Gatlinburg cabins, then book your stay for the fall!