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the great smoky mountains in the fall

The Great Smoky Mountains in the Fall: Everything to Know About Peak Autumn Colors

Who doesn’t love the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountain’s display of stunning fall foliage? It’s no secret that the area is a popular spot for fall break getaways, and we’re here to provide everything you need to know about peak autumn colors and the best ways to experience them. Keep reading for a deep dive into the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall!

Smoky Mountain Fall Colors 

fall driveThe Great Smoky Mountains in the fall are bursting with stunning colors between late September and mid-November. In higher elevations of over 4,000 feet, you’ll notice the yellow leaves beginning to turn as early as mid-September; then they’ll begin making their way down the mountainsides with the oranges and reds not far behind. By mid to late October, the lower elevation trees will be decked out in peak colors. With hundreds of deciduous tree varieties, the national park is by far the most spectacular place to admire the autumn season. Take a look at which trees are responsible for the typical autumn colors:

Red: One of the most vibrant and popular autumn colors is red, ranging from a bright scarlet hue to a deep burgundy. Trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park you’ll see with red-tinted leaves include dogwoods, sourwoods, oak, sugar maple, and shining sumac.

Yellow: The brilliant golden color paired with the lovely reddish leaves makes a brilliant contrast in the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall. Some trees with yellow leaves are tulip poplars, birch, black cherries, and hickories.

Orange: Sprinkled here and there between the yellow and red fall foliage is orange. While it’s one of the rarer colors, orange lovers can thank aged red maples in the Smoky Mountains for this beautiful color.

Best Ways to Experience Fall Foliage in the Smokies 

Go to Anakeesta: A fall day at Anakeesta is a day well spent in Gatlinburg! After riding the chairlift up to the mountaintop, you’ll be able to take in the incredible views from above. The Treetop Skywalk allows you to get up close and personal with the trees and their changing leaves, and the Dueling Zipline Adventure takes you soaring above the colorful scenery. 

Fall colors along the Foothills Parkway in the Smoky Mountains.Take a scenic drive: There’s nothing more peaceful than a scenic drive along the Newfound Gap, Foothills Parkway, Cades Cove Loop Road, or Roaring Fork Motor Trail. If you’re looking for a less crowded area to explore, we suggest Rich Mountain Road, which can be found in Cades Cove, Wears Valley Road, or Upper Tremont Road. 

Ride the Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway: Another Gatlinburg attraction where you can experience panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall is the Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway. And don’t be nervous if you’re a bit scared of heights– the enclosed space is quite comfortable, and the scenery is well worth it!

Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Probably the best way to view fall foliage is by hiking in the national park. There are hundreds of trails with overlooks and gorgeous views that will be awe-inspiring, to say the least! A few fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains we recommend are the Alum Cave Trail, Clingmans Dome, Laurel Falls, and Charlie’s Bunion. 

There’s no better time to plan a trip to the mountains! Everyone should experience the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall at least once. Get more ideas for your autumn getaway by reading about the best places to see fall colors in the Smoky Mountains