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fall leaves in the Smoky Mountains

Top 5 Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains to Try in the Fall

It’s no secret that the Smoky Mountains are gorgeous all year long, but they are especially beautiful in the fall. When the leaves change from various shades of green to oranges, reds and yellows, the best way to see the fall foliage is to hit the trails! The Great Smoky Mountains have more than 850 miles of hiking trails for you to explore. We’ve put together a list of the top 5 hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains you should try in the fall!

1. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains throughout the year, but visitors love it during the fall. Not only will you get to see the fall foliage scattered throughout the mountains, but you will come across a cascading 80-foot waterfall. Laurel Falls has both an upper and lower section that is divided by a walkway, so you can actually cross over the waterfall! It is 2.6 miles roundtrip and considered relatively easy to do.

2. Alum Cave Trail

Fall colors in the Smoky MountainsAlum Cave Trail is another popular trail to hike in the fall. With an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, this hike provides spectacular views of fall colors in the Smoky Mountains. After about 2 miles along the trail, you will reach Inspiration Point, a spot that offers panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains. After about 2.2 miles, you will be at Alum Cave Bluffs, a concaved bluff that is about 80 feet tall and 500 feet in length. Most hikers turn around at this point, but if you’re up for a challenge with a great reward, continue your hike to just below the summit of Mount LeConte, which is 5.5 miles into the trail. At 6,593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains.

3. Porters Creek Trail

Porters Creek Trail is popular during the spring because of all the beautiful wildflowers, but it also provides a wonderful hike during the fall. You can see everything along this trail, from remnants of historic sites to a waterfall. After about 2 miles, you will reach Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot waterfall that is especially beautiful during high water flows. This trail is great for a mid to late October hike because you will be right among all of the trees!

4. Gregory Bald

Gregory Bald in the smoky mountainsAnother popular hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains that you’ll want to try this fall is Gregory Bald. This trail is perched above Cades Cove in a high elevation that is perfect for seeing the changing fall colors. The journey to Gregory Bald is almost as beautiful as the view from the top! You’ll pass through a hardwood forest that comes alive with color in the fall season. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, this is the one for you. The roundtrip hike is 11.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,020 feet, but the stunning scenery makes it well worth it.

5. Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades is one of the best waterfall hikes to do during the fall. Not only will you get to see the tallest waterfall in the park at 100 feet, but the trail meanders beside rivers and streams that are lined with yellow birch, which turn a beautiful golden color during the fall. As you stroll through an old-growth cove hardwood forest, you will appreciate all of the fall foliage. For the best view, hike to Ramsey Cascades in late October when the fall colors are usually at their peak. The hike to the waterfall and back is 8 miles and considered strenuous in difficulty.

Now that you know the best hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains to try during the fall, it’s time to start planning your fall trip! Start by finding the best Smoky Mountain cabin for your vacation and book your stay today.