Autumn will be here before you know it, and we all know what that means — it’s time for one of the most beautiful seasons in the Smokies! The Smoky Mountains are gorgeous all year round, but there is something special about seeing the colors of fall atop the mountains and the leaves that blanket the ground. To help you plan the perfect trip to the Smoky Mountains in the fall, we’ve put together a guide of everything you need to know:
Best Times to Visit
Elevation affects where and when the leaves in the Smoky Mountains change color throughout the fall. Because of the cooler temperatures found the higher above ground that you go, the leaves in the higher elevations are the ones that begin to change first. Here is what you can expect throughout the season:
Mid-September is typically when the leaves start to change to beautiful fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At higher elevations, you will start to see the turning of yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush and pin cherry. If you want to avoid the traffic in the Smoky Mountains during fall, mid to late September is the best time to come.
In early October, fall colors are expected to be at their best in the higher elevations. You will have the opportunity to see the leaves transform from various shades of green to reds, oranges and yellows. If you plan on visiting places that offer a bird’s eye view of the Smokies like the Gatlinburg Space Needle or the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, this is a great time to do it!
By mid-october, all of the leaves in the Smoky Mountains should have made their transition to gorgeous fall colors. From October through early November, visitors can expect to see the national park completely covered in shades of red, yellow and orange. The Smoky Mountains are often bustling with excitement during this time, with everyone visiting to catch a glimpse of the picture-perfect scenery.
Best Places to See Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains
For the best view of the Smoky Mountains in the fall, plan to visit areas and attractions that have higher elevations. Here are some of the best places to see the fall colors:
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is one of the first places you can go to see the colors begin to change. It offers panoramic views that span for 100 miles.
Alum Cave Trail
The Alum Cave Trail leads toward the summit of Mt. LeConte, the third-highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. The hike itself sees a 1,200-feet elevation change, which allows you to see a wide range of colors and sights. The variety of trees you will see throughout the hike allows you to witness the gorgeous colors from early October through November.
Newfound Gap Road
Experience the beautiful fall sights from the comfort of your car when you drive along Newfound Gap Road! This road is one of the most popular places to spot all the fall foliage, with many overlooks where you can pull over and take pictures of the mountains painted in the colors of fall.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
If you’re visiting downtown Gatlinburg, head to the Gatlinburg Space Needle to see the beauty of the Smokies from more than 400 feet in the air! After your adventure to the top of the tower, head back down to play in the arcade or stroll through the rest of downtown.
Anakeesta is another Gatlinburg attraction that offers gorgeous views of the fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains. You will ride in a scenic Chondola 600 feet to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain, along which you will see breathtaking fall views. Once you enter the magical attraction, stunning views surround you on every side.
Make sure you bring your camera along when you visit the Smoky Mountains during fall because you are going to want to capture the picture-perfect scenery! View some of the best fall photos below to see what you can expect when you visit: