If you’ve never experienced the beauty of the fall colors over the rolling peaks of the Smoky Mountains, then you are in for a one-of-a-kind experience. It will soon be that time of year again when the Smoky Mountains around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge start to come alive with fall color. A hundred species of trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding area go through their seasonal changes, and with the layered mountains and foothills of the Smokies, it makes for phenomenal scenery.
Take in the signature colors of fall in the Smoky Mountains
Every season in this region brings its own unique benefits, but many people do cherish the autumns most of all, and for good reasons. One of those reasons is the famous fall colors of the leaves, which blanket the landscape in brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow as the days start to turn cooler. It’s tempting to try to pinpoint when the peak of the colors will be in the region and time your vacation accordingly, but this is difficult to do with any accuracy because the rate of change depends on a variety of environmental factors from year to year. However, there are some general guidelines you can use to plan your visit.
Leaves usually start to change at the highest elevations (over approx. 4,000 feet) in late Sep./early Oct. through mid-Oct. This occurs in spots such as Clingmans Dome and Mt. LeConte, and the color changes generally roll down to lower elevations and into the valleys over the next seven weeks or so. The great thing is you will most likely have a beautiful view of the colors from somewhere in the region no matter what time during the fall you choose to visit, not to mention plenty of other exciting activities for your family vacation.
Explore countless unique outdoor adventures
Fall in the Smokies doesn’t have to be just about sitting down and looking at the leaves changing (although that can be fun too); for many people it’s a chance to shake off the heat and humidity of the summer and explore the great outdoors in more temperate weather. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of natural activities and beautiful landmarks you can take in during your autumn adventure.
Check out our guide to Where to See the Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains for some of the best ways to immerse in the festival of colorful vistas, from scenic hikes to easy strolls and scenic drives.
If full-scale hiking isn’t your thing, consider seeking out some of the many quiet walks throughout the Smokies that are a relaxing way to get up close and personal with nature. Horseback riding and mountain lifts are some other popular ways to get outdoors and experience the best that fall in the Smokies has to offer.
Relax and enjoy the season
Of course, sometimes the best view of the fall colors is the one you can share with your friends and family from the balcony of your Smoky Mountain cabin. If you’re looking to relax in a chair and take in the sweeping views of the scenery with a blanket, a warm beverage, and some good conversation, then there’s nothing wrong with staying in. However you choose to experience Fall in the Smokies, the colors will be here waiting for you.
For information on more outdoors adventures in the Smokies, see our guides to Gatlinburg Hiking Trails, and our Smoky Mountains map page, as well as more outdoor ideas in our Smoky Mountains Activities guide. Check out our Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains guide as well and the all-important, Things to Do in Gatlinburg With Kids.
And remember we have cabins all over the area, so pick your vacation headquarters from our Wears Valley cabins, our Pigeon Forge rental cabins and our Gatlinburg cabins – and if you’re bringing a pet check our updated list of pet friendly cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.