A visit to the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall is an amazing experience. The leaves are turning to vibrant shades of reds, yellows, and oranges. Hiking in the Smokies during fall can give you up close views of those changing leaves. There are many different trails throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and they vary in skill level from beginning to expert. The following are some of the best fall hikes of the Smokies.
Hikes for Beginners
Indian Creek Falls is a beautiful and easy hike that allows you to see several waterfalls. This 1.9 mile trail begins in an area north of Bryson City, NC. Schoolhouse Gap, another easy trail, begins at a parking area located between Cades Cove and Townsend. This trail is 3.8 miles round trip. It allows hikers to follow a relatively wide path along a stream. The Oconaluftee River Trail, which can be accessed behind the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center in Cherokee, is a level trail that provides beautiful river views. This 3 mile round trip trail is one of the few in the park that allows dogs and bicycles.
One of the best moderate hikes during the fall is Andrews Bald. This trail is located in the Clingmans Dome area and has a round trip length of 3.5 miles. The highest elevation of the Andrews Bald trail is 6,310 feet, which provides excellent views of surrounding trees and mountains. Another trail for moderate hikers is The Jump Off hike which begins at the Newfound Gap parking lot. This trail is 6.5 miles round trip and offers views of Mt. Leconte and Myrtle Point. Meigs Mountain trail, located in Elkmont, is ideal for moderate hikers. This 4.6 mile trail takes you past mountain streams and some historical sites of interest.
Fall Hikes for Expert Hikers
Mt. Leconte is an amazing fall hike for those with serious hiking experience. This strenuous hike has a round trip distance of 11 miles with an elevation change of 2,763 feet. This trail can be found on Newfound Gap Road. Hikers can experience panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and amazing geological formations. One of the most strenuous hikes for experienced hikers is the Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain trail that begins at the Cades Cove picnic area. The trip is 13.9 miles and those who complete the steep climb to the summit of Rocky Top are awarded with amazing views of the surrounding peaks. The Shuckstack Fire Tower, which can be accessed just outside of Bryson City, NC, is 7 miles round trip. It takes you past Fontana Dam, the tallest concrete dam east of the Rocky Mountains.
Fall hiking in the Smokies allows you to enjoy the crisp autumn air and views of the changing foliage. Many trails have extreme elevation changes that reward you with views of the beauty of the Smokies in autumn colors. Whether you’re an experienced hiker, a beginner, or somewhere in between, you can find a suitable trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.