Late summer is the time to plan for a fall weekend getaway, and the Great Smokey Mountains provides the perfect cool and colorful escapes. This area has all the vibrant colors of New England’s rolling hills and villages at a later date. While New England draws Fall visitors in late September, the Great Smokies area puts on its stunning show of color from mid-October in the higher elevations to early November in the lower ones.
The colorful show here is presented by Mother Nature and the area’s population of sugar maples, red maples, hickories, sweetgum, scarlet oaks, and about 100 other species of native deciduous trees. The peak time to view the show depends on temperatures, moisture, the length of day, and other factors. It will last for about seven weeks.
Fall color in the Great Smokies starts at the highest elevations and spreads down the mountains as the leaves’ green pigment starts to break down. Carotenoids and anthocyanins take over and produce shades of warm colors like reds, golds, yellows, and oranges. The higher the elevation and the cooler the temperatures, the more color you will likely see.
Of course, the best way to see the fall foliage is by driving. Since the Great Smokies National Park is a popular tourist area from summer to autumn some areas can get quite congested. This includes Newfound Gap Road and Cades Cove. Consider hiking on the Appalachian Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail, the Alum Cave Trail, the Sutton Ridge Overlook, and other places within the park’s boundaries.
Other alternatives to the highway are bike and motorcycle rentals, and helicopter tours. For a birds-eye view, The WonderWorks attraction in Pigeon Forge offers a hot air balloon that stays tethered to the ground. Gatlinburg’s tallest attraction, the Gatlinburg Space Needle is another great option. Check out the Great Smokey Mountain Wheel in Pigeon Forge for a fun and unique way to view the foliage show as it takes riders on a rotating aerial tour.
Not surprisingly, the fall color show in the Great Smokies has given birth to fairs and festivals. The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair has a two-week fall schedule. The fair features around 200 artisans from around the country. Find original paintings, photography, ceramics, and much more among blue grass and country music concert.
For a great Oktoberfest celebration, head to Ober Gatlinburg, the local ski resort. It begins near the end of September and lasts through October. The resort turns into a huge Bavarian Party with live music, games, and Old World country foods like bratwursts, strudel, and more along with giant steins of beer from local breweries.
It will be easy to find a Fall Harvest Festival to enjoy in the Great Smokies. Pigeon Forge celebrates the season with seasonal foods, live music from the Old Moonshine Stage, and more. The townsfolk in neighboring Sevierville, the town made famous by Dolly Parton welcome guests to their own fall celebration with arts and crafts and other events.
Plan today to enjoy the spectacular fall season with a weekend getaway in the Great Smokey Mountains.