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The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina are one of Appalachia’s most treasured gems, and never more so than in the Fall. Ridge after ridge of painted red and golden hues sweep across miles of low, misty mountains. More than a few artists and poets have found a well of inspiration in these beautiful forests. The Smokies rank consistently among America’s most wonderful Fall destinations, and there is no shortage of attractions. Here are some of the best Fall activities to enjoy in the Smokies and the towns that call them home.

Smoky Mountain scenic drives – Enjoy the photo ops found on the many scenic touring drives that wind throughout the mountains. Particularly popular sites include Cades Cove, Clingman’s Dome, and a tour of Newfound Gap Road, which leads you to Cherokee, North Carolina.

Oktoberfest at Ober – Nothing says “Fall” like German beer and folk dancing. The Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort hosts this family-friendly festival every September and October.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Historic pioneer cabins, beautiful waterfalls, endless hiking trails, and informative visitor’s centers welcome more than ten million visitors annually to the most-visited park in the nation. Consider exploring the park on foot or horseback for a more intimate experience.

Downtown Gatlinburg – Just adjacent to GSM National Park, Gatlinburg offers a number of tourist attractions for shopping, sight-seeing, dining, or enjoying Appalachian culture. A skylift ride will take you soaring over the Fall colors, while the whole family can enjoy museums, mini-golf, live entertainment, and country food.

Hayrides – The hayride is the ultimate Smoky Mountain bus tour. Rides are offered through the historic downtown area as well as some of the mountain roads. The Cades Cove Loop hayride offers the best views.

Outlet malls – For a relaxing day of shopping and dining, the sister towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville are home to several factory outlet malls as well as countless unique shops that sell Appalachian-spirited keepsakes and gifts.

Train rides – The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takes passengers through incredible mountain and river tours on board their vintage 1940’s-era diesel and steam engines. The train departs from North Carolina and offers some of the best mountain views possible. Don’t forget your camera.

Ziplines – For the most adventurous people, a zipline ride may be in order. See the Fall colors from a bird’s perspective while zipping through the trees. There are several companies that offer ziplines throughout the Smoky Mountain towns.

Breathe the mountain air – The Smokies are exceptionally rejuvenating in the Fall. Be sure to block off some time during your visit to simply wander off-schedule through some of the nearby wild lands, just to take in the views, sounds, and scents of Appalachia’s beauty.

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