Beautiful view of the Smoky Mountains fall colors.

6 Tips for Enjoying the Smoky Mountains Fall Colors

Witnessing the Smoky Mountains fall colors should be part of anyone’s bucket list. This region is particularly noted for its spectacular vibrancy and diversity of fall foliage. To help you plan your trip, Smoky Mountain Navigator has put together six tips for making the most out of your autumn visit:

1. Time Your Visit

The precise “peak” moment for the most spectacular fall foliage varies by a few weeks from year to year. Late September usually brings the first changes at the highest elevations in the Smokies. As the season progresses, the colors slowly move down the sides of the mountains.

In the lower elevations, the foliage typically comes into full swing during the last two weeks of October and the first week of November. Be sure to book your accommodations early, because autumn lodging in the Smoky Mountains fills up fast!

2. Change Your ElevationSpectacular view of the Smoky Mountains fall colors in Cades Cove.

You’ll see different trees and different colors depending upon your elevation. Take a drive up to Clingmans Dome to gain some elevation and a new perspective. At elevations above 4,000 feet, you’ll be able to observe the blazing colors of the mountain maple, yellow birch, and American beech. At lower elevations, you’ll view red maple, sugar maple, scarlet oak, and others. If you’re really determined to enjoy the Smoky Mountains fall colors to the fullest, you’ll have to be willing to visit the hills and valleys. Fortunately, many of the scenic drives in the area feature breathtaking overlooks where you can capture photographs. You can never go wrong with a trip through Cades Cove or Newfound Gap Road!

3. Put On Your Hiking Boots

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a renowned destination for hiking at any time of year. However, it is absolutely breathtaking when the leaves are changing. Nothing can compare with spending a few hours amid the trees with fallen leaves crunching beneath your hiking boots. There’s something truly wonderful about being surrounded by nature in all that glorious color. With all the fresh air and sunshine you’ll wonder why you waited so long to visit. As you plan your fall excursions in the park, check out these 12 gorgeous Smoky Mountain hiking trails.

Smoky Mountains fall colors in the trees.4. Be Ready for the Weather

Fall in this region is generally pretty mild. Highs through September often hit 80 degrees. Things cool off in October with average highs of about 70. However, October makes up for the drop in temperature with the lowest average rainfall of the year. Most years bring less than three inches of rain in October. Still, it’s best to be prepared for weather changes and extremes. Lows can get down to 40 degrees, and rain is certainly a possibility. Bring along a rain jacket, boots, and a heavy sweater so you’ll be ready for anything.

5. Take Flight

To see the fall foliage from an unparalleled vantage point, consider indulging in one of the outings offered by Scenic Helicopter Tours. You’ll never forget the spectacular bird’s eye views of the Smoky Mountains fall colors that can only be enjoyed from the air. An experienced helicopter pilot is your guide to the awe-inspiring mountains and the many other natural wonders that are singularly impressive from just the right altitude. A variety of different tours are available, making this adventure suitable for any family.

6. Stay Surrounded by NatureBridge along the Chimney Tops Trail that highlgihts the Smoky Mountains fall colors.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have no shortage of great accommodations. Many of the area’s cabins are situated in scenic and secluded locations. When you reserve a cabin in the woods, you’ll be surrounded by fall colors. While relaxing on the porch or sitting by a window, you’ll be able to take in the incredible autumn foliage at your leisure.

Start planning your fall trip to East Tennessee by visiting our Smoky Mountains cabins page!

About Jason Fishman

Jason Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in history, dining, travel and tourism. In his spare time, he enjoys science fiction, breakfast food and bad puns.