Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall color in the Smoky Mountains

Are you planning a late fall vacation? There is still some fall color in the Smoky Mountains. Lower elevations are near peak at the time of this writing. Recent rains have taken down some of the leaves, but some brilliant reds and golds remain. The fall color in the Smoky Mountains begins at the peaks and descends into the valley.

Even though leaves in the higher elevations are past peak, plenty of color remains in the lower areas.  Grab your selfie sticks and head for the hills or take Sunday drive before the final display fades away.

Fall trees and roadSpeaking of drives, here are a few that you may enjoy.

When it comes to fall color in the Smokies, Cades Cove is a perennial favorite among visitors. The bowl shaped cove provides visitors with natural splendor and historic structures to explore.

Famous for its 11 mile one-way loop, Cades Cove has stables, historic churches and open fields. Drive slowly to watch for wildlife. If you come on a Sunday morning, you may be able to attend a service in one of the old churches. Congregations rent the buildings for special services. Visitors are welcome to attend.

Fall treesFoothills Parkway is a lesser known drive in the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. The winding road is split into several short sections and each one will give you good views of the fall color in the mountains. There aren't any services on the Foothills Parkway, and cell phone service is almost nonexistent, but food and gas are close to each terminus.

The towns of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Townsend are clustered near each other in the heart of the fall color in the Smokies. They offer lots of shopping opportunites and places to stay for just about any budget. Restaurants range from fast food, to mom-and-pop diners or upscale eateries. Townsend is quieter than the other three towns and is popular among visitors who want to get away from the traffic.

The Roaring Fork Nature Trail in Gatlinburg is a hidden gem. It puts you in the middle of fall color and gives you a rugged feel, but you're only a few minutes from town. To get to the Roaring Fork Nature Trail, take Historic Nature Trail Road from downtown Gatlinburg and follow the signs. Historic and interesting buildings include a corn crib, a farmhouse, mill and other structures.

The drive takes about an hour, but can take an afternoon if you like to explore or plan to hike to Mt. LeConte, see Rainbow Falls Trail or Grotto Falls. The narrow road has twists and turns. Don't drive it in a long vehicle, large RV or pull a trailer.


A Forest Service Fall Foilage Hotline tells you where fall color remains in the Smokies. One call gives you the latest  updates and, when available, predictions on how long the color is expected to last.

Do you have a favorite drive in the Smoky Mountains or fall color tips that you would like to share? Leave your message in the comments field below. We are always glad to hear from you.