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smoky mountains in the fall

Smoky Mountains in the Fall: Best Time to See Fall Foliage

DATE : September 5, 2023

The autumn season in the Great Smoky Mountains is a sight to behold, with its brilliant displays of the changing colors everywhere you look. The fall foliage begins at the higher elevations above 4,000 feet in late September and travels down the mountainsides until it reaches peak season at the bottom between mid-October and early November. That’s quite a long season of beautiful colors– and that’s because the Smokies are home to over 100 varieties of deciduous trees. Combined with the elevation factor, peak viewing time in specific areas depends on the types of trees growing there. Here are a few tips and things to know before you visit the Smoky Mountains in the fall: 

Late September Highlights

smoky mountain scenic driveWhile the leaves may still be green in lower elevations, the trees above 4,000 feet begin to change in September. This includes the yellow birch, the mountain maple, the American beech, the hobblebush, and the pin cherry. We recommend taking a scenic drive along Clingmans Dome Road, Parsons Branch Road, and Newfound Gap Road, which will take you high enough to admire the beginning stages of the fall season. It’s also a great time to hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park– the fall flowers blooming at this time along with fruits and berries on bushes and trees add to the colorful scenery and should not be missed. You’ll notice the black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, skunk goldenrod, ironweed, asters, and southern harebell along many trails such as Albright Grove, Andrews Bald, and Mt. LeConte.

Early October Highlights

You will be able to see the leaves of yellow beech, the American birch, and the yellow buckeye turning gold and yellow in early October, as well as the leaves of the pin cherry, black cherry, mountain ash, mountain maple, sourwood, and sumac turning various shades of red. The dogwood, witch hobble, and other maples are also changing color. A Smoky Mountain scenic drive on Newfound Gap Road, Foothills Parkway, Heintooga Ridge Road, or Rich Mountain Road from Cades Cove will provide a fantastic view! Also, goldenrod, asters, mountain gentian, and black cohosh are still in bloom, and blueberry bushes, blackberry bushes, and the Virginia creeper are changing color too. We suggest hiking the Appalachian Trail from Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap for a close-up view of these incredible fall colors.

Late October Highlights

hiking trail in the smokiesLate in October, the sugar maple, red maple, sweet gum, black gum, scarlet oak, dogwood, sumac, and sourwood trees show us their various shades of red, while the birch, beech, tulip tree, black walnut, and hickory trees add the beautiful golden color. Easy to moderate hikes with great views during this time period include Baskins Creek Falls, Little River, Lower Mount Cammerer, Old Settlers, and Porters Creeks Trails. The Appalachian Trail, Mt. Sterling, Goshen Prong, and Low Gap Trails are a bit more strenuous, but also provide absolutely stunning overlooks of the Smoky Mountains in the fall!

Where to Stay 

Visiting the Smoky Mountains in the fall is the perfect way to relax and rewind after a busy summer. The Bearskin Lodge is conveniently located in downtown Gatlinburg, and we offer beautiful views overlooking the mountain stream or views of the town. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast, a fitness room, guest laundry, and in-room amenities such as a Keurig coffee maker, fireplace, refrigerator, and microwave. Take a look at our rooms, and start planning your next getaway to the mountains. We look forward to seeing you very soon!