Plan Your Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage Experience

August 24, 2021

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park placed 8th in the Top 10 National Parks in the US and is the top-visited National Park in the US, welcoming well over 12 million visitors a year. The Smoky Mountains are beautiful year-round but fall brings with it beautiful cool weather, crisp mountain air, golden fall wildflowers, and spectacular fall-foliage viewing.

The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are one of the best fall foliage spots in the US. October is peak season in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and as the fall colors intensify, so do the crowds! The surrounding gateway towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville bustle with visitors so booking your fall vacation in advance is highly recommended!

When to Plan your Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage Experience

The fall foliage season is dependent on many natural factors, and it can be hard to predict and plan your trip around the changing colors. The leaves begin to turn as early as late September in the higher elevations over 4,000 feet and on average last up to 7 weeks as the turn of vibrant colors continues to the lower elevations up to early November. You are guaranteed a beautiful display of colors from early to mid-October in most Smoky Mountain vacation destinations.


Scenic Drives

For endless leaf-peeping opportunities, pack a picnic, load up the car (or pick up a Jeep rental for a fun 4×4 experience), and take a road trip through the scenic highways and byways in the Smoky Mountains and the Appalachians. Top Smoky Mountain scenic drives in the fall include Foothills Parkway, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Cades Cove Loop Road, and Newfound Gap Road with cascading rainbows of fall foliage, breathtaking views, and excellent wildlife viewing.


Hiking Trails

A self-guided or guided hike is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the spectacular fall colors (and take spectacular insta-photos!). The Grotto Falls is a 2.6-mile round-trip, or Cataract Falls is an easy 1-mile trail perfect for families with small kids. Avid hikers can access the highest point of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome with panoramic views of the colorful Smokies from the summit observation platform. On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.



In addition to easy access to outdoor adventures, the gateway towns of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park feature endless family-friendly attractions with fascinating museums, fall festivals and events, award-winning theme parks, and some of the top family amusements in the US, many offering beautiful fall foliage views from their elevated perches. Soak up the vibrant views while shopping and dining at Firefly Village at Anakeesta Mountaintop Park, from twenty stories above Dollywood’s Timber Canyon on the Dollywood Drop Line, on an incredible aerial experience on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, and even from the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island.


Aerial Tours

Experience a bird’s eye view of the Smokies and unrivaled views of the captivating fall colors on a scenic helicopter tour over downtown Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge Parkway, Mount LeConte, and the Smoky Mountain lakes. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to old-growth forests and an amazing diversity of trees with over 100 species of native trees turning from deep green to glorious golds and rich reds, a spectacular sight from the skies above the Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains Rail Road

Fall Foliage Excursion

Take a fall foliage excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to experience the beauty and seclusion of the Smokies in the fall. The Nantahala Gorge Excursion travels from Bryson City along the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers before crossing Fontana Lake and into the Nantahala Gorge for a one-hour layover. Alternatively, the Tuckasegee River Excursion travels through the Cowee Tunnel, past the famous movie set of The Fugitive, and onto the historic town of Dillsboro for shopping and dining before returning to Bryson City. A spectacular way to experience the best fall foliage in the Smokies for the whole family.

Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains

Xplorie partner with professional property managers in Great Smoky Mountain National Park gateway towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and offer a diverse selection of premier vacation rentals only minutes from the top Smoky Mountain attractions. Whether you’re booking a cozy condo for a romantic fall getaway or a luxury Smoky Mountain cabin with all the extra amenities for a long-awaited family reunion (up to 75 people!), book your Smoky Mountain vacation online with Xplorie and get complimentary tours, activities, and attractions for each day of your stay.