Complete Guide to Fall in the Smoky Mountains

August 3, 2022

Dreaming of a picture-perfect fall escape? Whether you are an avid outdoor enthusiast or more comfortable sipping cider, there’s no place more alive in autumn than the Smoky Mountains.

Follow along to learn everything you need to know about a Smoky Mountains fall.

From the best hikes for fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains to scenic drives decorated in shades of red, rust, and amber. There are endless ways to welcome sweater season in Gatlinburg fall and Pigeon Forge. 

Come together for tons of pumpkin-flavored fun at the Harvest Festival, or get your fill of breathtaking views at Mount LeConte.

Dial in your ideal fall getaway when you discover our complete guide to the Smoky Mountains.

When is Peak Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains?

Wondering when is the peak fall foliage Smoky Mountains 2022? If you seek stunning scenery in all the autumn colors, you're in luck. This time of year truly shines a light on nature's handiwork. Fortunately, each month brings about awe-inspiring changes in hues. 

Fall kicks off in the things to do in the Smoky Mountains in September. Leaves will begin their transformation at elevations of 4,000 feet. Sourwood, Dogwood, Maple, and Birch trees will all emerge with foliage in vivid red, orange, and yellow pigments. 

Gatlinburg in October

The spookiest month also contains peak season for leaf peeping! One of the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains in October is to take in the colorful views. The rugged mountain tops of Smoky Mountains Tennessee are painted in the boldest strokes. At the beginning of the month, you can easily view the bold gold leaves of the Yellow Birch and American Beech.

Related Post: 12 of The Best Waterfall Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

In addition, to the rouge accents of the Mountain Ash and Pin Cherry trees. Mid-October means the Smoky Mountains are about a week away from peak season. However, at this time, higher elevations are at their prime. Soak in the spellbinding sights of Black Gum, Sumac, and Hickory trees. 

Best Time to Visit Smoky Mountains

Dying to capture the most impressive mountain terrain on camera? For fridge-worthy fall pictures of the Smoky Mountains, you can do no better than a visit Smoky Mountains in October. From low to high elevations, a cornucopia of colors are on display across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains - Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

Stunning view of Smoky Mountain in fall

Smoky Mountain Hotels

Before you pack those sweaters and load up on pumpkin spice, you'll need to secure your Smoky Mountain lodgings. Whether you pursue a Pigeon Forge Hotel or gallivant around Gatlinburg, we offer a wide array of accommodation options.

From cozy mountain cabins to family-friendly resorts, there are lodgings for every budget and style. Book your room stress-free, knowing you are always guaranteed the best rates online.

External View of Riverstone Resort in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USABest Place to See Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains 

Whether you're a hiker, painter, or amateur photographer, there's nothing quite like the raw, visceral beauty of the Smoky Mountains come fall. Don't waste endless hours on the internet searching where to spot these pigmented plants.
To enjoy the full spectrum of fall colors that the Smoky Mountains hold, reference the official map. The Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Map 2022 visually breaks down the annual changing of the leaves into an easily interpreted guide. 

Related Post: Upcoming Gatlinburg Events and Festivals 

Best Fall Sunset Smoky Mountains

There's something undeniable about magic hour. Pack a warm blanket, a picnic, and of course, your camera to take advantage of this momentous sight. 

Revel in all the romance and beauty of the mountains as day turns to night when you witness a sublime fall sunset:

Smoky Mountains in Fall: Morton Overlook

Need to capture the rocket of colors from your vehicle? Just north of Newfound Gap along U.S. 441 lies an awe-inspiring westward view of the forested canyon of the Walker Camp Prong. 

Related Post: Best Gatlinburg Restaurants: A Local's Guide

Clingmans Dome Road

Famous for being the Smokey's highest peak, Clingmans Dome delivers an unmistakable sunset show. Stay put in the parking area for an incredible view, but for a grander, even more dazzling vista, take a short hike to the observation tower to enjoy the 6,643-foot summit.

The Chimney Tops

Yearning for some physical exertion to go with your scenery? Tackle the 3.8-mile hike to Chimney Tops to witness a stellar sunset. The combination of rugged peaks rising over the West Prong Little Pigeon River reaches pinnacle perfection at day's end. 

Mount LeConte

Popular peak Mount LeConte may only be the region's 3rd highest, but its staggering terrain makes for some arresting topographic relief. Choose from multiple trails, or take in the sun's brilliance from Cliff Top. This is one of our top picks for places to visit in the Smoky Mountains during fall!

View of a purple and orange sunset from Myrtle Point on Mount Le Conte in the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Great Smoky Mountains National Park via Facebook

Best Fall Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

Harvest season means cooler temperatures. Make the most of this comfortable weather, and cram in those steps when you hike through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 

Related Post: 10 of the Best Smoky Mountain Hikes for Kids

With hundreds of hiking trails to choose from, you can opt to conquer high elevations, waterfalls, caves, and more:

Laurel Falls Smoky Mountains

While you may not spot this falls floral namesake come Autumn, this eternally popular trail is an ideal introductory Smoky Mountain hike. Gaze upon the gushing 80 ft high Laurel Falls, and be sure to capture its photogenic presence with a snap or two. 

Laurel Falls with autumn trees in the great smoky mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USAGregory Bald Trail

Mountaineers looking for a challenge will relish the difficult Gregory Bald path. This 11.6-mile round trip journey affords sweeping mountain views and plenty of fall hues. 

Related Post: 5 Gatlinburg Hiking Tips: Need-to-Know Basics

Alum Cave Trail

A moderate hike that leads you to Inspiration Point, Alum Cave is chock full of intrepid surprises. Besides jaw-dropping views, you'll cross log bridges, narrow tunnels, and more. 

grotto waterfall in gatlinburg tennessee

Best Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains

Are your dogs barking? If tackling an almost 12-mile hiking trail isn't in the cards, why not savor the fall scenery by car? Load up your vehicle with snacks, libations, and plenty of gas, and prepare to take in the Black Walnut, Hickory, and Maple trees. Who knows, you may even spot a Wild Turkey or curious coyote.

Related Post: The Best Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains for Fall Colors

Gatlinburg in Fall: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Immerse yourself in autumnal sights and Smoky Mountain history when you tackle the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Peppered with rustic log cabins, trees, wildlife, and plenty of optional hikes, Roaring Fork's thick, vibrant forests make for an unforgettable photo opportunity.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Smoky Mountain

Foothills Parkway

Bike or motor your way through this arresting 33-mile stretch of roadway. However you choose to complete the recently completed section, you'll be rewarded with an explosion of fall colors and a rugged park landscape. 

Blue Ridge Parkway

Feel like you're driving through a fall fantasy when you take on the alluring curves and leaves of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beginning at the Cherokee Indian Reservation, this route allows you to sneak a peek at the North Carolina side of the mountains.

Enjoy frequent parking areas along the way, which allow you to pull over and linger at particularly scenic spots.

Blue Ridge Parkway Autumn Linn Cove Viaduct Fall Foliage Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

Best Fall Festivals in the Smoky Mountains

Dollywood's Harvest Festival: 2 day Itinerary Smoky Mountains

Hang up those hiking boots and hang a left at Pigeon Forge to spend a pumpkin-filled day at Dollywood.

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Dollywood Discount Tickets and Coupons

From mid-September through the end of October, immerse yourself in the splendor of the Smokies during Dollywood's famous Harvest Festival. Voted America's #1 Fall Family Event by USA Today readers, this festival is a joyous celebration of the bounty of fall.

Ready for some Ddollywood Smoky Mountain adventures? Hold tight on the dual launch FireChaser Express, marvel at a 40 ft pumpkin tree, or clap along to the tunes of Appalachia. Intrigue your tastebuds with apple and pumpkin treats, and be sure to stay put after dark to catch glowing displays of hundreds of pumpkin icons.

People gathered around the Pumpkin Tree at Harvest Celebration, a tower of jack-o-lanterns a glow in the middle of a courtyard at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USAOktOberfest at Ober Gatlinburg

Yodeling, schnitzel, and Bavarian beer, oh my! Ober Gatlinburg's 13th annual Oktoberfest pays homage to those German roots. Swear you've been transported to a Munich beer hall when you take part in the folk dances, music, and food of this epic event. Dust off that lederhosen, and get ready to raise a stein from mid-September through the end of October.

Feast on authentic delicacies such as bratwurst, strudel, sauerkraut, and salted pretzels before heading to the Outdoor Biergarten. Post imbibing, be sure to ride the Aerial Tramway and soak in the perfectly pigmented fall landscape. 

oktoberfest at ober gatlinburg tennessee

Photo Credit: OktOberfest at Ober Gatlinburg / Facebook

Rushing waterfalls, plenty of Appalachian charm, and picturesque lookouts are trademarks of any Smoky Mountain getaway.

However, come Autumn, the natural delights of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in the fall are put on full display.

As Dolly said, fall in the Smoky Mountains truly represents 'God's coloring book.' 

Immerse yourself in the wonder of the changing leaves when you take on the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Gregory Bald hike.

Feast on bratwurst, beer, and pretzels, or keep things sweet with a decadent pumpkin fritter or slice of pie.

From adventures in the National Park to traditional Oktoberfest Festivals, the Harvest season is overflowing with activities, attractions, and allure.

So, what are you waiting for? Visit the Smokies today!

Did We Miss Any of the Best Fall Smoky Mountain Activities? 

We want to know the best things to do in Gatlinburg in the fall


isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America and her love o ...

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