Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains: What You Should Expect

It can be difficult to plan a vacation during the fall season because it can be hard to determine when the colors are going to be covering the mountaintops. The fall colors start moving in when the weather begins to cool and the Autumn season begins. The colors will arrive in the upper elevations first because there are cooler temperatures but some years visitors may see the fall colors a little bit earlier than the typical autumn season. Here is what you should expect from the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Early Signs in September

Typically, there is not much color throughout the month of September. The National Park Service normally reports that some trees have turned a dullish red color, but we are still awaiting the bright fall colors everyone wants to see. It’s possible that the last couple of days of September will brighten up with a few more colors in the mountains, but if you’re waiting to see the peak season colors, you should wait until October.

2. Peak Season in October

Fall colors lining a road in the Smoky Mountains

Normally, the colors are at their peak during mid-to-late October, but we have seen the colors turn a little bit earlier. If you visit in early October, we recommend spending some time in the upper elevations. The Clingman’s Dome observation tower is the best place to see the colors in the early season. On a clear day, you can see at least 100 miles into the mountains. Towards mid-to-late October, when the colors start making their way down the mountainside, you will be able to see the colors from all over the area. One of the most beautiful drives during peak fall season is from the mountains from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg. As you get closer to the national park, you will notice the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains start to come alive. The reds, yellows and oranges are so bright, sitting against the beautiful evergreen background.

Fall colors covering the Smoky Mountains3. The Arrival of Winter in November

The fall colors typically stick around for about 6-8 weeks, just depending on the seasonal weather and temperatures. If the weather moves quickly into winter, the fall colors will fade and fall from the trees. By Thanksgiving time, the colors will be disappearing and the colder weather will be slowly approaching the Smokies.

Where to See the Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains

Obviously, anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is where you can find the most fall colors. If you want to see the colors from outside of the national park, try visiting these places like the Gatlinburg Sky Lift, Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, or Dollywood.

We recommend visiting anywhere from mid October to early November to see the best showcase of fall colors in the Smoky Mountains. Still looking for a place to stay during your fall vacation? Check out all of our cabin rentals and start planning your getaway to the Smokies. We look forward to seeing you!