Best Places to see Fall Leaves in the Smoky Mountains

Best Places to see Fall Leaves in the Smoky Mountains

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

The Great Smoky Mountains are where to come to see the most magnificent displays of autumn leaves in the nation!
Here’s a handy list of the top spots to view the fall colors in Gatlinburg and the Smokies:

For you hikers:

It’s hard to beat hiking in the national park if you want close views of the awesome fall foliage ! With over 800 miles of beautiful trails in the Smokies, you’re sure to find the right hike for your yourself or a group.
Here are some of the best autumn hikes:
•    Mt. LeConte (late September)
•    Andrews Bald (late September)
•    Sugarland Mountain Trail (early – mid October)
•    Spence Field (early – mid October)
•    Little River Trail (mid – late October)
•    Porters Creek Trail (mid – late October)
•    Charlies Bunion  (mid – late October)
•    Abrams Falls (early November)

Scenic Drives

Driving through the national park is one the best ways to see the fall colors without having to spend a lot of money. Here are a few of our favorite places for auto touring during the autumn: Be sure you don’t forget your camera.
•    Newfound Gap Road
•    Cades Cove
•    Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
•    Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
•    Foothills Parkway
•    Clingman’s Dome
•    Wears Valley Road
•    Maggie Valley
•    Boone and Blowing Rock
•    Linville Gorge

Newfound Gap Road
There is no questioning Newfound Gap Road’s popularity for viewing leaves in the fall. You will love driving along this scenic road and pulling over at the many overlooks to take in majestic views of the mountains. During your drive, be sure to stop at the Newfound Gap Overlook and take your picture at Tennessee-North Carolina state line.

Cades Cove
Cades Cove is hands down one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An area that is known for its beauty year round, it is especially beautiful at Autumn time.  If you want to capture the true majestic beauty of the leaves in the Smoky Mountains, you should plan to drive through the Cove when the leaves are at their peak.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
While lots of folks will visit Cades Cove, in the Fall, a less visited but just as awesome auto tour is the Roaring Fork Nature Trail.  You’ll see cabins and homesteads surrounded in Fall color, and you make a few stops to see awesome fall beauty. There’s a self-guided nature walk, and a short 2.6-mile hike to Grotto Falls.

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
When you’re driving along the Gatlinburg Bypass, be sure to pull over and stop at the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook. From this vantage point you will be able to see the fall leaves in both downtown Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The contrast in elevation between the city and Mt. LeConte makes this view totally unique.

Foothills Parkway
Avoiding massive crowds and vehicle congestion can be a challenge when you want to view the Smoky Mountains fall foliage.  But you just may be able to accomplish that elusive goal if you take this less-traveled, partially finished road that you can enter from two sections, either from Cosby in the east or Walland in the west.  You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful drive abundant in autumn colors but without the endless line of cars.

Clingmans Dome
The highest point in the National Park also affords a fantastic panoramic view of the entire Smokies landscape.  With an elevation of 6,643 feet, colors will likely surround you if you come in mid to late September.  The road to its observation tower will also tempt you to stop countless times to stand in awe and take pictures, but make sure you do actually go all the way to the top.

Wears Valley Road
This area is best-known for its rolling mountain views and quiet atmosphere. It’s a peaceful mountain hideaway located between Pigeon Forge and Townsend. The Wears Valley area of the Smoky Mountains is a great place for families to go leaf looking and a relaxing retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Blue Ridge Parkway
If you’re willing to go road tripping east to North Carolina, you should drive this famed stretch of highway.  As with anywhere in the Smokies, the higher elevations show off their color early, then roll down to the lower as fall progresses.  Try to stop at a few trails on the Parkway and get an even closer look at the colors, especially Graveyard Fields Loop or Max Patch. You will have plenty of photo opportunities as there are lots of stop off areas along the way
to take advantage of.

Maggie Valley
While the mountains in and around Maggie Valley are beautiful year round, there is just something magical about the cool crisp air, the smell of the leaves, combined with the beautiful red, oranges, and yellows of trees as they turn color in October. Maggie Valley NC features some of the most beautiful Fall colors you’ll see anywhere in the world.   It is adjacent to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Boone and Blowing Rock
One of the most popular tourist destinations in North Carolina is Boone and Blowing Rock.  Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone and Blowing rock offer spectacular views of the Autumn leaves and is the home to the Tweetsie Railroad, Appalachian State University, and home to the most popular skiing location in North Carolina, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort.

Linville Gorge
Linville Gorge is one of the more amazing and beautiful areas of North Carolina.  Especially spectacular in the Fall, it is often called “The Grand Canyon of North Carolina.” The Linville Gorge Wilderness comprises of 11,786 acres.  The Linville river is 1400 feet below the upper ridge, and gorge towers over the river for 12 miles.  Linville Gorge is a popular location for serious hikers, camping and rock climbing.


Anakeesta is a magical outdoor adventure for everyone in the family to enjoy. It provides spectacular views all year long, but is even more beautiful in the fall. You will love trying the Dual Zipline Adventure, which allows you to soar through the trees beside the person of your choice, and the Tree Canopy Walk, which will put you right in the middle of all the gorgeous colors of fall.

Great Smoky Mountain Wheel

Located at The Island in Pigeon Forge, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel takes guests on a rotating aerial tour of the Parkway. From the top, riders can see the scenic leaves change for miles around. There is an added bonus to guests who decide to ride the wheel both during the day and at night because when the sun goes down the wheel is known to put on a spectacular LED light show.

Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway
The Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway takes guests from The Strip all the way up to the Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park. In addition to providing a convenient way to get to Ober, this cable car offers breathtaking views of the fall colors in the mountains. From mid-September throughout the month of October, the amusement park hosts a fun OktOBERfest celebration, so a visit to Ober should definitely be on your to-do list this autumn.

Scenic Helicopter Rides
A scenic helicopter flight high above the Great Smoky Mountains is an awesome and fun way to take in the spectacular views of the leaves. Bring your camera to capture memories of a lifetime as you fly over the deep valleys and high mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Biltmore Estates
If you’ve never seen the grand Biltmore Estate, fall is the perfect time to visit.  The house is simply gorgeous surrounded by vibrant fall colors and the scenic views from Biltmore house are beautiful.  While you’re there, stop off at the Biltmore Winery for a sample of some wonderful tasting wines.

Gatlinburg Space Needle
The tallest attraction in downtown Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Space Needle is a great place for visitors to go who want to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountain fall colors, but also want to remain in the heart of the action. Whether you use the free view finders or just your naked eye, you will enjoy stunning vistas of the fall foliage.

Gatlinburg Sky Lift
This fun chairlift ride leaves from downtown Gatlinburg and takes guests up 1,800 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain. The mountain’s summit has a great observation tower with binoculars where you can admire the fall colors and enjoy snacks and drinks from the Gatlinburg Sky Lift gift shop.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR), located in Bryson City, NC offers a fun and unique way of enjoying the Fall colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The railroad offers several different “excursions” which wind along side rivers, mountains and over bridges.   The GSMR also offers a number of “special” trains like the Peanut’s Pumpkin Patch Express, Halloween Dinner Train, and at Christmas, the Polar Express.
While you’re in Bryson City NC, there is also plenty to do, including visiting Deep Creek, where the fall colors should really provide some excellent photo opportunities.

Click here to View our Album and a collection of
spectacular pictures of the Smoky Mountains in the Fall.

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