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Full Information to Visiting the Nice Smoky Mountains within the Fall – Bearfoot Principle


Spanning over 500,000 acres in jap Tennessee and western North Carolina, Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park is a mecca for fall foliage. Attracting guests from all around the world, visiting the Smoky Mountains within the fall whereas the timber glow in shades of crimson, orange, and yellow is actually a bucket-list expertise.

With over 100 totally different species of timber, a temperate local weather, and forest overlaying 95% of the park’s land, there could also be no higher place to see vibrant fall colours than the Smoky Mountains.

On this put up, we’ll enable you to plan the right Smoky Mountains fall journey, together with one of the best hikes and issues to do to expertise the autumn colours at their peak!

Necessary Reminder: Because it goes in all the locations we share, please apply good path etiquette and bear in mind to Depart No Hint. This implies packing out all your rubbish (together with bathroom paper), being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established guidelines.

All images courtesy of Sarah Vaughan & Matthew Cafarella

Why Go to the Smoky Mountains in Fall?

Whereas the Smoky Mountains are stunning any time of yr, the rolling mountains are notably beautiful in autumn when the ridges and mountaintops are blanketed in vibrant shades of yellow, orange, crimson, and inexperienced. Temperatures within the fall are additionally reasonable and rainfall is minimal, making it the right time to benefit from the pure great thing about the Smokies, whether or not it’s climbing, tenting, backpacking, fishing, or touring the scenic drives.

Whereas we could also be biased, we expect the Smoky Mountains are fairly probably one of many greatest nationwide parks to go to within the fall!

Landscape view of Smoky Mountains National Park with fall foliage
View spectacular fall foliage colours once you go to Smoky Mountain Nationwide Park within the fall

FAQs about Visiting the Smokey Mountains within the Fall

When is peak fall foliage within the Smoky Mountains?

Because it goes with fall foliage in most areas, it’s virtually inconceivable to foretell exactly when the Smoky Mountains’ fall colours will attain their peak, because it varies from yr to yr. On common, the fall foliage season within the Smoky Mountains begins in mid-September and ends in early November, with the height occurring round mid-October. Temperature and moisture ranges are the primary elements that influence when peak fall foliage will happen. Heat climate will sometimes delay the onset of fall, whereas colder temperatures will speed up it.

Sadly, you’ll have to have your journey deliberate nicely earlier than you understand for certain when peak fall colours will happen. Nevertheless, the excellent news is that the Nice Smoky Mountains embody a variety of elevations, from 875 ft on the base of the mountains all the best way as much as 6,643 ft on the highest level, Clingman’s Dome. Which means the autumn colours within the Smoky Mountains are on show for a number of months, with leaves at larger elevations peaking first after which slowly transferring down in the direction of decrease elevations. For those who go to early within the season, you may have to work a little bit more durable to succeed in the colourful colours at larger elevations.

Tip: Use this fall foliage map to get an thought of how fall colours within the Smoky Mountains sometimes fluctuate from September by November.

What makes the colours so vivid within the Smoky Mountains?

One motive that fall is so spectacular within the Smoky Mountains is the extensive variety of timber within the park, together with over 100 totally different species. Essentially the most stunning fall foliage is often discovered at decrease elevations, house to a number of timber that normally flip essentially the most vibrant colours, together with the sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, crimson maple, and hickory.

Moreover, over 36% of the Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park is roofed in old-growth forests, which implies the timber are a whole bunch of years previous. What does this imply for fall foliage? These historical timber and their leaves are monumental, which makes strolling by an old-growth forest within the fall a very magical deal with!

Lastly, one of many key elements influencing the vibrance of fall foliage is moisture. Extra moisture tends to provide extra vibrant colours. Within the Smoky Mountains, there isn’t any scarcity of moisture, as precipitation is ample. In actual fact, the Smoky Mountains expertise the second most rainfall anyplace within the US (the Pacific Northwest takes the highest spot!), averaging 55 to 85 inches of rainfall per yr.

Tip: For one of the vital beautiful Previous Progress forests within the Smoky Mountains, take a look at the hike to Ramsey Cascades.

Lush forest trail in Smoky Mountains National Park with fall foliage
Hike amongst old-growth timber on the Ramsey Cascade path

What are the drawbacks to visiting the Smoky Mountains within the fall?

Whereas the gorgeous foliage and preferrred climate circumstances make fall a good time to go to the Smoky Mountains, be ready to share the views. The Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park is essentially the most visited nationwide park in the USA, receiving over 12 million guests per yr. Fall is likely one of the hottest instances to go to the park, as guests flock to the world to expertise the beautiful Smoky Mountains’ fall colours.

Visiting throughout early November is one technique to expertise fall foliage within the Smoky Mountains with fewer crowds. By this time, the upper elevations have handed their peak, however the decrease elevations are more likely to nonetheless placed on a present.

Smoky Mountains Fall Climate

Fall climate within the Smoky Mountains is pretty delicate with heat days and funky nights. Throughout early fall, daytime temperatures common within the mid-70s, whereas nighttime temperatures sometimes drop into the 50s and higher 40s. By early November, daytime temperatures common across the mid-50s, with nighttime lows typically dropping beneath freezing.

September by November is the driest season within the Smoky Mountains, one other nice motive to go to through the fall! Occasional rain showers are nonetheless potential, and at larger elevations, snow isn’t unusual by November.

6 Greatest Smoky Mountains Hikes for Fall Colours

Getting out on the paths is likely one of the greatest methods to expertise the Smoky Mountains fall foliage! Beneath, we’ll element a number of superior hikes for one of the best foliage-viewing, together with the best time of yr for every (remember that this may fluctuate yr to yr!).

1. Clingman’s Dome

  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation Acquire: 300 ft
  • Issue: Average
  • Peak Elevation: 6,643 ft
  • Greatest month for fall foliage: September

Clingman’s Dome is a round viewing platform situated on the tallest level within the Smoky Mountains, with placing views in each course. Regardless of its excessive elevation, Clingman’s Dome is definitely accessible by way of a half-mile paved (however steep) path. For an extended hike, you may first descend to Andrews Bald from the parking space after which proceed as much as Clingman’s Dome, for a 4.5-mile spherical journey hike.

Clingman’s Dome sits at an elevation of 6,643 ft, which means the leaves start to vary right here first. For one of the best fall colours, we’d advocate visiting Clingman’s Dome in September, though it’s actually nonetheless stunning even after the leaves have fallen.

Clingman's Dome fall foliage in Smoky Mountains National Park
Clingman’s Dome affords a number of the greatest views in Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park

2. Mount LeConte

  • Distance: 11 miles
  • Elevation Acquire: 2,900 ft
  • Issue: Exhausting
  • Peak Elevation: 6,593 ft
  • Greatest month for fall foliage: September

Mount LeConte is the third tallest peak within the Smokies and the summit options beautiful views of the rolling mountains beneath. Reaching the summit is not any straightforward feat, nonetheless, because the path good points practically 3,000 ft over the course of 5.5 miles (11 miles roundtrip). These keen to place within the effort will likely be rewarded with stunning fall colours as you meander alongside a babbling stream, below a rock arch, and thru a cave in your technique to the summit.

As a consequence of its larger elevation, you may catch fall colours earlier within the season whereas climbing to Mount LeConte. For one of the best fall colours, we’d say September might be one of the best time to go.

Landscape views of mountain ranges in Smoky Mountains National Park from the summit of Mount LeConte
It’s a difficult hike as much as the highest of Mount LeConte, however the views are value it!

3. Charlies Bunion

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation Acquire: 1,800 ft
  • Issue: Average
  • Peak Elevation: 5,528 ft
  • Greatest month for fall foliage: September to early October

Regardless of its unappealing identify, Charlies Bunion is a stunning rock outcropping with unimpeded Smoky Mountain views in each course. Clocking in at 8 miles whole distance with 1,800 ft of elevation acquire, the hike to succeed in Charlies Bunion is reasonably difficult.

Reaching an elevation of 5,528 ft above sea stage, Charlies Bunion is a bit decrease than Mount LeConte however nonetheless pretty excessive for the world. Given its elevation, one of the best time to hike Charlies Bunion for fall foliage is often late September to early October.

View of mountain ranges in Smoky Mountains National Park framed by two tree limbs
The views from Charlies Bunion rival these of Mount LeConte with a much less strenuous climb to the highest

4. Mount Cammerer

  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Elevation Acquire: 3,200 ft
  • Issue: Exhausting
  • Peak Elevation: 4,928 ft
  • Greatest month for fall foliage: mid to late October

Mount Cammerer is situated nearer to Cosby, TN (and away from the central hub of Gatlinburg, TN), a much less well-liked space of the park that sometimes sees fewer crowds. The summit of Mount Cammerer options sweeping 360-degree views from an previous lookout tower and is considered one of my private favourite hikes within the park.

Whereas some could also be intimidated by a 12-mile trek with 3,200 ft of elevation acquire, don’t neglect that the colourful fall colours will distract you from the pressure in your legs as you climb up! Situated on the northeastern aspect of the park, the summit sits at a barely decrease elevation and peak foliage is often someday in mid to late October.

Fall foliage from Mount Cammerer in Smoky Mountains National Park
The summit of Mount Cammerer options sweeping 360-degree views from an previous lookout tower

5. Ramsey Cascades

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation Acquire: 2,225 ft
  • Issue: Exhausting
  • Peak Elevation: 4,290 ft
  • Greatest month for fall foliage: late October to early November

Do you know that there are over 100 waterfalls within the Smoky Mountains? Cascading 100 ft over a pile of large boulders, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest, and most opulent, waterfall within the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. And whereas the waterfall itself is beautiful, the path to succeed in it could be much more scenic, because it winds by an unlimited old-growth forest containing a number of the largest timber you’ve ever seen, good for fall foliage!

When it comes to elevation, the hike begins round 2,000 ft above sea stage and ends at Ramsey Cascades, which sits at 4,200 ft, making it an awesome hike for later within the fall, from October by early November.

6. Deep Creek Loop

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Elevation Acquire: 800 ft
  • Issue: Straightforward to reasonable
  • Peak Elevation: 1,800 ft
  • Greatest month for fall foliage: early November

Situated on the North Carolina aspect of the park, the Deep Creek Loop sits at a decrease elevation (round 1,800 ft), making it a really perfect hike for early November to see one of the best fall colours. The Deep Creek Loop options 3 waterfalls (Tom Department Falls, Juney Whank Falls, and Indian Creek Falls) and boasts a number of the most colourful foliage within the park.

The total Deep Creek Loop is 5 miles lengthy, however you may shorten it to 2.4 miles by taking a shortcut, which cuts out Indian Creek Falls.

Small cascading waterfall in Smoky Mountains National Park surrounding by changing fall leaves
Get pleasure from three cascading waterfalls on the 5-mile Deep Creek Loop

Extra Issues to Do within the Smoky Mountains in Fall

Apart from the hikes listed above, there are many different methods to expertise fall foliage within the Smoky Mountains. Beneath, we’ve outlined a number of extra of our favourite issues to do within the Smoky Mountains within the fall.

Drive the Cades Cove Scenic Loop

The 11-mile Cades Cove Scenic Loop is likely one of the greatest methods to see fall foliage within the Smoky Mountains in case you aren’t up for one of many hikes listed above (or want a relaxation day!). The highway loops by an open meadow, passing a number of historic buildings, and affords the chance to get pleasure from stunning fall colours from the consolation of your automotive!

There are a number of pull-offs and parking areas alongside the best way, which make for the right spot to cease and have a picnic. Wildlife sightings, together with deer, black bears, turkeys, and coyotes are usually not unusual alongside the best way.

Though the Cades Cove Loop is simply 11-miles, you must count on the complete drive to take about 2 hours resulting from slow-moving site visitors. Cades Cove is situated close to Townsend, Tennessee at an elevation of three,380 ft, making it an awesome spot to go to throughout mid to late fall (October by November) within the Smoky Mountains.

Tip: On Wednesdays, the Cades Cove Scenic Loop is closed to car site visitors. This can be a nice time to discover the world by bike!

View of fall foliage in Smoky Mountains from car window with line of cars showing in side mirror
Driving the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop is an effective way to absorb the autumn foliage in Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park

Drive Scenic Newfound Hole Highway

Newfound Hole Highway, also referred to as Freeway 441, traverses 30 miles by the Smoky Mountains, from Cherokee, North Carolina to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The highway consists of a number of the greatest viewpoints within the Smoky Mountains for fall foliage, together with:

Along with unbelievable viewpoints, the trailheads for a number of of one of the best hikes within the park are situated off Newfound Hole Highway, together with Mount LeConte, Charlies Bunion, and Clingman’s Dome.

The drive covers a variety of elevation so it’s troublesome to say when, precisely, is one of the best time to see fall foliage, however given the change in elevation, you’re certain to see some colours virtually anytime all through the autumn.

View of Chimney Tops rock spire in Smoky Mountain National Park
View of Chimney Tops from Newfound Hole Highway

Go Fishing

Over 2,900 miles of streams circulation by the Smoky Mountains, about 20% of that are house to brown, rainbow, and brook trout, making it a first-rate fishing spot. In actual fact, the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park is likely one of the final remaining habitats for wild trout on the East Coast! Sitting on the banks of a stream beneath a cover of yellow leaves with a fishing rod in hand seems like an effective way to expertise fall within the Smoky Mountains.

A North Carolina or Tennessee fishing license is required to fish within the Smoky Mountains. You may discover extra particulars about fishing within the Smoky Mountains right here.

Scenic view of river stream in Smoky Mountains National Park with fall colors
Smoky Mountains has no scarcity of nice fishing streams

Go on a Backpacking Journey

If you wish to escape the inevitable crowds all through the park, we advocate you load up your pack and hit the path for an in a single day backpacking journey. A couple of well-liked backpacking journeys embody the Mount Cammerer and Mount Sterling Loop (29 miles), Spence Discipline Loop (12.5 miles), Mount LeConte (11 miles), and the Charlies Bunion – Kephart Loop (16.8 miles).

Along with leaving a number of the crowds behind, spending the evening sleeping within the backcountry below the celebs provides you the chance to expertise fall colours throughout sundown and dawn, a troublesome activity in case you aren’t spending the evening within the woods.

Permits are required for backpacking and reservations might be made prematurely on-line. For extra particulars about backpacking within the Smoky Mountains and to plan your journey, see the NPS web site.

Landscape views of fall foliage in Smoky Mountains National Park
Mount Cammerer is a well-liked backpacking jump-off level

The place to Keep within the Smoky Mountains

Tenting within the Smoky Mountains

We imagine that tenting is one of the best ways to get essentially the most out of your time within the Smoky Mountains, as you may be sleeping throughout the park’s boundaries, making early morning drives to trailheads considerably shorter. Fortunately, there are a complete of 10 campgrounds all through the park. Advance reservations are usually not required however are strongly beneficial as websites are in excessive demand and are sometimes reserved nicely prematurely.

Cades Cove and Smokemont campgrounds are open year-round, whereas the remaining campgrounds are open seasonally and sometimes shut for the yr between late October and late November. If planning a visit later within the fall, be sure you take note of the deadlines for every of the campgrounds.

Learn extra about campgrounds within the Smoky Mountains right here.

Tent set up at campground in Smoky Mountains National Park with colorful fall leaves covering the ground
Smoky Mountains has 10 scenic campgrounds all through the Nationwide Park

Smoky Mountains Accommodations & Lodging

As a result of Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park is so giant, one of the best place to remain is dependent upon which hikes and points of interest within the park you have an interest in doing.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the most well-liked alternative, situated simply exterior of the Smokemount Customer Heart and the park’s important entrance. Alternatively, Cherokee, North Carolina is conveniently situated 10 minutes from the Oconaluftee Customer Heart, and Townsend, Tennessee is situated close to Cades Cove. All three of those cities supply a spread of lodges, motels, Airbnbs, and cabins.

Cosby, Tennessee is the closest city to the northeastern part of the park, which incorporates the Mount Cammerer hike, however there isn’t a lot within the space, particularly by way of lodging choices.

Extra Suggestions for Planning Your Smoky Mountains Fall Journey

  • There may be no cell service in most areas of the Smoky Mountains. Obtain maps and instructions utilizing considered one of your favourite climbing apps earlier than you head into the park.
  • Not like most U.S. Nationwide Parks, entrance to the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park is totally free!
  • As a consequence of heavy crowds, parking at lots of the well-liked trailheads within the park fills up shortly. We advocate getting an early begin to keep away from ready for parking spots.
  • The Nice Smoky Mountains are recognized for having an ample black bear inhabitants, and they’re particularly lively within the fall. Carry bear spray whereas climbing and retailer meals in bear-resistant packing containers or within the automotive in case you plan to camp.
  • There are no fuel stations within the park. Bear in mind to gasoline up earlier than you head into the park!
  • Firewood have to be licensed heat-treated or bought contained in the park to stop the unfold of pests that may destroy the forests. Don’t carry exterior firewood with you to the park!
Two deer on colorful leaf-covered road in Smoky Mountain National Park
The park is stuffed with ample wildlife together with white-tailed deer, bears, and over 200 species of birds

What to Pack in your Smoky Mountains Go to

Listed below are a number of assets that can assist you pack in your fall journey to the Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park:

We hope that you simply fall in love with fall within the Smoky Mountains as a lot as we’ve! Questions on planning your journey? Depart us a remark beneath!

Learn how to visit Smoky Mountains National Park for fall foliage views, including the best hikes, scenic viewpoints, where to camp, & more.

Written by
Sarah Vaughan & Matthew Cafarella

We’re Sarah and Matt, two digital nomads, out of doors fans, and the creators of Two Outliers, an journey journey and images weblog devoted to serving to you intend your subsequent journey! We highway journey full-time throughout the USA together with our cat, Fitzgerald, whereas working remotely and spending all our free time climbing, tenting, backpacking, kayaking, and exploring new locations. We hope that our experiences will encourage you to be an outlier!




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