GATLINBURG: Fall Changing of the Leaves–Coming Soon to a Park near You!

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Hobblebush photo courtesy of Harvard ForestWhy are fall colors so remarkable in the Smokies? One reason is the area’s amazing diversity of trees. Some 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies and the vast majority of these are deciduous.

How do colors change? As summer ends, the green pigments in leaves deteriorate, giving other colors a chance to shine. Carotenoids, the pigment that makes carrots orange and leaves yellow, are exposed as the green fades. Reds and purples come from anthocyanins, a pigment that is formed when sugars in leaves break down in bright autumn sunlight.

Bring the family to see the leaves change!The Great Smoky Mountains National Park usually experiences an autumn leaf season of several weeks as fall colors travel down the mountainsides from high elevation to low. However, the timing of fall color change depends upon so many variables (including rainfall) that the exact dates of peak fall foliage color each year are impossible to predict in advance.

Elevation profoundly affects when fall colors change in the park. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway!At higher elevations, where the climate is similar to New England’s, leaves begin to change as early as mid-September with the turning of yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush (above right) & pin cherry.

From early to mid-October, fall colors develop above 4,000 feet. To enjoy them, drive the Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway (right), or the Foothills ParkwaySupport the Park, buy the Cades Cove Story!The fall color display usually reaches peak at mid and lower elevations between mid-October and early November. This is the park’s most spectacular display as it includes such colorful trees as sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and the hickories.

Autumn is both a beautiful and a busy time in the Great Smoky Mountains. The annual show of fall colors attracts huge numbers of sightseers, especially during the last three weeks of October. Areas in the park which experience the longest traffic delays are Cades Cove (see book pictured left) & Newfound Gap Road. Try some of these less crowded autumn hikes & drives:

  • Check for current discounts!Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a narrow, steep, but paved one-way road that winds through rich forests and offers glimpses of rollicking Roaring Fork creek. As the name implies, this road is designed for leisurely travel and enjoyment of nature.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway follows the crest of the mountains for 469 miles, all the way to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Frequent auto pullouts along the first few miles provide spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains in all their autumn finery.
  • Balsam Mountain Road offers intimate views of northern hardwood forest at the top, transitioning to cove and southern hardwoods toward the bottom. The road eventually leaves the park and enters the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

There are no rental cabins located within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park; however, take a look at some of these cabins with phenomenal views:

  • Stay a week or Stay a lifetime!Longview is a private, 2 bedroom, 2 bath log cabin with stunning mountain views!  Longview is well-decorated, has  satellite TV with DVD & a pool table.  Longview is located close to downtown Gatlinburg,Pigeon Forge & the National Park.
  • Mountain Overlook – Enjoy the unforgettable mountain views while relaxing in the hot tub.  This 2 bedroom, 1 bath log cabin is only minutes from downtown Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge!
  • A Nice Catch – This new 1 bedroom log cabin is close to downtown Gatlinburg, sleeps up to 5, and has cathedral ceilings, a wooden spiral staircase, and a game room. Lots of glass and decking make this cabin perfect for enjoying the mountain view!
  • Almost Heaven – This 2 bedroom, 2 bath cabin is located minutes from the National Park. You can enjoy the fall color from your hot tub or porch –no hiking necessary.
  • Winfield Heights – From a spa-like couples getaway to a family-fun vacation, the cabins of Winfield Heights offer you and yours deluxe accommodations and amenities–in-room whirlpools, outdoor hot tubs, pool tables & fireplaces.  Enjoy both a mountain view AND a downtown city view!

ERA In The SmokiesSpecial thanks to the Smokies Guide, the official newspaper of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as www.nps.gov/grsm for providing the fall color update information.

This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg.  For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277.  ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

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11 thoughts on “GATLINBURG: Fall Changing of the Leaves–Coming Soon to a Park near You!

  1. Pingback: GATLINBURG: Fall Changing of the Leaves–Coming Soon to a Park near …

  2. My favorite time of the year – something my 91-year old mother-in-law from El Paso, TX said God let her stay here so she could come here and enjoy the colors! This will be her 3rd fall with us and she hasn’t tired of it yet. We’ve made a hillbilly out of her!

  3. The photography here is beautiful, I have never been the Smoky Mountains before but I am a regular traveller to the states so I will definetely go soon.

    Cheers Sarah

  4. Pingback: GATLINBURG: Things to Do in Fall–Autumn Activities « A Day In The Smokies: A Smoky Mountain Travel Blog

  5. We have been going to the Smokies for about thirteen years. We have done some traveling and this is my favorite spot to visit. One day I hope to own a home there on one of the mountains. I love it there. Be sure to visit Cades Cove when you go.

  6. Pingback: Fall Fun!- Autumn Activities! « A Day In The Smokies: A Smoky Mountain Travel Blog

    • Hello there! Thanks so much for your comment! If you are planning to come on Oct. 18, you will likely be here at the very best time for the leaves! It’s difficult to nail down ahead of time when the color will be at its peak, but it is usually sometime from mid-October to early November! I hope this answers your question, and feel free to contact us if there’s anything else we can do for you!

  7. Pingback: Fall is Here! « A Day In The Smokies: A Smoky Mountain Travel Blog

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