Fall Leaves in the Smoky Mountains!

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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 Clingman’s Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway (right), or the Foothills Parkway. Support 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!Chipmunk Haven– This is a cute, private log cabin with a view, a rare find! Chipmunk Haven has 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, an outdoor hot tub, an indoor whirlpool tub, and is located just 3 miles from the downtown Parkway in Gatlinburg.
  • At Trail’s End– This luxurious cabin is located in a peaceful setting off the beaten path
  • 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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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.

GATLINBURG: Wildflowers by Foot or Car

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Plan your Wildflower Smokies Vacation!The Great Smoky Mountains are renowned for the huge diversity of wildflowers.  More than 1,400 species grow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Of all the areas north of the tropics, only China rivals the southern Appalachian Mountains for plant diversity.  Why so many varied wildflowers?  Would you believe that glaciers are part of the reason behind the variety?

Wildflowers are present year 'round in the Smokies!During the last ice age, much of North America was scoured by glaciers, and the Great Smoky Mountains became a refuge for many species of northern plants and animals that were disrupted from their homes.  In addition, the Great Smoky Mountains offers a range in elevation from 875 to 6,643 feet which mimics the same changes you would experience driving from Georgia to Maine!

Visit the Great Smoky Mountains!The Park hosts approximately 100 species of plants that are restricted to a single region of the park.  Many of these species are only found in the southern Appalachian Mountains, but some like Rugel’s ragwort have been documented only inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Think wildflowers only bloom in the Spring? Here are the wildflowers you can expect to see in the Great Smoky Mountain year ’round:

Witch Hazel1. January. Witch hazel‘s bright yellow flowers (pictured right) are usually still lingering from the previous year’s bloom.

2. February. Spicebush blooms.  Trailing arbutus, daffodils, and periwinkle may bloom late in the month if the weather is mild.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit courtesy of 10000birds.com3. March. Mild weather will see the blooming of sharp-lobed hepatica, bloodroot, spring-beauty, trout-lily, early meadowrue, and Jack-in-the-pulpit (pictured left).

Large-flowered bellwort courtesy of psu.edu4. April.  Spring woodland wildflowers usually reach their peak of bloom around mid-April.  The park’s annual wildflower pilgrimage is held during the last full week of the month.  Call (865) 436-7318 for information. Species in bloom include: fringed phacelia, purple phacelia, white trillium, Dutchman’s britches, squirrel corn, wild geranium, yellow trillium, fire pink, violets, cut-leaved toothwort, large-flowered bellwort (pictured right), crested dwarf iris, wild ginger, wood anemone, little brown jugs, and the yellow mandarin.

Bleeding Heart5. May.  Species in bloom in May include: may-apple, painted trillium, foamflower, brook lettuce, bleeding heart (pictured left), lady’s slippers, showy orchids, blue cohosh, columbine, wake robin, blue phlox, purple phacelia, wood betony, meadow-parsnip and umbrella leaf.

Bring the whole family to see the Indian Pink!6. June. Species in bloom in June include: galax, fly poison, speckled wood lily, goat’s beard, wood sorrel, yellow star grass, sundrops, squawroot, mountain spiderwort, rattlesnake hawkweed, Indian pink (pictured right), woodland bluets, false hellebore and Canada mayflower.

Michaux's saxifage by will cook at carolinanature.com7. July.  Species in July in bloom include:  Indian pipe, downy rattlesnake-plantain, wood tickseed, Michaux’s saxifrage, ramps, mountain mint, butterfly weed, Rugel’s ragwort, small purple-fringed orchid, thyme-leaved bluets and heal-all.

Turk's cap lily courtesy of ohio-nature.com8. August. Species in bloom in August include: whorled wood aster, mountain bugbane, cardinal flower, Turk’s cap lily, mountain St. John’s wort, filmy angelica, monk’s hood, cranefly orchid, mountain krigia, starry campion, sweet Joe-Pyeweed.

NY ironweed 250x vert9. September. Species in bloom in September include: pink turtlehead, New York ironweed (pictured left), jewelweed, yellow-fringed orchid, black-eyed susan, Canada goldenrod, skunk goldenrod and love-vine.

Bee Balm10. October. Species in bloom in October include: white wood aster, bee balm (pictured right), Maryland golden aster, wide-leaved sunflower, coneflower, heart-leaved aster, stoneroot and mountain gentian.

11. November. In November, nodding lady’s tresses, tall rattlesnake root and southern harebell (pictured below left) linger in bloom until the first frost.

Southern Harebell12. December. Witch hazel blooms bright yellow flowers in December which linger through January.

View the Wildflowers from your Car!

Want to view wildflowers from your car?  Try these…

Little River Road. This 17 mile route runs between Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Townsend “Y” near the Townsend entrance to the Park.  the best viewing is in late march through April.

Clingmans Dome. This 7-mile route runs from Newfound Gap to near the summit of Clingmans Dome.  The best viewing is in late April through the end of August.

Balsam Mountain & Heintooga Ridge Roads. These scenic high-elevation roads are off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The best viewing is during Summer.

Click here for Easy Summer Hikes!

Want to take a walk or hike to see wildflowers? TryDeep Creek Trail, Kanati Fork Trail, Little River Trail, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Porters Creek Trail or Chestnut Top Trail. Click here to view a video of Porter’s Creek Trail.

Trillium Flowers courtesy of nps.gov/grsmWildflowers in the Smokies face a number of human-instigated threats including off-trail hiking and poaching.  Plant poaching appears to be on the rise in the Smokies.  Some commercial poachers remove hundreds of plants each trip and make several trips annually.  In recent years, groups of poachers have been apprehended with well over 1,000 American ginseng roots.

Aside from ginseng, the most popular targets are orchids and trilliums (pictured left).  Overzealous gardeners take a serious toll by removing showy wildflowers for transplanting back home and careless hikers trample delicate wildflowers when they leave established trails.

If you observe people digging plants in the Park, report the activity to the nearest ranger station or call (865)436-1230.

ERA In The SmokiesThis 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.