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The 5 Best Places to See Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains

Best Places to see Fall Colors Smoky Mountains - Photo by ukanda on Flickr

Mother Nature’s vivid showcase of fall foliage color always provides a treat for those lucky enough to see them.  It happens in select areas of the country, namely New England and the Rockies, but also right here in the Smoky Mountains.

Our guests who plan on a stay during this time always want to know where are the best places to see the incredible spectrum of gold, crimson, amber and red leaves that blanket the mountains and hills.

Birch, hobblebush, beech and maple trees are most prevalent here, which is why you get the autumn spectacular.  Perhaps the more important factor to a successful fall colors trip depends on when you decide to visit the Gatlinburg TN or Asheville area.

The colors will first appear in mid to late September, but only at the highest elevations (more than 4,000 feet).  Gradually as the fall season passes along, they will spread down the hillsides like a wave, reaching peak beauty in mid-October to early November.  After that, the leaves start to drop and the colors will begin disappearing.  So plan your Smokies getaway accordingly.

But no matter what time you come to eastern Tennessee or western North Carolina to see this proud display of Mother Nature, you’ll need to find those places where you can take the best pictures, enjoy a delicious picnic in the cool mountain air or just simply stand in awe at the sights before you.  Here are five areas that will definitely make you take notice, and the “wow” factor is practically guaranteed.

Newfound Gap Road

The elevation at this lowest pass through the Smoky Mountains is nearly at a mile high, which means this spot is one of the first places that fall colors appear.  You’ll notice both cooler temperatures and dramatic changes in ecosystems as you ascend 3,000 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina.  Because of the incredible foliage palette that you’ll gaze in wonder here, be sure to get out on the road early to avoid as much traffic as possible.

Blue Ridge Parkway

If you’re willing to go road tripping east to North Carolina, then consider driving this famed stretch of highway.  The proliferation of sugar maples along the way ensures that you will have plenty of photo opportunities.  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.

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.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Many people will head to Cades Cove, one of the Park’s most visited spots, and if you have the time and the patience to brave the crowds, go for it.  But on Roaring Fork, you can take this suggested route and make a few stops to see unbeatable scenic fall beauty, including the self-guided nature walk, the namesake creek a short 2.6-mile hike to Grotto Falls.  Bonus: the road only has enough room for cars and not larger vehicles such as motorhomes and buses.

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.  Be sure to dress in layers, as the temperatures change significantly

Do you have a favorite place to view the dramatic fall colors?

Photo by ukanda on Flickr.

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