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20 Best Fall Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains

Looking for the BEST fall things to do in the Smoky Mountains? Use our carefully curated list to start planning your Smoky Mountain fall adventures!

The Smoky Mountains are one of the most popular places to visit in the nation, drawing millions of visitors each year. There’s nothing quite like seeing those wonderful mountains and exploring all they have to offer.

Any time is a good time to visit the Smokies, but fall is without a doubt one of the most popular times to enjoy this beautiful destination. Combine the bracing cool of fall days with the picture-perfect backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, and what do you get? A literal feast for the senses and endless fun for all.

Whether you like to take it leisurely and low-key, or like to have a little adrenaline rush with your activities, you’re sure to find it here, you’ll find it in the Smokies. Fall is one of the best times to visit because the weather is just right, the colors are amazing, and there are so many fun events to check out.

Related: ULTIMATE Smoky Mountain Fall Color Guide

The Apple Barn and Cider Mill - Sevierville, Tennessee
The Apple Barn and Cider Mill | photo via @michaelbatts70

Taste the Freshness of Fall at a Local Apple Orchard

Do you love apples and cider and donuts in the fall? If you do, then get to a local apple orchard.

Just down the road from Gatlinburg are three apple orchards that offer everything you want in an orchard experience.

Carver’s Applehouse | Cosby

Carver’s Applehouse offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with plenty of orchard favorites. Grab a basket of apple fritters and pair it with homemade cider during your meal.

After you’re done, browse around their store for jams and preserves as well as distinctly Appalachian items like lye soap, apple candies, and fried apple pies.

Baxter’s Orchard | Cosby

At Baxter’s Orchard, also in Cosby, you can go apple picking to your heart’s content for just about any variety you want. Stock up on granny smiths, golden delicious, red delicious, and more for making caramel apples and apple pies at home.

Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store | Sevierville

The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store in Sevierville is a 1910 barn with over 4,000 apple trees. Apple Barn is well-known for its apple orchards, fresh apple cider, apple fritters, homemade apple butter, sauces, and candies, as well as its Cider Room, Apple Pie Kitchen, Candy Factory, The Creamery, Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, Apple Barn Winery, and The Applewood Farmhouse Grill, which has something for everyone.

Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park - Sevierville, Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park | photo via Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park

Unleash Your Inner Daredevil on a Zipline Adventure

If you’re seeking a thrill this fall in the Smokies, head to Sevierville and Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park. Here you’ll find the highest zipline (nearly 500 feet) in the Smokies, affectionately known as the Goliath.

Here you’ll soar an almost heart-stopping 500 feet above the picturesque mountains and be left breathless and awe-struck as you see the beautiful colors of the Smokies in fall from a whole new point of view.

If you want thrills and speed (you zip at 55 miles an hour), try the Goliath Tour, which lasts two hours and encompasses five zip lines.

If you’re looking for something a little slower-paced, try the Waterfall Canopy Tour. It actually zips over a waterfall and is perfect for families. There are seven different lines and two sky bridges and you only go up about half the height as the Goliath.

Related: Best Zipliness in the Smoky Mountains

Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Fall in Gatlinburg
Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg | photo via @89linz

Have Fun at a Fall Festival in the Smokies

Fall is a great time to visit the Smokies because there’s so much going on. There are lots of fall festivals going on that are fun for the whole family.

  • Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg in September and October is a great place to experience an authentic German Oktoberfest. There’s an outdoor beer garden to enjoy cold brews, live music from an Oompah Band, German-inspired menus, and much more.
  • Dollywood is one of the best theme parks in the Smokies and every fall thousands of visitors attend the Harvest Festival, which begins in late September and lasts throughout October. During the festival, visitors can get tasty fall treats and stroll through the park to see beautiful illuminated sculptures.
  • The Wears Valley Fall Fest in Sevierville occurs in October and offers a weekend-long celebration of community. There’s a car show, live demonstrations, kids’ activities, music, and more than 200 vendors, which means there’s plenty to browse and buy.
  • The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is great if you’re looking for something a little more crafty. It’s held twice a year — once in July and once in October. Bring the family and see awesome demonstrations up close and shop from more than 200 vendors selling their wares.

Related: Smoky Mountain Fall Festivals

Gatlinburg Golf Course - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Gatlinburg Golf Course | photo via Gatlinburg Golf Course

Enjoy a Round of Golf in the Shadow of the Smokies

If you’re a golf enthusiast, take time to play a round in the Smokies. You may have a little trouble concentrating on your game as you take in the magnificent views and brilliant fall colors on several great courses.

  • Gatlinburg Golf Course offers a challenge on every hole, no matter your skill level. The views are something to see too and it’s been named one of the most picturesque courses in the nation.
  • Laurel Valley Golf Course in Townsend offers a great round of golf, challenging greens, and an abundance of wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled during your round.
  • Wild Laurel Golf Course in Townsend is just a short drive from Knoxville and is a public course. As you play alongside bubbling creeks, you may see black bears or deer meandering in their natural habitat.

Related: Best Smoky Mountain Golf Courses

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen | photo via @southerntravelinggal

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

There’s a lot to see and do in the Smokies, but when you’re craving sweets, Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen in two locations in Gatlinburg is the best place to indulge your sweet tooth.

From the moment you open the door, you’ll be in heaven as the sweet smells of taffy, peanut brittle, and other sweets hang in the air.

You can watch from the front window as delicious homemade taffy is made — the store offers almost three dozen flavors — and you can also buy homemade fudge, homemade turtles, caramel apples and so much more.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad - Bryson City, North Carolina - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad | photo via @mountain_forager_cabin

Hitch a Ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

There are many ways to see the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and their spectacular fall colors, but hitching a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is undoubtedly one of the best.

The railroad offers year-round rides and is a great activity for families, offering everything from onboard dining, pre-purchased lunches, bar service, and Southern hospitality.

All routes take off from Bryson City, North Carolina, and visitors can pick one of several routes — either steam-powered or diesel-powered — that take them all over Western Carolina.

If you’re looking for something really unique, adult visitors can opt for the Carolina Moonshine Experience. On board, they’ll get to taste craft moonshine, sip on moonshine-infused cocktails and learn about the story of moonshining in North Carolina.

First time taking a train ride through the great smoky mountains. My husband and I were on the Carolina Shine, first class, car with Steve. We had an amazing experience. Steve was full of knowledge throughout the entire ride. The food and drinks were amazing. Would definitely do it again!

– Danielle C. via TripAdvisor
Downtown Gatlinburg - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - @oksana_co
Downtown Gatlinburg | photo via @oksana_co

Hop Aboard a Trolley in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge

Seven days a week, 365 days a year, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge visitors can hop aboard trolleys to get to their favorite Smoky Mountain destinations. It’s an easy way to get around without the hassle of driving.

The trolleys are easy, affordable, and handicap accessible. Plus, most of them stop at destination spots like Dollywood and the Ripley’s Aquarium. So if you’re in town for the Dollywood Harvest Festival, for example, you can get a lift ride to Dollywood without fighting traffic.

Ramsey Cascades - Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Ramsey Cascades | photo via @woodswanderer88

Plan Your Own Route for an Unforgettable Photography Tour

To say the Smoky Mountains are beautiful in the fall is an understatement. The Smokies are one of the most awe-inspiring places in America during the fall and the perfect place to go on a photography tour.

If you love taking pictures, grab your phone or your camera, and get ready to snap away. You can go anywhere and everywhere and get incredible pictures of colorful trees and scenic mountain views.

  • Mount LeConte is the highest peak in the eastern U.S. and a great spot to get pictures from nearly 7,000 feet up.
  • Cades Cove has an 11-mile loop where you can visit three churches and see wildlife including fox, turkey, deer, and bear.
  • The Ramsey Cascades is the highest waterfall in the Smokies and a great place to take photos as you follow the rivers and streams along the Smoky Mountain hiking trails.
  • Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at more than 6,600 feet and has an observation tower where you can take panoramic photos of the breathtaking views.

Related: 10 Smoky Mountain Views That Will Take Your Breath Away

Parrot Mountain and Gardens - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Parrot Mountain and Gardens | photo via @faith_is_dead_

Stop and See the Wondrous Smokies Wildlife

You can take as many pictures as you desire as you explore the Smokies, but, to make the most of your experience, take time to stop and observe the wildlife around you.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with a variety of wildlife and you don’t have to go far to see awesome animals. You can visit the park, Cades Cove, and surrounding areas to see deer, black bears, fox, turkey, elk, barn owls and so much more.

There are also several attractions you can visit to see animals even closer.

Charlies Bunion - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Charlies Bunion | photo via @mississippisasquatch

Get Back to Nature and Hike the Smokies

Fall in the Smokies is beautiful, but it’s also a perfect time to go hiking in the mountains. It’s the perfect family activity and the weather is just right.

One of the great things about hiking in the Smokies is the number of trails you can explore. Whether you want to go all-in for a long hike, do a short loop, or somewhere in between, you have a lot of options.

  • Andrew’s Bald in North Carolina is a quick, breath-taking 1.8-mile hike that begins at Clingmans Dome.
  • Porters Creek Trail in Gatlinburg is a mile-long trail that’s great for hikers of all ages and abilities.
  • Mount LeConte is an 11-mile journey (depending on your route) that offers sweeping views you’ll remember forever. You can get there via several different trails, but it’s one of the area’s more strenuous hikes, so come prepared.
  • Charlies Bunion starts at Newfound Gap and is an 8-mile roundtrip that offers rocky panoramic mountain views. Be careful because some areas can get very steep.

Related: 7 of the Best Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails [Easy to Moderate]

Smokemont Riding Stables - Cherokee, North Carolina - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Smokemont Riding Stables | photo via Smokemont Riding Stables

Slow Things Down and Go Horseback Riding

Cades Cove in the National Park is a great place to experience the gentle pace of horse riding, but several other places nearby are equally enjoyable.

Check out Smokemont Riding Stables, Smoky Mountain Riding Stables, and Sugarlands Riding Stables for horseback rides that will take you more into the rugged terrain of the Smokies.

Many stables offer accommodations for beginners as well as experienced riders, so this is a great way to try horseback riding if you’ve never done it before.

Related: Smoky Mountain Horseback Riding

Soak Up Some History and Fun at a Museum

If you’re in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge during the fall, you don’t have to travel far to visit a great museum. Whether you want to just have fun or soak up some history, there are options aplenty.

  • The Titanic Museum allows visitors to see more than 400 real artifacts from the famed ocean liner. Upon entry, visitors are each given a boarding pass of a real Titanic passenger and can trace their story as they explore the museum.
  • Wonder Works is an indoor amusement park with more than 100 hands-on exhibits. Kids will have a blast with exhibits like the human gyroscope, the Bubble Lab, and the virtual WonderCoaster.
  • For fans of true crime, the Alcatraz East Crime Museum offers plenty of cool artifacts like O.J. Simpson’s Bronco and John Dillinger’s car, as well as cool activities for kids like an Old West Shooting Gallery and a laser maze.
Oconaluftee River Trail - Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Oconaluftee River Trail | photo via @denisetami

 Explore Bicycling Routes in the National Park

Going for a bike ride in the Smokies in the fall can be both fun and relaxing. Many of the roads within the national park are well suited for bike riding while enjoying the autumnal color displays all around you.

One exception is Cades Cove Loop Road. This is an 11–mile, one-way road that’s popular with riders. It’s a great route to see nature and wildlife, but it can get crowded. 

Try some of the Park’s other routes where cycling is allowed, namely the Gatlinburg Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail, and the lower Deep Creek Trail.

If you prefer road biking, your best bets are the Greenbriar and Tremont areas in Tennessee and Lakeview Drive, and Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina.

Related: 11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park | photo via John Coley

Fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Trout and Smallmouth Bass

Anglers will enjoy the nearly endless possibilities of fishing for trout and smallmouth bass year round in the National Park.

That’s because the streams and rivers stay at or near capacity, allowing for an adequate supply of fish that come through. The park has almost 3,000 miles of streams and is home to one of the last wild trout habitats in the nation.

Be sure that you have a valid fishing license before you cast your line in the water.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Douglas Lake Fishing in the East Tennessee Smoky Mountains

Abrams Falls - Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Abrams Falls | photo via @the_bluegrass_hiker

View Waterfalls in the Smokies Before Winter Arrives

Before the winter snows arrive, you may want to see the many waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains, both large and small, in their mighty glory before they transform into veils of ice.

The popular Rainbow Falls, Abrams Falls, Grotto Falls, and Laurel Falls are certainly at the top of every Smoky Mountain visitor’s list but look for some lesser-known cascades on an invigorating hike on the trails.

Related: Smoky Mountain Waterfalls You Need to See

Rocky Top Wine Trail - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Rocky Top Wine Trail | photo via @ashmo1969

Travel and Sip Along the Rocky Top Wine Trail

Fall means harvest time, which is also a time for tasting the latest varietals of wine.

There are many great wineries you can visit, but if you want a great bang for your buck, the Rocky Top Wine Trail in Pigeon Forge is the way to go.

It’s made up of five different local wineries, offers more than 75 high-quality wines to try, and perhaps best of all, it’s 100% free to do.

You can pick up a passport at any of the wineries and travel around to see them all. You get a free souvenir glass when you visit three and another free gift when you’ve done all five.

Rand was such an amazing tour guide!! We had an amazing wine tour with him as our fearless leader! He was very knowledgeable not only with the wineries we visited, but just about wine and the town/ county laws and history in general. He made our trip amazing!!

– Danielle G. via TripAdvisor
Fall in Gatlinburg - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Fall in Gatlinburg | photo via Visit Gatlinburg

See Incredible Views from the Gatlinburg Space Needle

If you want to experience the thrill of the Smokies in the fall without having to hike, visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle.

This popular Gatlinburg attraction goes 400 feet into the air, offering panoramic views of the Smokies as well as downtown Gatlinburg.

Once you’re done taking in the view, you can catch a show at the Space Needle or spend time in the arcade located there.

Newfound Gap Road - Fall in the Smoky Mountains
Newfound Gap Road | photo via @taylor.k.white

Take a Drive Along Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road is one of the national park’s most popular routes and takes visitors between Gatlinburg and North Carolina.

It’s even more popular in the fall because its shoulders offer access to great scenic overlooks. These are great for taking a few minutes to rest, clear your mind, and snap a few pictures.

If you’re looking for the most scenic views of the Smokies in the fall, those on Newfound Gap Road are hard to beat.

This 34 mile trip is one of the most scenic drives in America. It is the lowest drivable pass in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The road winds through the mountainous landscape featuring fragrant woodlands that include evergreen spruce, hardwoods and pine-oak while gaining over 3,000 feet in elevation.  

Along the way there are scenic creeks & streams as well as multiple pull offs with spectacular views (picture taking paradise). You may spot wildlife along the way such as Black Bears or Wild Turkeys. We enjoyed seeing the Elk in the fields along side the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Hiking opportunities galore including a section of the Appalachian Trail that crosses the road at Newfound Gap elevation 5046 feet and the very popular Alum Cave trail.

Be prepared for the temperature change. It can vary as much as 10-12 degrees from the lowlands to Newfound Gap. We visited during the fall when the leaves were changing colors. It was fantastic.

– Dan via TripAdvisor
Fall in Gatlinburg - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Fall in Gatlinburg | photo via Visit Gatlinburg

Get into the Halloween Spirit at the Trick or Treat Kickoff Karnival

Held on Halloween this year, this annual afternoon event is the perfect way to experience Halloween in the Smokies.

The 2022 event will be at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies plaza and features a costume contest, candy, food, toys, and all the trappings of a fun event.

After this fun-filled event, take a quick break and then head into downtown Gatlinburg for regular trick-or-treating festivities.

Anakeesta - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Fall in Gatlinburg
Anakeesta | photo via @adrift360

Experience the Fun of Autumn at Anakeesta

Autumn at Anakeesta is one of the best ways to experience fall in the Smokies so head to this popular Gatlinburg theme park on your Smokies visit. You’ll get incredible views,  eat delicious food and have plenty of fun.

The fun lasts from mid-September through Halloween, so you’ve got plenty of time to visit.

Get yourself a pumpkin spice latte, enjoy live music performances every day, and take time to take in the wonderful views of the Smokies around you. 

When you go, be sure to stop at the Vista Gardens Arboretum. You’ll delight your senses as you hear the rushing of waterfalls, the chirping of birds, and garden chimes as you see the Smokies in front of you.

Roaring Fork Historic Motor Trail - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Fall in Gatlinburg
Roaring Fork Historic Motor Trail | photo via @alexisbutlerphotography

Plan Your Fall Trip to the Smoky Mountains Today!

As you can see, the Smokies are just waiting to be explored when fall arrives, so start planning your trip today for your own fun-filled Smoky Mountain adventure.

Whether you want to trek all the way up Clingmans Dome, catch a wild trout, explore a museum, have fun at a festival or snap photos of fall foliage, you can do all that and more on your trip to the Smokies.

If you love the outdoors and you love nature, the Smokies can be your own personal playground when fall arrives, so make the journey and see for yourself just how unforgettable fall in the Smoky Mountains really is.

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