Destinations, Events

Take in Fall Colors at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

September 23, 2013 by

Blue Ridge Parkway1

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 and is made up of ridge upon ridge of endless forest lining the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, known for its plant and animal life, and the beauty of its ancient mountains.

It’s a popular destination in the fall when stunning colors ripple throughout the forests from high to low elevations. The timing of the color change depends on a number of factors so it’s hard to predict “peak” season well in advance, but it usually occurs between mid-October and early November.

Elevation plays a large role in when fall colors will appear in the park. Higher elevations enjoy climate similar to that found in New England bringing about color changes as early as mid-September with the turning of yellow birch, American beech, mountain maples, hobblebush, and pin cherry trees.

Peak season at lower elevations which are still above 4,000 feet includes colorful trees such as sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgum trees, red maples, and the brilliant yellow of hickory trees.

Great Smokies National Park

Enjoy Fall Colors by Car

While camping and hiking offer up-close ways to experience the stunning fall colors of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an easy way to take in the grand spectacle as a family is to drive the Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway.

Make Plans Early

Fall is a busy time of year at the park with huge numbers of sightseers showing up during the last weeks of October in hopes of catching the color changes at their peak. Make reservations to stay in the area early as accommodations fill early.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Less Crowded Options

There are less crowded areas to hike or drive to take in the fall colors, such as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail which is a narrow, steep, paved one-way road that winds through the forests and offers places to stop along the way for those who’d like to get out for a short hike. A word of caution though; this road is narrow enough that it is impassable to motor homes, buses, or trailers.

The reason the fall colors are so breathtaking at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is due to the diversity of trees found there. It’s a remarkable destination for those who love to take in mother nature’s fall artwork.

Photo credits:, Cali4beach, NCBrian

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