10 Best Ways to See the Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage
It’s not a secret that visiting the Smokies in autumn is an experience unlike any other. The mountains are blanketed in oranges, reds, yellows, and browns, making for an unforgettable sight. We want to make sure you get the most out of your experience in the Smoky Mountains in the fall! That’s why we’ve made a list of some of our favorite ways to take in the fall colors. Here are the top 10 ways to see the Smoky Mountain fall foliage:
1. Go for a Drive
One of the most popular ways to enjoy the vibrant colors of autumn is taking one of the many scenic drives that you’ll find in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Taking a drive on Newfound Gap Road will bring you to the highest elevations in the park, and it will also give you the option of driving up to the parking lot for Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Smokies and on the Appalachian Trail. A cruise around the Roaring Fork Motor Trail will not only be filled with beauty, but it’s also packed with historical structures, cascades and roadside waterfalls! If you head up Little River Road you can take in the fall foliage as you wind through the mountains and even make your way up to Tremont or Cades Cove. One drive that you won’t want to miss during your stay is the Foothills Parkway, the views there will absolutely take your breath away! Of course, our suggestions for scenic drives also include the popular Cades Cove, an 11-mile loop road that offers gorgeous views of the Cades Cove valley.
2. Take a Hike
With close to 900 miles of trails in the park, there is a trail for everyone! During the fall months, every trail offers up a display of color, the coolness of autumn and plenty of spots to explore. The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is perfect for first-time hikers or guests with physical limitations. The trail is wide, paved and flat, but it includes remnants of an old homestead, benches to soak up the peace of the mountains, and it even has pull off spots for wheelchairs and strollers along the river. During your stroll, see if you can spot the bear prints in the pavement! Trails like Middle Prong and Little River Trail are a step up with more of an incline and no pavement but easy or moderate in difficulty. The Porters Creek Trail, the Spruce Fir Nature Trail, Gatlinburg Trail and Little Brier Gap are a few others that are perfect for a Smokies stroll under an autumn canopy!
3. Anakeesta’s Canopy Walk
To experience the fall foliage in the Smokies up close, head up to Anakeesta and take a walk through the longest tree-based bridge in North America! Be sure to pack the camera and keep an eye out for chipmunks, black bears and other wildlife that you can spot from time to time along the bridges! Plus, when you visit Anakeesta, you’ll get to ride the scenic Chondola to the top of the mountain, offering gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountain fall foliage along the way. After you take a walk along the Treetop Skywalk, head up to the top of the AnaVista Tower, where you’ll have 360 degree views of the fall colors.
4. Ride the Aerial Tramway
The Aerial Tramway is a can’t-miss Gatlinburg attraction. It takes visitors to a popular mountaintop attraction, Ober Gatlinburg. The tram departs from downtown Gatlinburg and travels for 2.1 miles to Ober, a ride that gains 1,472 feet in elevation. Keep your eyes glued to the windows along the ride because the views you’ll have of the fall foliage are unmatched. Once you reach Ober Gatlinburg, you’ll have plenty of other opportunities to enjoy fall as well!
5. Take a Guided Hike
If you want to experience the best trails to be on at the time of your stay, consider booking a guided hike with a local hiking company. A Walk in the Woods has award-winning tour guides who take visitors on exciting hikes throughout the Smoky Mountains. You can choose short guided walks, half-day hikes, or full-day hikes! September and October are some of the most popular months of the year to enjoy these guided hikes because of the cooler temperatures and Smoky Mountain fall foliage.
6. Go Horseback Riding
Hop on the saddle and roam the Smokies! Horseback riding is a unique way to take in the fall foliage. The Cades Cove Riding Stables and the Sugarlands Riding Stables just outside of downtown Gatlinburg are great options for horseback riding in the Smokies. Both offer guided horseback riding trips in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You don’t have to have any experience to enjoy these horseback riding adventures. Pick your spot and enjoy the ride!
7. Check out the Observation Towers
The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower and the Look Rock Tower on the Foothills Parkway, are two fantastic places in the park to check out the views of all the fall foliage. They’re also both excellent locations for taking in sunrise or sunset, just don’t forget to arrive early, stay late and pack flashlights or headlamps for hiking up before sunrise and coming back down after sunset. Both require only short hikes to get to the observation towers.
8. Take a Carriage Ride
Do you have a little girl or a lady in your life who would love to explore the park while feeling like a Smoky Mountain princess? Take her on a carriage ride in Cades Cove! Carriage rides are also a great way to see all the trails have to offer if you’re not ready to hop on the back of a horse yet yourself. It’s a wonderful experience for everyone in the family! The Cades Cove Riding Stables can help with getting carriage ride experience set up!
9. Get an Angler’s Perspective
If you’ve already seen the fall foliage of the Smokies from the trails, roads and even the sky, but you haven’t enjoyed the season from the streams yet, then you haven’t been fully immersed in autumn adventures in the Appalachians! Or, maybe you’ve always wanted to try fly fishing but you don’t have the gear or know where to start. Regardless of the why, our friends at the Smoky Mountain Angler can set you up with all the gear you need, including a permit, or they can take you on an outing to the best honey holes in the park! Their guides have years of experience and can teach you the techniques required to catch wild mountain trout in the park, or hook a stocker in local streams! You’ll love fishing in the cooler temperatures while taking in the fall views all around you.
Enjoy the Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage
With festive decor around every corner of Gatlinburg, the cool air moving in, fire pits turned on, coffee brewing and colors filling in the mountains like a Smokies patchwork quilt, you don’t want to miss the chance to enjoy a fall escape to the Great Smoky Mountains! Whether you plan to take a hike, drive, or visit a popular attraction, the opportunities to take in the Smoky Mountain fall foliage are endless. Luckily, our Gatlinburg hotel puts you close to all of these opportunities! Our rooms provide a cozy place to stay and come with everything you need and more for a comfortable stay in the fall.
Take a look at all our hotel rooms and come enjoy the Smoky Mountain fall foliage with us!