Everyone knows that autumn is one of the best seasons to visit the Great Smoky Mountains! The fantastic fall color display here is unlike any place else in the country, drawing in thousands of visitors to enjoy the colorful spectacle. Fall color during autumn here can be seen from far and wide – from the roadsides in downtown to the very highest mountain peaks. The question is – where is the best place to see fall color in Gatlinburg?
That question can be surprisingly hard to answer! The fall color here migrates slowly down the mountains, first starting at the highest elevations before working its way down the mountains. Because the color is so varied depending on the elevations, it can be difficult to pinpoint which place will be best for viewing. Choose your leaf-viewing destinations depending on the time you are visiting and you are promised one of the best views you could imagine!
One of the most well-known places in Gatlinburg, Cades Cove is a beautiful trail that can be enjoyed via car, bike, and foot. Photographers love this beautiful stretch of land, complete with incredible views of the valley and towering mountains that surround them. The wildlife viewing is also excellent here, with black bears and deer frequently spotted in these areas. Cades Cove is usually great for viewing in early October.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Tail
This six-mile, one-way loop features breathtaking views of the fall colors. Here you can glimpse two of the most popular waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, providing you with great photographing opportunities! A moderate hike will take you to the 80-foot tall Rainbow Falls and the 25-foot tall Grotto Falls – the only waterfall in the National Park that you can walk behind! This trail is great throughout early and middle October.
Newfound Gap Road
At an elevation of about 5,000 feet, you can enjoy viewing a variety of diverse ecosystems on this drive. Here you can check out a variety of trees, from oaks and pines to evergreens and maples. Significantly cooler than surrounding areas in downtown, the drop in temperature here brings the changing leaves early in the season. This road offers many scenic overlooks where you can pull over, get out your camera, and enjoy the spectacular sights. Check out Newfound Gap Road in early to mid-October.
This hiking trail about six miles in length is located along Newfound Gap Road. Featuring one of the longest footbridges in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this loop is considered to be a moderate hike. Travel under some of the spectacular fall foliage and enjoy excellent photo opportunities as you cross over the stream. This trail is also home to an old church, cemetery, and the Smokemont Campground. This trail is best to enjoy in late October!
The Gatlinburg Space Needle
Don’t consider yourself to be the outdoorsy type? Never fear, as there is a viewpoint right in downtown Gatlinburg that will allow you to catch a great view of the changing leaves. The Space Needles features a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and downtown Gatlinburg from 400 feet in the air. Glass elevators will take you to the top where you can stay as long as you want – and also come back anytime that day for free! This viewpoint is great all season long, but particularly in late October.