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Where, When and How to See the Best Fall Colors in the Smokies

Every fall, the Smoky Mountains turn beautiful shades of gold, orange and red. And though it happens every year, each autumn we are still just as awestruck by the natural beauty of the Smokies. At Dollywood and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, we are surrounded by this fantastic fall foliage—the park is quite literally built into the mountains, after all. At the resort, you will find beautiful views while looking out your window or while rocking in a chair on one of the porches on a crisp autumn day.

At Dollywood, you can a have bird’s-eye-view of the colors from Drop Line and Wild Eagle, immerse yourself in the colors with a ride on the Dollywood Express, or my favorite, sitting under the beautiful leaves in Craftsman’s Valley while enjoying a delicious loaf of apple pie cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill.

And while Dollywood showcases the amazing beauty of the Smokies, there are several other places in the area to add to your “leaf peeping” list if you’re looking to adventure outside of the park and resort during your visit.

The first thing you need to know when planning on things to do this fall is when the leaves start changing in the Great Smoky Mountains. Because the Smokies are mountains (obviously) and these mountains range in elevation, different areas peak at different times. According to Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

🍂 The highest elevations start to peak in mid-September with the turning of the yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple and a few others.

🍂 From early to mid-October, the vibrant colors start to develop above 4,000 ft. Great options to enjoy these leaves are the drives along Clingmans Dome Road, Blue Ridge Parkway and Foothills Parkway.

🍂The colors in the mid and lower elevations, like here at Dollywood, usually peak sometime in mid-October or early November. These lower elevations showcase some of the most spectacular fall leaves from trees like the sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweet gum, red maple and the hickories.

If you are looking to hike to see fall colors, the Appalachian Trail, Oconaluftee River Trail, Look Rick Tower and Sutton Ridge Overlook are beautiful trails that really showcase the fall leaves. Again, if you’re looking view the leaves from the comfort of your car, Clingmans Dome Road, Blue Ridge Parkway and Foothills Parkway are my suggestions. These roads will have pull-offs where you can get out and take pictures if you want.

Before You Go Hiking

I recommend stopping in one of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s visitor centers to talk to a park ranger and grab a map before you head out. I also recommend taking a jacket because it can be chillier in the higher elevations, and water. To read more about taking in the sights and sounds of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, click here.

Now, personally, hiking is not my cup of tea. If you’re like me, or are just looking for a non-hiking option, I suggest taking a ride in a pink jeep. Pink Adventure Tours offers several different excursions, and they are FUN. I have written about Pink Adventure Tours in multiple blogs because I genuinely just really enjoy them. The different tours showcase different areas of the Smoky Mountains as you ride in an open-air pink jeep.

Side Note

The jeeps can be enclosed and heated on chillier days if you think your group will be cold. The jeeps also have car seats for younger adventurers. To read more about my ride and tips for yours, click here.

The tours vary in routes but take you through Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Newfound Gap (which has one of the most stunning viewpoints) and Foothills Parkway. Each one of these tours offers incredible fall views, family photo opportunities, AND the tours are fully narrated by a tour guide, so you learn more about the area’s history, wildlife and flowers. Again, this checks off all of the boxes for me when it comes to a tour of the mountains, especially during fall.

Dolly has referred to the Great Smoky Mountains as “God’s Coloring Book,” and that couldn’t be truer than during the fall. This time of year is full of stunning fall colors, warm apple cider, cozy fireside conversations and creating lasting memories with family and friends. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Dollywood and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa are the perfect places to create those special moments.

By | 2022-03-29T11:47:44+00:00 October 14th, 2020|Community, Nature|0 Comments

About the Author:

Born right here in Pigeon Forge, Jennifer Webb has been visiting Dollywood since before she can remember. Many weekends were spent enjoying berries n’ cream sundaes and riding her favorite ride, Daredevil Falls. Jennifer’s love of reading and writing started early with the help of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. In 1995 Jennifer was part of the first group of Sevier County kids to receive a book from the program. While in elementary school, life took Jennifer’s family to Knoxville where she still calls home. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and an avid Vol fan. Read More!
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