The autumn season is always a difficult one for vacationers because it’s not easy to decide which week is best to visit to see the fall colors. You can’t arrive to the Smoky Mountains too early or you may miss the colors, and if you arrive too late, the colors may be fading away.
There are usually several weeks that are perfect for visiting the Smoky Mountains in the fall. The colors tend to reach from high to low elevations, so everyone can see the colors no matter where you may be hiking or driving from. To help you plan your vacation to the Smoky Mountains this fall, we have put together a little guide to help you out.
We are not expecting fall colors to change for another couple of months. Summer quickly faded, so there’s a possibility that the fall colors will arrive a little bit earlier than we normally expect.
According to the National Park Service website, the dogwood trees were showing early signs of color as early as late August. Their leaves had a dark red color that is still holding, until the brighter colors arrive later in the season.
By October, you can expect to see the Smoky Mountains fall colors starting to change, but it won’t be until mid to late October when you finally see the bright colors everyone is waiting for.
When the colors begin to change, elevation plays a very big role in climate and color change. You may have heard, in order for the leaves to change, we need “one big freeze.” While this is sort of true, it’s not the absolute truth. The leaves do change colors when the green is drawn out of them, but it doesn’t require a huge freeze. When the temperatures begin to drop, you will notice that the upper elevations (usually above 4,000 feet) will begin to change to brighter colors.
These upper elevations will begin to change around mid-October. Many people like to see the colors by driving to Clingmans Dome during this time. The colors from the Clingmans Dome observation tower are outstanding!
Once early November hits, you will notice that the fall colors will begin to change in the mid to lower elevations in the national park. The Smoky Mountains fall colors will be fully on display by the beginning of November, guaranteed! For many visitors, this is the most spectacular array of colors that the national park has to offer.
To see the fall colors during this part of the season, you can take a drive along Newfound Gap Road or go hiking anywhere in the national park. The Newfound Gap Road auto tour is a great way to see the lower, middle and upper elevations. You can grab a very inexpensive, $1 booklet before beginning the auto tour that will teach you all about the areas you will drive through. You’ll enjoy learning about the drive while enjoying the Smoky Mountains fall colors.
For those looking to visit a more historical area, Cades Cove is always a popular choice, and you will be able to see plenty of fall colors from the area.
The one great thing about visiting the Smoky Mountains is that you are guaranteed a beautiful backdrop no matter the season. Of course, fall is a wonderful season, but any time of year is great!
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