The Great Smoky Mountains are beautiful in any season, but there’s something especially magical about autumn. From the gorgeous weather and the fall foliage to the seasonal events and wildlife spotting opportunities, here are five reasons to visit the Smokies in the fall.
1. Beautiful Weather
Summer is peak season in the Smokies, but if you can’t handle the heat, plan your visit for fall instead. Temperatures start to drop in late September, and by November, it’s downright cool. That means you can breathe in the mountain air, go for a hike, or set your sights on some serious outdoor adventures without breaking a sweat.
If you want to enjoy the cool weather without the crowds, note that October tends to be busy in the Smokies. That makes early November the ideal time to visit.
2. Fall Foliage
You’ve probably heard about the stunning fall colors that draw crowds to New England every year, but we know that the colorful fall foliage in the Smokies is the best you’ll find anywhere. When the cooler temperatures arrive in late September and early October, the trees start to turn shades of yellow, orange, and red. By mid-October or early November, the fall colors tend to peak, and you’ll see vibrant hues everywhere you look in the Smokies. SmokyMountains.com has a proprietary peak fall prediction tool that can help you pinpoint the exact time to visit.
Driving through the national park is a great way to see a lot of fall colors, but be prepared for some traffic. Hiking in a more limited area is a fun way to take in this autumn sensation while stretching your legs.
3. Great Food
You haven’t eaten great American food ’til you’ve been to the Smokies. Since fall is harvest season, local cuisine is at its best in the autumn. You’ll find tons of places to enjoy fall treats all over the Smokies. Head to Apple Barn Village in Sevierville to get your fill of apple cider, applewood-smoked ham, and fried apples.
Next, mark your calendar for Grains & Grits, a spirits and food festival in Townsend, Tennessee. This event showcases the versatility and gourmet appeal of grits, a staple of Southern cuisine, along with some of the best whiskey, bourbon, and moonshine you’ll find anywhere in the Smokies.
4. Autumn Fairs and Festivals
While food is certainly a focus in the Smokies, our fall festivals celebrate more than just great cuisine. You’ll find countless fairs celebrating music, history, and culture, but the biggest fall festival is probably the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival. This five-week festival includes Oktoberfest, a Bavarian-inspired fair with biergartens and live entertainment, and the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, which hosts top artisans and bluegrass musicians from around the nation. With tons of family-friendly fun and entertainment, this is a festival you won’t want to miss.
5. Wildlife Spotting
There’s nothing quite like spotting a black bear, a majestic elk, a wild turkey, or a white-tailed deer in the wild for the first time. While you’ll have chances to see some wildlife here throughout the year, especially if you visit at the time of the day when animals are most active, fall is one of the best times of year to see wildlife. In the autumn, the area near Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park tends to offer numerous viewing opportunities. Visitors also report wildlife sightings along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.
Before you go, make sure you know how to stay safe near wildlife. Never approach animals too closely, and never feed them, even if you think they might enjoy a bite of your lunch.
Whether you want to explore local culture and food or outdoor adventures, fall is the ideal time to visit the Smokies. Find the right Gatlinburg cabins or Townsend hotels for your group, and start planning your autumn trip.