Gorgeous year-round, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is particularly beautiful during the month of October, when colorful fall foliage takes over. Clear skies and comfortable temperatures ensure enjoyable hikes through the park’s most scenic passages. Fall colors can also be enjoyed from the comfort of your car as you traverse several scenic routes. The park provides a feast for all of the senses, with local festivals providing unforgettable sounds, smells, and tastes to complement the spectacular autumn views. These events and activities bring an extra element of adventure to an already unforgettable trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Embrace Appalachian Traditions at the Mountain Life Festival
Location: Mountain Farm Museum
Dates: September 15
Hit up Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Mountain Farm Museum on September 15th for the annual Mountain Life Festival. Free of charge and open to the public, the festival aims to preserve the great legacy of Appalachia. Immerse yourself in past traditions such as lye soap making, blacksmithing, and sorghum production. You’ll gain a greater appreciation for the difficult, yet rewarding lives that past Appalachian residents led — and the strong sense of community they shared.
Tap Your Toes at the Back Porch Old-Time Music Jam
Location: Oconaluftee Visitor Center Porch
Dates: September 1 and 15
Music is an integral part of the Smoky Mountains lifestyle, as you’ll quickly discover during this folksy music jam. Sit back and relax as you appreciate the nostalgic sounds of Appalachian music. If you’re musically inclined and have an acoustic instrument you’d like to play, feel free to bring it to the event — participation is strongly encouraged. You just might find yourself strumming a catchy tune alongside your favorite local bluegrass artist.
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center’s raised-roof porch is a wonderful place to relax, but you’re by no means confined to it; you can easily hear music from the old-time jam as you tour the Mountain Farm Museum. The event lasts two hours and is fairly relaxed, so you can come and go as you please. If you’re like most visitors, however, you’ll find a comfy spot on the porch and not want to leave until the final song ends at 3 pm.
View Cataloochee Elk Up Close
Location: Palmer House
Dates: September 8, 15, and 22
Elk were once prominent throughout the Appalachian region. Sadly, over-hunting eliminated the last remaining elk from the area over 200 years ago. In 2001, the National Park Service reintroduced elk to the Great Smoky Mountains, where they’ve since demonstrated a promising return. Today, elk can be viewed at the Palmer House in Cataloochee Valley. Stop by any Saturday afternoon between September 8 and 22 to learn about the fascinating history of local elk — and to see the majestic creatures for yourself.
Make the Most of Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage With a Scenic Drive
Location: Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Dates: October 1 to November 10
Viewing peak fall colors is not technically an event, but it might as well be. Careful timing can ensure that you arrive in the area when vibrant colors make for an especially picturesque national park. These colors can be enjoyed while hiking or mountain biking, but many visitors prefer to take it all in from the comfort of their car.
For the ultimate in autumn scenery, dedicate a leisurely day to one of these drives:
While beautiful colors light up the Smoky Mountains for an extensive eight-week period beginning in September and ending in early November, local foliage is at is absolute best in mid-October. Get an early start, for you won’t be the only one on the road admiring the jaw-dropping scenery. Bring a pair of hiking shoes just in case you feel compelled to stop by an overlook or check out one of the park’s amazing trails.