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Best Spots for Capturing Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains

The fall colors in Pigeon Forge are truly breathtaking as the leaves begin to adorn their beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange. These changes are evident all around, but there is no place more majestic than Great Smoky Mountains National Park to behold the wondrous sights of the fall season. The first signs of fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains can be seen in the higher elevations and then become more evident in the lower elevations from mid-October to early November. So much beauty is awaiting to be seen!

There are numerous spots to see the beautiful fall colors of the Smoky Mountains depending on how active you want to be. It is the perfect time of year to hop in the car and take the family for a scenic drive. And for the more adventurous, grab a jacket and stop to check out some of the hiking trails in the Smokies for up-close views of the natural beauty that surrounds the area.

From panoramic fall views found at scenic overlooks to some of the most amazing fall colors along the park’s most popular hiking trails, here are a few of the best spots for capturing fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains.


Cades Cove

Fall foliage at historic cabin in Cades Cove
Photo credit: @upnadamadventures

The Cades Cove area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular spots for viewing the fall colors of the Smoky Mountains. Due to its lower elevation, the area is one of the last in the national park to begin its transformation to fall.


Abrams Falls

Fall Colors at Abrams Falls

If you are up for a good hike, take the drive up to Cades Cove and go for a hike on one of the many trails that originate there like the Cades Cove Nature Trail or the trail up to Abrams Falls. The hike up to Abrams Falls is well worth the journey. As one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the views from this spot will leave you in awe no matter where you look.


Laurel Falls

Fall Colors at Laurel Falls

Named for the mountain laurel that grows in this area of the national park, Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. Located just a few miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the 2.6-mile trail is paved and provides hikers with an incredible view of a gorgeous 80-foot high waterfall. You will find ample photo opportunities at Laurel Falls, especially in the early morning and late afternoon, as the mountains provide the perfect amount of scenic shading.


Newfound Gap

Fall Foliage at Newfound Gap in Smoky Mountains

US Highway 441, which runs through Newfound Gap and connects to Clingmans Dome Road, is the best route for sight-seers wishing to catch an early glimpse of the beautiful natural color display. Some of the first spots where fall colors appear can be found along Newfound Gap Road, which is the lowest pass through the Smoky Mountains. The overlook at Newfound Gap is a great place to stop and snap a few photos.


Clingmans Dome

Fall foliage at sunrise at Clingmans Dome
Photo credit: @upnadamadventures

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smokies at 6,643 feet. You can drive up to Newfound Gap and then take Clingmans Dome Road to get to the parking area at Clingmans Dome. Make the half-mile walk up to the top of the observation tower for a 360-degree view of the beautiful fall foliage.

Note: Clingmans Dome Road is closed December 1 – March 31.


Chimney Tops Trail

Fall Foliage at Chimney Tops Trail

The Chimney Tops Trail can be accessed from Newfound Gap Road, just a few miles before the Newfound Gap overlook. The trail, while challenging, is worth the climb for the scenic view at the peak. Although the trail is only 2 miles long, it gains 1,400 feet during that climb with a rock scramble at the summit.


Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Views of Fall Foliage at Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

If you’re looking for a colorful view without the climb, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a great option. It is a five and a half mile long, one-way, loop road through the woods with some opportunities to stop at several hiking trails and historic buildings. There are also several overlooks throughout the park where you can pull over and take in the fall colors without ever leaving your car. The trail can be accessed by taking the Historic Nature Trail Drive into the national park.

Note: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is closed December 1 – March 31.


Rainbow Falls

Fall Colors at Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is located nearby the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and can also be accessed via Historic Nature Trail Drive. The Rainbow Falls Trail is another popular, and somewhat strenuous trail, that follows along LeConte Creek and crosses over several foot bridges before offering hikers a first glimpse of the falls. The falls were named for the rainbows seen in the mist that are caused by the afternoon sun. At 80-feet high, Rainbow Falls is a glorious sight to behold any time of year.


So whether you prefer to take the family for a scenic drive or opt to get out along the way and explore some of the hiking trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the best place to see and experience the fall season at its finest. Don’t miss out on seeing the beautiful fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains. Plan your Pigeon Forge family vacation today!



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