Maybe you’ve seen one before, on a drive down a Tennessee rural byway. Hanging there on the weathered face of an old grey barn, a square of bright color. Maybe you didn’t give it much thought. Like the barn itself, they seem as if they are part of the landscape, as if they just belong there. A couple of the things that is so great about our side of the mountain is the beauty, tranquility and peace offered to all who visit.
Did you know that the Smoky Mountains puts on its own stunning display of gold, red, yellow, and orange as the temperatures cool down and the days shorten? It’s another great reason to venture out to Townsend and take a break from your hectic life. Plan your next trip soon and come see us before all the sites are reserved. This is also our peak season.
Once a well-kept secret, the Smoky Mountain fall colors also now bring waves of visitors to the Townsend, Gatlinburg and Asheville areas, mostly in October. While not as numerous as the summertime crowds, they are still quite massive and often flock to the most popular areas of the national park.
The best time to see Smoky Mountain fall foliage is anywhere from mid-October to early November in the mid and lower elevations. If you want to take a short-day trip from the campground September on the Blue Ridge Parkway is simply stunning.
This colorful show from Mother Nature will last seven weeks or more, depending on temperatures, the length of the day, and other factors. For that reason, it’s always difficult to determine a peak foliage forecast in the Smokies. The Higher the elevation the early the peak in colors.
Fall hiking is ideal in the Smokies; there are many trails that will take you to incredible overlooks and through tunnels of ever-changing leaves. The various elevations in the park change colors at different points in the season, so there are some hikes that are better in early fall and others that are better in late fall. We have listed several hikes in the fall, based on the elevation of the trail and when the leaves will be in their peak color. As my family were family members who were displaced when the Park was built, I always have to add North Carolina information as well. These trips are a great day trip adventure to consider as well!
The best hikes in mid to late September are:
Andrews Bald: Start at Clingmans Dome, and hike 1.7 miles to an outstanding overlook. From the top of the bald, you have panoramic views for as far as the eye can see. The trail is easy to moderate with an elevation gain of 514 feet.
Mount LeConte: Start at the Alum Cave trailhead on Newfound Gap Road, and hike 5.5 miles to Cliff Top, where you will receive expansive views of warm-colored trees for miles and miles. The trail is strenuous with an elevation gain of 2763 feet.
The Jump-Off: Start at the trailhead on Newfound Gap Road, and hike 3.2 miles; where you will be rewarded with fantastic views along the trail. From the vantage point of the Jump-Off, you will have incredible views of Mount LeConte, Charlies Bunion, and the Appalachian Trail. The trail is moderate with an elevation gain of 1725 feet.
In early to mid-October, the best hikes are:
Gregory Bald: Start from the Gregory Ridge Trailhead in Cades Cove, and hike 5.7 miles to an outstanding vista. On a clear day, you will be able to see Cades Cove, Thunderhead Mountain, Clingmans Dome, and Fontana Lake. The trail is strenuous with an elevation gain of 3020 feet.
Albright Grove: Start at the Maddron Bald Trailhead, and hike for 3.3 miles to the grove. Albright Grove is home to one the largest hardwood forests in the world, with some of the oldest and largest trees in the park. Red maples, American beech, yellow birch, buckeyes, and sugar maples abound. This is a moderate trail with an elevation gain of 1475 feet.
Spence Field: Start at the Anthony Creek Trailhead at the Cades Cove picnic area, and hike 5.2 miles to an amazing vista of the North Carolina side of the Smokies. The trail is strenuous with an elevation gain of 2842 feet.
In mid to late October, the best hikes are:
Shuckshack Fire Tower: Start at the trailhead, located in the southern corner of the park, near Fontana Dam. You will hike on the Appalachian Trail until you reach the junction for the fire tower. After you climb 78 steps to the top, you will receive expansive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, and the Nantahala Mountains. This trail is moderate to strenuous with an elevation gain of 2120 feet.
Charlies Bunion: Start at the trailhead on Newfound Gap Road, and hike 4 miles to the popular rock outcropping. Throughout the entire hike, you will be treated to stunning views of the North Carolina Smokies. This trail is moderate to strenuous with an elevation gain of 1640 feet.
Grapeyard Ridge Trail: Start at the trailhead in Greenbrier, and hike for 2.8 miles through the dense and colorful forest. This trail is moderate with an elevation gain of 980 feet.
And, in early November, the best hikes are:
Abrams Falls: Start at the Abrams Falls Trailhead in Cades Cove, and hike for 2.6 miles through a rhododendron and hemlock forest to Abrams Falls—a short and squat waterfall; only 20 feet tall, but the large amount of water that pours over its’ side makes up for the lack of height. This trail is easy to moderate with an elevation gain of 675 feet.
Oconaluftee River Trail: Start at the trailhead just behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and take the 3-mile loop trail. The trail winds next to the river, through forests of eastern hemlock, sugar maple, yellow birch, and basswood, creating a rainbow of colored leaves. The trail is easy with an elevation gain of 70 feet.
Deep Creek Trail: Start at the trailhead, just north of Bryson City, North Carolina, and hike for 2.3 miles through a thick forest. The low elevation of Deep Creek makes for perfect hiking in November when the fall colors have reached the lowest points in the park. This trail is moderate to easy with an elevation gain of 579 feet. Go enjoy your hikes and then return to have a nice relaxing evening with us! See you soon……………
It is a highly recommended experience! There are trips within day trip range. Plan your next trip with us and enjoy!
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
With 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a memorable journey through a remote and beautiful corner of North Carolina. Ride with them into river gorges, across valleys and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. The Railroad offers a variety of scenic, round-trip excursions departing from Bryson City. Trips range from 3 ½ hours to a full day of fun and adventure. The Nantahala Gorge Excursion carries you 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back again. Travel the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers across Fontana Lake and into the magic of the Nantahala Gorge. The Tuckasegee River Excursion travels 32-mile round-trip along the Tuckasegee River through old railroad towns and scenic meadows. Additionally, they have special events throughout the year such as the Polar Express. I will mention more about that closer to wintertime. Discover information about the railroad here.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will take you on a journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. The Carolina Mountains borders the entire western edge of North Carolina, comprising some 52 percent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The region also includes the southern crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah, Cherokee, and Nantahala National Forests. Hundreds of years ago, glacial, and volcanic movement left etchings still visible on the land.
As you arrive at Big Meadow you will notice smoke floating above the Smoky Mountains National Park two short w miles from us. What an amazing view! The smoke is actually fog rising from the mountain’s vegetation. After your arrival you will want to plan a day trip through Cades Cove.
When you enter the park, E Lamar Alexander Pkwy becomes Townsend Entrance Rd. On the right, where visitors usually take their first picture in the park, there will be a welcome sign to the park.
Little River runs parallel to the road, and you can see people tubing or simply jumping into the water if the day is warm enough. There are campgrounds and RV campgrounds here, including Big Meadow Family Campground.
When you arrive at the intersection, turn right onto Laurel Creek Rd, which leads to the Cades Cove loop road. There are several pullout parking lots along the way for visitors to enjoy the creek. You will be tempted to pull over when you see an empty parking spot, but make sure you have purchased a parking pass on line from GSMNP or the Townsend Visitor Center continues on to Cades Cove.
Cades Cove is a popular tourist destination in the Smoky Mountains. Most people visit the park between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you’re doing the Cades Cove drive-through, I recommend going straight to Cades Cove. Unless something unexpected happens along the way —– like a bear sighting!!!
It takes about 15 minutes to drive from the Townsend entrance to the Cades Cove entrance if there is no traffic. Cades Cove Loop is an 11-mile scenic drive in the Smoky Mountains. It is usually open to drivers from sunup to sundown. Cades Cove will take you at least two to four hours to tour, not including any hikes.
Around 1818, the first Europeans arrived in the cove. These arrivals to this area have created the most diverse collection of historic structures seen in National Parks. Along the loop, you’ll see old churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and more.
Overall, it’s a lovely drive. Cades Cove Loop, as stated on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service website, is one of the best drives through the Smokies. You will spend most of your time driving under tree canopies. And seeing bears in the woods or crossing the road is an unforgettable experience. As always, we will leave the light on for you when you return from your day trip. We hope you enjoy these posts. Please let share and let us know that they are helping you plan your adventures! Barbara loves to hear you are happy with the information!