Fall in the Smokies: The Best Times and Places to See the Colors

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Fall in the Smokies: The Best Times and Places to See the Colors

Fall Colors in the SmokiesIn our humble opinion, it’s difficult to find a prettier sight than fall in the Smokies. All the

golds, reds, oranges, and yellows really are beautiful. There’s a good reason so many “leaf

peepers” flock to the Smokies every year! The idea that there is a certain week to see the fall

colors at their peak, is a bit of a misconception. The autumn colors can actually last for several

weeks, as the leaves change from greens to vibrant hues at the higher elevations first and slowly

travel down the mountainside into the valley.

Late September through mid-October

The first displays of color can be seen in the highest elevations beginning in late September, with

the peak viewing experience occurring around the second week of October. During this time,

you’ll be able to see the bright yellows of the birch trees, the orange-reds of the maple trees, and

the scarlet of the dogwood trees. If driving tours interest you, now would be a great time to

sight-see along Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome roads. If hiking is more to your liking,

Sugarland Mountain Trail, Mt. LeConte, or Andrews Bald would be excellent at this time of


Early October through late October

The middle elevations will begin to see color changes beginning in early October, with the peak

colors occurring around the third week of October. Now is a great time to watch for the vibrant

reds of the sumac and sourwood trees, the bronzy-yellows of the birch and hickory trees, and

possibly even a few russet oaks. Good driving tours during mid-October include Roaring Fork

Motor Nature Trail and Cover Creek Road. Excellent hiking trails include Baskins Creek Falls,

Little River Trail, Mt. Sterling Trail, and parts of the Appalachian Trail.

Late October through early November

During late October, the leaves in the upper elevations are just past their peak, and those in the

lower elevations are quickly developing. While it isn’t unusual for beautiful colors to last well

into November, the most vivid colors in the lower elevations can usually be viewed during the

last week of October. Now is a great time to see the impressive yellows, oranges, and reds of

sugar and red maples. Even oak trees get in on the action, adding in their more muted reds and

browns. If you’re driving, head down the Blue Ridge Parkway, or through the Cades Cove

Loop, for a nice color show. Great hiking trails right now include Rich Mountain Loop, Kanati

Fork, and the Chestnut Top Trail.

How to Identify Trees by their Color

Each species of tree turns a specific and unique color in the fall. If you want to amaze your

friends and family, or if you’re simply curious about how to identify trees by their fall colors,

here’s an easy chart below:

Beech: golden-bronze

Birch: yellow

Black Maple: bright yellow

Dogwood: red-purple

Hickory: bronze or gold

Mountain Ash: yellow

Oak: red or russet

Poplar: yellow-gold

Red Maple: deep red

Sassafras: orange-yellow

Sourwood: red or orange

Sugar Maple: red-orange

Sumac: bright red


Enjoy your time in the Smokies this fall! A nice, relaxing trip to the mountains is often just what

the doctor ordered to melt away your stress and worries. And, while you’re in the area, take the

scenic drive down the Foothills Parkway to Maryville, and stop in and say “Hi!” to us here at

Custom Timber Log Homes. We’d be glad to see you!