6 Smokin’ Things to Do in the Tennessee Smokies This Fall

Must-Do Activities in the Tennessee Smokies This Fall

By Kelsey Thomas

The beginning of fall is such an exciting time in the Tennessee Smokies. The beauty of the leaves changing and the perfect weather makes for a perfect photo-opportunistic, nature-driven vacation. Whether you’re looking for exciting festivals to attend or would rather lay low and enjoy a relaxing hike in one of the nation’s most gorgeous national parks, you’ll never run out of things to do in the magnificent Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Here are our top 6 picks of events and activities to experience from now until the end of fall.

View Wildlife at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to view wildlife in the Tennessee Smokies. Some animals you may be able to see include white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, turkeys, woodchucks and many other animals. They have two open areas, Cataloochee and Cades Cove, that are perfect for wildlife viewing.

great smoky mountains during fall season
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sept. 24 – Oct. 30, 2021: Dollywood’s Harvest Festival

Dollywood, a popular theme park joint owned by Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, is located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Every fall, the park transforms into a magical experience filled with playful days and illuminated nights. The festival features various live performances, as well as artisans and craftsmen that can demonstrate and sell their crafts.

Sept 24. – Oct. 31, 2021: Ober’s 12th Annual OktOBERrfest

This annual October event, held at Ober Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg, celebrates the traditions of the original OktOBERfest in Munich, Germany. Featured will be daily shows, updated food menus and even an outdoor bier garden! Try different brews with a $20 beer card or enjoy a delicious salted pretzel while listening to live music.

keg at Oktoberfest
Ober’s OktOBERfest

Go Leaf Peeping in Gatlinburg

The Smoky Mountains are known for their breathtaking array of colors that are painted throughout the mountains during the fall season. Any time between late September to late October is the best time to see this colorful phenomenon. Refer to the Gatlinburg Fall Foliage Report to know exactly what type of fall colors to expect and when.

Oct. 10, 2021: 5th Annual Chalkfest at the Island of Pigeon Forge

Calling all artists, professional or aspiring! This themed chalk drawing competition is a fun way to tune into your artistic side in the Smokies. Artists may bring their own chalk or use the chalk provided at the event. Awards will be presented for multiple prize categories at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Stage.

girl drawing with chalk
Chalkfest at the Island of Pigeon Forge

Find the Photogenic Spots

You are going to want to take a picture of everything you see in the Smokies. From the various waterfalls, like Abrams Falls or Rainbow Falls, to lookout spots like Chimney Tops or Newfound Gap, you are destined to capture some stunning images. You could even make a trip itinerary of all the places you wish to photograph.

Smoky Mountains Fall Colors

Image from Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau

Your Guide to Seeing the Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage

There’s never a bad time to visit the charming mountain towns within the Great Smoky Mountains. Each season offers a different experience and an array of activities. As the crisp fall air rolls in, you’ll notice the treetops change from green to vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. What makes fall such a fantastic time to visit the Smoky Mountains is taking in the fall foliage.

When to View the Fall Colors

The leaves in the Smoky Mountain region typically change in early to mid-October and peak in early November. When temperatures are cooler, the leaves transform from green to bright reds, oranges and yellows sooner.

During this time, traffic in the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg does increase. Be patient as you drive along the scenic byways and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Where to View the Fall Foliage

Higher elevations tend to have their fall colors peak near the end of October while the rest of the area follows behind. Keep this in mind when you choose where to view the fall foliage.

There are several different places throughout the region to view the breathtaking fall foliage.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Whether you choose to hike, bike or drive, there are several different ways and places to take in the national park’s fall views. There are a number of hiking trails within the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are great for getting some exercise and viewing the fall colors. The scenic roadways are perfect for a leisurely drive or pulling off to stretch your legs and really experience the scenery.

Take in the impeccable fall colors from the top of Clingmans Dome. The nearly 7,000-foot-tall tower is the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains and in Tennessee. On a clear day, observers can see for over 100 miles. 

Bike or drive to Cades Cove, a beautiful valley surrounded by the Smoky Mountains. This is not only a great place for observing the local wildlife but also taking in the autumn colors.

Click here to read more about where to view the fall colors at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, a hub for attractions, entertainment, dining and more, boasts several places to see the fall foliage, each offering a different experience.

Drive along the Gatlinburg Bypass to reach the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook. This free overlook boasts views of the city and amber-colored treetops.

Ride 1,800 feet up the Gatlinburg SkyLift and take in the views from the SkyDeck. If you’re up for it, walk across the 680-foot-long SkyBridge where you can look down onto the treetops beneath you.

Catch views of the changing treetops on a high-flying zipline tour through Anakeesta. Or, take a leisurely stroll 40–60 feet above the forest floor on the park’s Tree Canopy Walk.

Click here to read more about where to view the fall colors in Gatlinburg.

Pigeon Forge

If you’re visiting nearby Pigeon Forge, you can also experience fall in the Smoky Mountain region.

Standing at 200 feet tall, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel offers views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This observation wheel comfortably allows up to eight guests to take in views of The Island with the lush, vibrant treetops in the background. Fully enclosed and climate controlled, the wheel is perfect for fall sightseeing.

Take a leisurely drive from Pigeon Forge to Townsend on Wears Valley Road. This scenic 15-mile road borders the lush amber-colored foliage and mountain peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

Click here to read more about where to view the fall colors in Pigeon Forge.

Where to View the Fall Colors in Pigeon Forge

When you visit Pigeon Forge during fall, be sure to take in the views from these locations.

Continue reading “Where to View the Fall Colors in Pigeon Forge”

Where to View the Fall Colors in Gatlinburg

When you visit Gatlinburg during fall, be sure to take in the views from these locations.

Continue reading “Where to View the Fall Colors in Gatlinburg”

Where to View the Fall Colors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park during fall, be sure to take in the views from these locations.

Continue reading “Where to View the Fall Colors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park”