knoxville news
knoxville news knoxville daily sun lifestyle business knoxville sports travel knoxville classifieds knoxville jobs knoxville legal notices knoxville yellow pages smoky mountains contact facebook twitter linkedin rss entertainment knoxville advertising

Autumn Has Arrived in the Smoky Mountains

By Jeaneane Payne

fall foliage

Autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains offers breathtaking views of fall colors. Leaves begin to turn to their brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow usually around the second week in October and reach their peak between mid-October through early November. However, this year the leaves have already started turning, primarily due to cooler than normal temperatures and adequate rainfall in September.

Gatlinburg's most spectacular display of fall foliage includes such colorful trees as sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and the hickories. At higher elevations, color displays start as early as mid-September with the turning of yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush, and pin cherry.

Some 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies and the vast majority of these are deciduous.

Great color can be found almost anywhere within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley, the Foothills Parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the road to Clingmans Dome provide some of the best Fall color viewing.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers beautiful wildflowers, cascading streams, the scent of evergreens, and the sounds of birds along its many hiking trails. For this reason, the National Park Service maintains 800 miles of trails. There are trails for everyone, including the more experienced hiker as well as handicapped individuals in wheelchairs.

Enjoy nature at its finest from the comfort of your motor vehicle. The National Park offers breathtaking views on its many motor nature trails. These driving trails provide pullover areas so you can capture the beauty of the Smokies on camera. There are 384 miles of road in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars. Travel speeds on most of the park's paved roads average 30 miles per hour so you can enjoy nature in a leisurely manner.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, accessible from Historic Nature Trail in downtown Gatlinburg, is a one-hour drive and provides 8 miles of natural beauty with its rivers and waterfalls and historic home sites. The most popular driving trail is the Cades Cove Loop, an 11 mile drive through the Park's open-air museum, located just outside of Townsend, TN.

If you want to take a full day trip to view fall foliage, Heintooga-Roundbottom Road is a driving trail that descends from the high altitudes of the Balsams down into the coves of Roundbottom and Cherokee. Heintooga-Roundbottom Road is accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Cherokee entrance of the Park. Continue all the way up to the mountaintop and make a left turn at the Balsam Mountain Campground sign and continue until the paved road dead ends just beyond the campground. This is a one-way road so once you start there is no turning back. The first fourteen miles are bumpy, winding, and sometimes steep. When you come out of the woods, it looks like the road dead ends into the water. Actually, you drive right through the water on a concrete ford. Park here, take your shoes off, and enjoy the cool mountain water! From this point it's a two way gravel road back to Cherokee. When you dead end into Big Cove Road take a left turn to go to Cherokee.

If you would like your fall drive to include elk viewing, Cataloochee Driving Trail should be your game for the day. Cataloochee Valley is nestled among some of the most rugged mountains in the southeastern United States. Surrounded by 6,000-foot peaks, this isolated valley was the largest and most prosperous settlement in what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once known for its farms and orchards, today's Cataloochee is one of the most picturesque areas of the Park.

Published October 9, 2011

Share |

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2011 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy