4 Ways to Experience A Colorful Fall in the Smokies


As early as mid-September, you can begin to see the changing colors of the Smoky Mountain trees. With around 100 species of native trees living in the Great Smoky Mountains, this part of the country provides some of the prettiest fall foliage scenery you’ll find anywhere. Seriously—ask the thousands of visitors who make plans to see it year after year!

Bright reds, yellows, and oranges decorate the mountains in natural, breathtaking beauty. Higher elevations will peak their beautiful display in the first couple weeks of October, while the lower elevations will continue to change and transform the landscape through the first couple weeks of November.

It’s no wonder, then, that autumn is one of the most popular seasons for families to plan a visit to the Smokies. And if your family wants to be one of them, simply contact our reservation specialists as soon as you can (no joke—like today, if you can!) so you can be sure to reserve your family’s favorite Pigeon Forge cabin. Then get ready to make the most of your fall foliage visit with these 4 tips for soaking up the gorgeous scenery!

1. Take an autumn hike with the family.
It’s no secret that a favorite Smoky Mountain activity any time of year is hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With more than 800 miles of trails, you’ll find a hike for any experience level guaranteed. But there are some hikes that are even more enjoyable when you’re visiting the Smokies in the fall.
For instance, if you’re coming to the Smokies in mid to late September, you should choose the hike to Andrews Bald or Mount LeConte, so you can see sweeping views of the mountains and the earliest fall foliage just beginning to change at the higher elevations. For those planning a trip a little later in the season—from early to mid October—try a hike to Gregory Bald or the Sugarland Mountain Trail, which starts from Clingmans Dome Road.

And actually, now that we’ve mentioned it, Clingmans Dome—the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—is a great place to bring your family for that perfect fall photo (think Christmas cards, y’all!). The circular observation tower at the top of the road offers 360-degree views, offering one of the best photo ops in the Smokies!

Finally, when the autumn season is in full swing—from mid to late October—you can skip those (sometimes scary) higher elevation trails and enjoy a family-friendly hike among the Smoky Mountain trees. Little River Trail, Porters Creek Trail, and Baskins Creek Falls (off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail) are all great options for a later-in-the-season visit to the Smokies. And don’t forget your picnic basket for a full day of outdoor fun!

2. Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island.
One of the newest Pigeon Forge attractions, The Island, also offers one of the area’s best ways to enjoy the fall foliage: the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel! Without ever visiting The Island before, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about when you get close. This 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel is simply impossible to miss!

With 42 all-glass, climate-controlled gondolas, you can ride this wheel any time from September through November without worrying about getting too cold. And with one gondola holding up to 8 guests, your entire family can ride together as you enjoy 3 revolutions 200 feet in the air and back. Have your camera ready to snap sweeping views of the colorful Smoky Mountains when you get to the top!

You can even return to The Island after sunset for an evening ride on the Wheel, where you’ll be wowed by another impressive Pigeon Forge sight: The Island Show Fountain! This state-of-the-art fountain, playing every 30 minutes all day long, features 89 nozzles choreographed to 14 pieces of music.

3. Get a bird’s-eye view on a Smoky Mountain helicopter tour.
Now, if the 200-foot Smoky Mountain Wheel or even the 6,000-foot Clingmans Dome doesn’t sound sweeping enough to you, you’ll want to take your Smoky Mountain foliage tour to the skies with Scenic Helicopter Tours in Sevierville! This award-winning company has been flying over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 1972, providing unforgettable views to people of all ages—and for a reasonable price.

While Scenic Helicopter Tours has a wide variety of tours to choose from, in order for you to experience the gorgeous foliage this fall, you’ll want to choose one of their longer and most popular flights known as “The Gatlinburg,” which takes you above the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yes, this flight and others that extend into the park cost a little more, but isn’t it worth it to see a breathtaking array of colors that only comes once a year?

4. Choose a Pigeon Forge cabin with the right view.
Finally, the easiest (and most cost-effective) way to experience the changing foliage during your fall visit is to simply book the right Pigeon Forge cabin for the time when you plan to come. What we mean is, if you’re coming early in the season (mid-September through early October), choose a cabin with a mountain view, so you can see the colors just beginning to change at the higher elevations in the park.

But if you’re able to wait until the peak of autumn (mid-October), you’ll have the option to choose a cabin with a wooded view, where you’ll experience an intimate, private stay among the Smoky Mountain trees with their gorgeous colors around you. Either way, you’ll always remember your fall foliage tour in the Smoky Mountains!