The fall leaf season is in full swing and the Smoky Mountains are awash with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. The reason we enjoy such a spectacular color season is that the Smokies have a remarkable variety of trees. Nearly 100 different species of trees including sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, hickory and birch contribute to our annual show.
You can find brilliant autumn colors just about anywhere in the Smokies. There is no need to grumble your way along roads crowed with leaf-lookers! Chances are, you will have an amazing view of from the deck of your Bryson City or Cherokee vacation cabin rental! While the Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular destination that offers breathtaking long-range views, you may experience bumper-to-bumper traffic that can detract from the serene natural experience you were hoping to have. The most popular spot during this time of year is Cades Cove, which you may wish to avoid if you aren’t keen on the smell of muffler exhaust.
One great option is to board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to view the fall foliage while enjoying a relaxing train ride. No need to pull over and get out your camera every five minutes; just park in downtown Bryson City, hop aboard and let someone else do the driving while you take all the photos you like!
If you prefer to drive yourself, check out Cataloochee, on the eastern side of the Park. It is much less crowded because it’s away from the most traveled routes and is a little harder to reach from the Tennessee side of the park than Cades Cove. You will see the same spectacular colors and it is bound to be less crowded, even during peak color season. Most likely, you will even get to see some Elk!
Directions: If you are coming from Bryson City or Cherokee, take I-40 to exit 20 and follow the signs 11 miles to Cataloochee. The trip from Cherokee is approximately 82 miles round-trip and can take several hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Have fun!