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Tennessee is a popular travel destination no matter what time of year; however, fall brings tourists and travelers wanting to view changing fall foliage in the state. October is the most popular time to catch the forest landscape changing from lush green to the vibrant fall colors of red, yellow, and orange. Embrace the fall season by exploring these top places to view fall foliage in the state of Tennessee.
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This list starts with Clingmans Dome – one of the most popular places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This observation tower offers 360-degree views of the Smokies, which boasts stunning fall colors if you’re there during peak color change. The paved walkway up to the dome is short, at only half a mile, so this spot sees a lot of different travelers, from motorists to hikers. Found at an elevation of 6,644 feet, Clingmans Dome is one of the highest points in the Smoky Mountains and the highest in both Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Newfound Gap Road is in the same area as Clingmans Dome, making for an incredibly scenic drive. Since there are many overlook opportunities here, Newfound Gap Road is a popular spot for travelers hoping to catch fall colors in the Smoky Mountains. Due to its popularity, hit this road early in the day to avoid traffic. This road is not only known for its fall colors but also for the location where former President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his speech during the grand opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since the road is one of the lowest spots in the Smokies, fall colors show earlier here than at higher elevations.
Another Great Smoky Mountains National Park spot to go to during fall is Cades Cove. Cades Cove attracts visitors in the fall because of its dazzling colors and historic buildings. Cades Cove typically sees the most fall color during the last two weeks of October. This 11-mile loop is perfect for a scenic drive, but hikers will also be pleased to find several trailheads along the route.
Outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the town of Gatlinburg. You may have a sudden urge to drive outside of town to catch fall colors in the area, but don’t miss out on the view from the Gatlinburg Space Needle before you head out to the national park. With a 360-degree view and standing at 407 feet tall, the view from the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle is sure to offer breathtaking vistas of the town and the surrounding forest. Guests to the Gatlinburg Space Needle particularly enjoy the glass elevator that brings them to the top of this tower.
After exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spend some time in Roan Mountain State Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. As in the national park, the Appalachian Trail also passes through this scenic state park. Here you’ll view grassy bald patches in between colorful fall trees. With 2,000 acres of hardwood forest in this state park, you can count on a colorful scene when you visit here during the fall.
Another great spot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cataloochee Valley, where hikers and photographers are drawn every fall due to its colorful fall sights. In addition to historic buildings in the valley, you can enjoy plenty of photographic opportunities in this part of the park. Also, keep an eye out for elk since they regularly frequent this area during the fall months.
There is nothing more serene than a waterfall surrounded by changing fall foliage. Therefore head to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, where two waterfalls offer stunning views. Both Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls are popular areas in this part of the state. The hike to Grotto Falls, a 2.6-mile walk, is a must-do in the area.
If you don’t want to head into the mountains to catch fall foliage, you can view it right in Pigeon Forge from the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. This Ferris wheel gives riders an impressive view of the town and surrounding area. At 200 feet tall, you’re sure to see orange, red, and yellow trees down below. This Ferris wheel is near The Island in Pigeon Forge, a popular attraction in the area with rides, shops, and restaurants.