How to Experience Fall in Gatlinburg TN
Fall is a magical time of year to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee! Whether you’re coming for a family vacation or just a quick getaway, there are plenty of ways to experience all that this beautiful destination has to offer during the fall season. From the stunning autumn colors to the crisp air and best views of mountains, fall in Gatlinburg TN offers something for everyone.
Here’s your guide to experiencing fall in Gatlinburg like never before!
Taking Note of When Leaves Change
To help you plan your fall in Gatlinburg TN, you should have an idea when leaves change. After all, you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Starting at the higher elevations in mid-September, leaves start to turn to beautiful, bright colors. Fall leaves start to change in lower elevations in mid-October. Don’t worry if you’re planning a Gatlinburg getaway in late October or early Novemeber, because leaves are usually still changing.
Fun Gatlinburg Festivals
Smoky Mountain Fall Festival
What’s October without celebrating and immersing yourself in German culture? The event previously known as Ober Gatlinburg OktOBERfest is no exception!
Held at Ober Gatlinburg, this fall festival has it all. From the music to food (bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels), there’s no better or more fun way to bring in the fall than this. There are even lots of activities for children, not to mention ice skating, a hay maze, and concert series.
Get started by taking the Aerial Tramway up to the top of Ober Mountain, and get those astounding, colorful views of fall foliage. The rest is sure to be a great time, no matter your age!
Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
More than 200 booths fill the Gatlinburg Convocation Center for the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair. If you’re looking for unique gifts, decor, live music, or food, it’s here. Everything’s handmade and one-of-a-kind at this fall festival, that runs through most of the month of October.
Bear-Varian Fall Festival at Anakeesta
Running through most of September and Ocotber, you’ll enjoy Halloween and fall decorations throughout this theme park while you indulge in specialty foods and craft beers. If you stay through the night hours, you’ll see Halloween-inspired colors wash over Anakeesta.
What isn’t there to do at Anakeesta in the fall (or year-round!)?
You’ll discover a variety of ways to take advantage of the Great Smoky Mountains and beautiful fall colors. There’s a Treetop Skywalk, which is a bridge (about 60 feet in the air) that takes you through the tree canopy.
Looking for a more exciting way to see the fall foliage? Go ziplining, or for a softer, slower experience ride the scenic Chondola chairlift.
There’s also the AnaVista tower, which gives visitors 360-degree views of not only downtown Gatlinburg, but the Great Smoky Mountains and beyond.
While you’re in Gatlinburg to experience fall, you should consider adding Gatlinburg SkyPark (previously called Gatlinburg SkyLift Park) to your “to-do” list.
Known as the best seat in Gatlinburg, the SkyLift is a front-row seat to some of the best fall leaf shows in town. When you get to the top, admire views from the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, which at nearly 700 feet long is the longest pedestrian cable bridge in the country.
Connected to the SkyBridge is the SkyTrail which leads to the Tulip Tower, where an observation area showcases the autumn colors. After you’re finished exploring, the SkyDeck is a great place to relax and take in the serene beauty.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
Another must-see observation tower is the Gatlinburg Space Needle standing at 407 feet tall, that overlooks not only downtown Gatlinburg, but the Smoky Mountains and beyond. Glass elevators take you to the needle, providing views the entire way up.
Take Your Pick of Scenic Drives
Even when the sun is out, there are deceivingly chilly days in the fall in Gatlinburg TN. Why not hop in your vehicle for a scenic drive? Just be careful, because black bears like to fatten up for winter and could be out foraging for food if you decide to leave your vehicle and walk to a hiking trail.
This is considered one of the most popular and scenic drives through the park. Take a drive through the lowest drivable pass in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At an elevation of 5,046 feet, you’ll see trees including pines, oaks, and spruce-fir. If you get out of your vehicle at the parking area, remember it’s usually at least 10 degrees cooler than it is in lower elevations.
This is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Tennessee measuring at 6,643 feet. You’ll see beautiful fall colors for 20 miles, and on a clear day, up to 100 miles. It’s a 7-mile drive to the end of Clingmans Dome Road, with scenic pullouts so you can stop and admire nature. There is also a paved hiking trail at the end of the road that leads to an observation tower if you want to continue exploring.
Cade’s Cove Loop Road
A one-way, 11-mile one-way loop allows you to see the area from your own vehicle. Allow between 2 and 4 hours to take everything in, and to give yourself extra time if you plan to walk some of the hiking trails.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Another one-way motor trail, that’s 5.5 miles long and gives you a close look at the forest, log cabins, and mountain streams. Before the motor trail is a hiking trailhead that leads you to popular waterfalls (like Rainbow Falls) within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Enjoy miles of forest and mountains during the fall when you drive from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge via Pigeon Forge Parkway. Dollywood is located in this nearby Gatlinburg town, so you can make the most of your Gatlinburg stay by adding this to your itinerary.
It’s a half hour drive from Gatlinburg, with many fun things to do along the way. Not only is there Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but stop at Barber Orchard Fruitstands or scope out Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.
Start Planning Your Fall Gatlinburg Getaway!
There’s no shortage of fun, creative ways to take advantage of the fall leaf show during autumn in Gatlinburg TN.
Take a relaxing scenic drive or seek thrills by going to the highest places above Gatlinburg to admire the fall colors. While you’re planning your autumn getaway, don’t forget to check out the Relax Gatlinburg website for more fall events.