Autumn in Townsend and the Smokies

This year, September 22 is the start of the fall season and most around the Townsend, Tn are expecting a colorful autumn. Though there were a few dry spurts this summer, expect the next couple of weeks to really determine just how lively this fall season will be.

Don’t look for much in the way of freezing temperatures at night, which is a good thing, and the more sunny days the better. This will keep those good sugars in the leaves longer and provide for more vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows in October. If everything goes as planned, and that’s a big “IF”, November should be a great color month as well. So plan accordingly, especially those of you planning a Smokies getaway this fall.

Outside of all the scientific stuff, elevation is key when determining fall foliage viewing – when you’ll see it, how much you’ll see, and how long you’ll see it. Elevations from 4,500 to 6,000 feet are key. During the first two weeks in October, leaves can reach peak color above 4,000 feet. During the remainder of October, Smoky Mountain tress like the sugar maple, red maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, and dogwood come alive with magnificent fall color.

No matter where you go in the Great Smoky Mountains you’ll find beautiful fall foliage, especially in places like Townsend and Cades Cove. Places like Cataloochee, located on the other side of the national park, are great spots for nature lovers as well and probably a bit less crowded. Cades Cove can get downright packed during the fall season and for good reason. Oh, and by the other side of the park, that means the North Carolina side. If you’re coming from Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or Sevierville, take Highway 321 north to Interstate 40, then east towards Asheville. Take exit 20 to Cove Creek Road and go another 11 miles to Cataloochee.

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Cataloochee is definitely a worthwhile drive each fall because it provides for some great sights and some even better photo ops. It’s amazing the number of people who visit the park yearly yet never find out about places like Cataloochee until a year later. Just a thought. Cataloochee offers the same spectacular color show as Townsend and Cades Cove. It’s just the lack of crowds that really make it so different. Who knows, by the time everyone sees this, the crowds may have shifted to that side.

Rich Mountain Road outside of Townsend is another great fall foliage viewing spot. Head out to Cades Cove on Laurel Creek Road and enter onto the Cades Cove Loop Road. About 3-4 miles into the loop (loop road stop #8) turn onto Rich Mountain Road. It’s a wonderful drive with some of the best views the Smokies have to offer. During the fall, it’s indescribable. It’s something you just have to see for yourself. There are numerous places to stop, walk, and enjoy these colorful scenes along the road, so take your time and don’t drive too fast. And don’t worry about a map or needing your GPS, Rich Mountain spits you right back out in the middle of Townsend, no problem.

These are just a few of the many opportunities there are to catch the majestic fall foliage offered up by the Smoky Mountains each year near Townsend. If you do nothing else, just drive around and get lost on a mountain road, you’re sure to end up not too far from where you started out and you’ll see the Smokies like they were meant to be viewed – colorful, passionate, and as beautiful as any other place you’ve ever ventured to see.

Townsend, Tn Fall Itinerary

Fall season on the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” might lead one to think that gorgeous views and vistas of fall foliage may be all that Townsend, Tn has to offer during the autumn months. Well, that’s as far from the truth as saying Cades Cove is a “so-so” place to take pictures. From the town’s Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day to the numerous chances to catch local musicians and artisans throughout the area, Townsend, Tn is a hive for fall activity and family fun of all kinds.

So you’re in Townsend for a few days, or a long weekend this fall, well let’s start out with the reason most people come the Smokies each fall – the gorgeous fall colors. Townsend is the perfect place to catch fall in all its splendor whether you’re taking a quick trip around Cades Cove loop road or a longer drive down Rich Mountain Road. Both routes give you a good chance at taking in some picturesque fall scenery. And you can do everything in a day, probably even half a day then get back to town to do something else. If you’re wanting to get a bit further away from town, try driving the Foothills Parkway or the Cherohala Skyway. Both have plenty of magnificent overlooks and historic destinations located along the way.

You’ve got to at least set aside one day just to try the offerings from a few good Townsend restaurants. We suggest a different meal from a different restaurant for each meal. Try camp cooking for at least one meal, or going on a picnic. Some of the area’s best BBQ can be found at such events as the Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Days (Sept. 28 & 29), as well as all kinds of specialty sandwiches, homemade ice cream and desserts, and any other kind local festival-type food you could think of.

Now, while there does seem to be quite a few things to do around town, don’t forget to stray a bit into nature. As mentioned, take a picnic and explore the byways of the Smoky Mountains. Pack a backpack and hike to a beautiful, quiet area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are numerous hikes around Townsend, and especially the Cades Cove area. Find out about biking Townsend, or just stroll over to a nearby stream and throw a line in.

There are musicians and crafts people around town too numerous to even list. The arts and crafts of Townsend come alive in Townsend’s Artisan Guild. Most artists are in their stores daily and love for people to come by and talk with them about their craft…. And purchase a few things too. Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to make memories that will last a lifetime. So come to Townsend, TN this fall and spend a day or two and get back to the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies”.

Rich Mountain Road – A scenic Townsend drive.

If you are a yearly visitor to the Smokies, you probably spend part of one of your days in idyllic Cades Cove.  If you want to change up your trip the next time you head around the loop, try taking Rich Mountain Road.  This rugged journey, that starts almost halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road, is not for everyone but it does offer a different view of the mountains and the valley that is Townsend, TN.  The road is gravel and dirt from start to finish but on a clear day, the views are worth it.

Scenes like this one are prevalent along Rich Mountain Road during the fall.

While there is only one way into Cades Cove, there are three ways out.  Either you can follow Cades Cove Loop road out of Cades Cove, or you can take Rich Mountain Road or Parsons Branch Road.  Rich Mountain Road is the more popular of the two alternative routes as it drops you out in Townsend.  If you have gotten one of the self-guided tour maps you will see the turn off for Rich Mountain Road across from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church.  You will turn to the right before you get to the church and follow the road out of Cades Cove.

The road you find yourself on is gravel and dirt the whole way.  Make sure that you are prepared for this because once you start down the road, you will not be able to turn around.  Rich Mountain Road is a one way road that allows you to leave Cades Cove and take an alternate route to Townsend.  During the winter, this road is closed due to bad road conditions. Keep that in mind when you decide to take this alternate route.  Also remember that the road is closed to RVs and campers.  In fact anything bigger than a truck will make some of the turns a little difficult to simply impossible.

Looking down into Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road.

But though the road is twisting and mountainous, you get to see some amazing scenery as you climb your way out of Cades Cove.  One of the highlights is always the view of the Primitive Baptist Church.  The setting is incredible and it is perfectly set against the mountainside for a vacation photograph that you will love to see and take home.  Also, as you creep along the mountain you can watch wildlife that is not as viewed nearly as often as the wildlife in Cades Cove proper.  The animals tend to climb the mountains to get away from the tourist traffic and the possibility to see not only bears but smaller mammals is greater here.  Along the way, you will come across small waterfalls and some old growth forest along the ridge lines as well.

All in all, you need to add Rich Mountain Road to your bucket list.  Make sure at one point while you are on vacation in the Smoky Mountains that you make the trip from Cades Cove down Rich Mountain Road.  Follow this gravel road from the middle of Cades Cove and see a different side of the Smokies as you work your way to the “Peaceful Side” of the Smokies:  Townsend, TN.

Fall Colors in Townsend

The mornings are getting a bit cooler, football is beginning to creep back into everyone’s daily lives, and school’s starting back. If these all signal the onset of Fall to you, well you’re like many others in East Tennessee. And with autumn comes Fall colors. If you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re probably beginning to wonder about the fall colors and when the leaves will start changing in Townsend, as well as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the surrounding areas.

The mornings are getting a bit cooler, football is beginning to creep back into everyone’s daily lives, and school’s starting back. If these all signal the onset of Fall to you, well you’re like many others in East Tennessee. And with autumn comes Fall colors. If you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re probably beginning to wonder about the fall colors and when the leaves will start changing in Townsend, as well as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the surrounding areas.

Thankfully, this summer has not been extremely dry, and though there have been some hot days, it seems like prevalent conditions could produce a vibrant autumn season. In all, the Great Smokey Mountains National Park consists of 100’s of species of deciduous trees in a variety of elevations. What this means is that, no matter the summer conditions, there will still be an abundant amount of color to see since weather varies throughout… there is no such thing as a “bad” fall in the Smoky Mountains!

Once cooler weather starts to prevail, then leaves will start changing color at a more rapid rate. It starts off in the higher elevations with a number of tree species. Once you get to around mid- October, you’ll see mostly golden yellow colors mixed with some orange, and a hint of red. These colors will descend down the mountains into the valley as the vibrant reds slowly catch up and start to mix with the oranges, browns, and yellows. If cold weather sets in during these months, the colors will peak in the mountains and valley around the last week of October and into early November.

I’d highly suggest keeping track of the official Great Smoky Mountains National Park website to follow the fall foliage changing color. They even have a page dedicated to fall foliage at:

Also, take a look at their webcams:

Finally, be sure to check out the Park’s tips for fall hiking and scenic drives:

Once again, the best time to see the fall colors in Townsend, Sevierville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge will be the last week of October and into early November. This is my favorite time of the year in the Great Smoky Mountains…I hope you enjoy it as much as the locals do!

Townsend Spring Itinerary

Cades Cove church

Spring in Townsend, Tn might just be the perfect time to be in the Smokies for some, though you’re sure to hear the exact opposite from those fall foliage lovers, but that’s neither here nor there. In actuality, both seasons offer ample opportunities geared at getting visitors back to nature – something Townsend excels at, no matter the season. From popular festivals to numerous hikes and bicycle tours around the Smokies and Cades Cove, we’ve compiled a list of Spring “to-do’s” in Townsend. Be prepared to spend a few days if you plan on getting to everything, or just use it as a daily reminder if you plan on coming back a few time this spring.

Strap on your hiking boots and pack something warm just in case as the first jaunt on the Townsend Spring Itinerary gets you off the beaten path and onto the trails of the Smoky Mountains –

  • Take one of the numerous wildflower walks and hikes offfered in the Smoky Mountains; rent a bike from the Cades Cove Campground store and bike the Cades Cove Loop Road or rent from one of the many locales in town and ride the Townsend bike path. One of the most popular day hikes in the area is the Abrams Falls hike by way of Cades Cove – an easy 5-miler that will cool you off halfway through with a quick dip in the pool below Abrams Falls. Definitely worth the hike.

Our next itinerary suggestion lets the traveler enjoy the best of what Townsend and the Smokies has to offer – Cades Cove –

  • Beat the crowds and tour the Cades Cove loop in morning. Take in an evening tour if you’re interested in the Cove’s wildlife and history. Guided tours are now available through Cades Cove Heritage Tours. Be sure to stop by the Cades Cove Campground Store for some of their fabulous ice cream.

So, you’re ready to get back and sample some of Townsend’s offerings, etc? Not only does Townsend offer a handful of great locally-themed stores, there are also a number of historical stops around town to introduce visitors to the history of Townsend and the Smoky Mountains.

  • Check out the arts and crafts of Townsend at some of its many galleries and craft boutiques. From Apple Valley Farms to Nawger Nob to Southern Fried Gallery, Townsend is ripe with local artistic flavor. During the spring there are numerous festivals including the Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timers Day, as well as the Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival. For you history buffs, check out the Little River Railroad Company. It was there that the region got its start as loggers roamed the area before it was designated part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Did you miss anything while you were exploring? Use your final day to just mill around town, or ask the locals what some of their favorite haunts are –

  • Many people come to Townsend to fish. If so, stop by an Little River Outfitters and find out where the fishing is best to be had and pick up some of the latest gear too, eat a great meal at a distinctive local Townsend restaurant, or tour a Tennessee farm. Whatever it is, you’re sure to be back in town in no time. Townsend sort of has that effect on people – they drive through just looking for a way to get to the national park and end up staying for a few days. There’s sure to be even more to add to your list next time you’re in town, hopefully this is a good start.
Cars parked along Cades Cove loop road