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.