Many parts of the United States come alive in the fall with a show of brilliant colors as leaves change colors from dazzling yellows to pulsating reds and orange. The foliage viewing season starts at the beginning of September, reaching a climax towards the middle of October and ending in late October or early November. One of the places to view this vibrant display of nature is by driving through East Tennessee and staying at a Gatlinburg TN cabin rental. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or Smokies for short, is a terrain of rolling hills that turn into bluffs and mountains. The area was once part of the Cherokee homeland, but now it is a paradise for hikers with more than 800 miles of trails.
The exact dates of color changes do vary from year to year and depends on the timing of the initial frost. Frost also determines the intensity of the colors seen. If the summer happens to be particularly dry, the leaves will change color sooner, and dry summers coupled with a rainy September will bring intense and wide-ranging change. The change does not all take place at the same time. The trees located at the highest elevations start changing first and like a wave, the change continues downwards. Even the professionals cannot predict with any accuracy the peak color change timings.
The main factor contributing to the park’s fall colors is the tremendous variety of trees growing in the park. More than 100 species of trees are found here, which gives the mountain its spectrum of colors. Some of the most beautiful and color-filled trees found in the park include sugar maple, red maple, scarlet oak, sweet gum, dogwood and hickories.
Usually, at around the middle of September, color change starts at 6,000 feet and moves to around 4,000 feet in the beginning of October. A drive around Clingmans Dome road, Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway is highly recommended as the best views can be observed from here. Peak season is considered to be mid-October to early November. At this time, Cades Cove along with US441 provides some of the best views, but be prepared for bumper to bumper traffic and long delays. Traffic on weekdays tends to be a bit lighter than on weekends.
Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the park, culminating with the 11 mile road that goes in a loop. There are many picnic spots along the way and deer and small animals thrill the visitors. Occasionally, black bears are also sighted. Since the park is a popular visitors’ spot, local hotels fill up rapidly, so it is best to book in advance. The hotels nearest the park are located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The park is home to many buildings from the 19th century. There is a Methodist Church with one of the oldest cemeteries found in the area. The Cove Lake offers many activities like trails, picnic areas, horseback riding, camp ground and fishing, besides the awe-inspiring panorama. Some trails worth exploring include the Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls and Ramsey Cascades. One can see the brilliant shades of red embedded in maples, the golden yellows of beech and deep tones of oak along these trails.
In addition to the splendor of nature, Smoky Mountains offers other attractions and activities that the whole family can enjoy. There is the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of The Smokies, Dixie Stampede, The Comedy Barn, Black Bear Jamboree, and the Nascar Speed Park, to name a few. For the treasure hunters, the Great Smokies flea market is one of East Tennessee’s biggest draws. The market is housed in more than 200,000 square feet of heated and cooled indoor space with over 1,000 vendors. Situated in the foothills of the mountains off interstate 40, the market is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8a.m. to 5p.m. the whole year round.