Fall colors have reached their much-anticipated peak display in the Smokies. Middle and low elevations are all wrapped in hues of gold, red and orange. Though some trees lost may have lost their leaves during Tuesday morning’s storms, many trees are still brimming with color. A great place to view fall foliage is Indian Grave Trail (from Rich Mountain Loop Trail to Crooked Arm Trail). Red maple, sourwood, hickory, sugar maple, beech, Frazier magnolia, mountain maple, tulip poplar and dogwood are all popping with color. According to Tom Harrington, volunteer, hiker and park naturalist extraordinaire, “the foliage along Laurel Creek Road is probably the most beautiful that I have seen it in the last 18 years.”
Our park’s highest elevations around Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome received their first dusting of snow for the season on Friday night into Saturday morning. The frozen precipitation, sparkling at first under a grand sunrise, did not hang around long, however, as the day’s bright, sunny sky dominated the landscape. With little to no leaves remain at the highest elevations as of this weekend, the park’s fall color show has moved down the mountains into the mid- and lower elevations, where incredible red maples and sourwood trees are mixing with yellow sugar maples and browning magnolia leaves. Beech and oak are adding to the display, making drives into Cataloochee Valley and Cades Cove some of the very best places to visit with cameras at the ready. If you’re looking to capture some wildlife images along with our fall foliage display, make plans to visit Oconaluftee Visitor Center, where our growing heard of bull, cow and young elk can be found most evenings lounging in the grass-filled fields.
Two days of high winds here in the Smokies did their best to rid our trees of their vibrant leaves, but all was not lost. Incredible color remains on display across the park. Driving suggestions for the best color include both open sections of Foothills Parkway, as well as Lakeview Drive out of Bryson City, North Carolina. There’s a good chance most of this season’s color will continue to hang on for next week’s opening of the new Foothills Parkway section, too. Multiple shades of gold, deep crimsons and pinks, amber, peach and coral, even the russet browns – each color is electrifying. Hiking the newly opened Sugarlands Mountain Trail is also highly recommended, as this trail provides views from all elevations, starting at nearly 6,000 feet near Clingmans Dome and ending at low elevation near Laurel Falls.
The Smokies are alive with the vibrant colors of fall. All elevation levels are showing-off with trees in radiant shades of red, gold and orange. For example, sourwoods, red maple, and sugar maple all have brilliantly colored leaves.
Others with colorful foliage are: mountain maple, scarlet oak, hickory, sassafras, beech, dogwood, false Solomon’s seal and Indian cucumber root.
A great spot for viewing the color change in the lower elevations is Metcalf Bottoms. And if you are looking for a hike, take the Little Brier Gap Trail to the Walker Sister Cabin and revel in the fall colors.
As October begins to fade, the autumn color display is just getting started. Now is an ideal time for a drive or hike through the Smokies as a golden haze has taken over the higher and mid-elevations.
Higher elevations are approaching peak color as trees and shrubbery begin to change, some at rates faster than others.
Rich Mountain Road: Sourwood, sassafras, sugar maple, red maple and dogwood are starting to change.
Indian Grave: Showing outstanding color, possibly near peak display. Sugar maple, sassafras, beech and scarlet oak are all displaying colour.
Rich Mountain Trail: Sourwoods are showing brilliant shades of red while red maple, beech, sugar maple and mountain maple are changing as well.
The higher elevations on Rich Mountain appear to be approaching their peak color.
Colors are likely to reach their peak within the next week or two.
The trees of Great Smoky Mountains National Park may have escaped the paths of Hurricane Florence and Michael without sustaining much damage, but the abnormally warm temperatures have taken a toll.
This year, peak color appears to be running an estimated 10 days behind schedule but could speed as temperatures continue to drop. Trees could catch up with their regular schedule or there’s a possibility that the colors will be muted this year, with some red maples and yellow poplars dropping their leaves before changing.
Some trees are showing color now. Along Big Creek Trail in the lower elevation, sourwood, red maple, beech and tulip poplar are all starting to turn. However, out of the total foliage, only an estimated 5% are currently changing.
Bonus: Did you know, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to over 130 different species of trees?
Fall color is currently behind normal schedule due to unusually warm weather. Many trees have yet to change and others are not as vibrant as in previous years. However, spots of fall foliage continue to pop throughout the park with most color evident in the higher elevations, above 5,000 feet, in places like Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap.
Bits of fall foliage are also scattered through the middle elevations like Chimney Tops and the lower elevations such as Metcalf Bottoms.
As temperatures prepare to drop, we’re likely to see more significant color within the next couple of weeks.
Spots of color are peaking through at the park’s higher elevations around Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome, along with the Appalachian Trail ridge line. Few changes are currently visible in the middle elevations, mostly due to current summer-like temperatures. Visitors today will see lots of green among the scattering of fall colors when driving and hiking in the Smokies. Virginia creeper vines, along with sourwood and dogwood trees, are the most notable of the early changers, with some weaker, struggling trees often being the first to change.
Fall colors are beginning to shine through in the higher elevations. Now is a great time to take a drive on Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway or Balsam Mountain Road and enjoy the rich golds from the yellow birch and American beech trees and some reds from maples. If you would like to enjoy fall foliage outside of the car, a hike to Andrews Bald on Forney Ridge Trail or along the Appalachian Trail to Charlies bunion would do the trick.
The fall color display usually reaches its peaks at higher elevations between late September and early October.
Fall is officially here, and the trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are beginning to show off their fall colors. The colors are coming on the strongest at the highest elevations in the park. Witch-hobble leaves are turning burgundy, a smattering of dogwood trees have started to change and blackgum trees will soon be blushing red.
Colors are also changing in the lower elevations, like along the Little Brier Gap Trail to the Walker Sisters cabin in Metcalf Bottoms where the sourwoods are already turning a nice shade of red.
The fall color display usually reaches its peak in the park at mid and lower elevations between late October and early November.
Along with the brilliant fall colors, now is also a good time for elk viewing. With the elk rut in full swing, good places to see elk include Cataloochee Valley and the fields around Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Approaching elk or bear closer than 50 yards is strictly prohibited. Some fields will be closed to the public during the rut.