When Do the Leaves Change Color in the Fall

Fall is an incredible season to visit Gatlinburg and The Great Smoky Mountains with the beautiful foliage, crisp air, crafts, harvest festivals, etc. If you have never visited Gatlinburg, TN in the month of October then you are missing out on an amazing experience.

Figuring out when the color in the leaves will peak can be very tricky…like predicting the weather. A good rule of thumb that defines a brilliant fall is dry weather with cool (not freezing) temperatures in October. There are obviously other factors, but those two are a common necessity. Colors usually peak around the last half of October with the higher elevations changing color first and then trickling down into the valley. So how can you figure out if the color is peaking before you visit Gatlinburg? Luckily, the internet can help!

There are two webcams available in the mountains that can show you exactly what the leaves look like! Simply keep track of these two cams to see when the leaves begin to change. Once you start noticing the majority of the leaves changing color, then most of the valley and surrounding mountains should be lit up with color within two weeks.

Webcam from Look Rock

Webcam from Purchase Knob

The Tennessee State Department of Tourist Development has an excellent website with Fall Foliage information available at: http://fall.tnvacation.com . On their site you will find:

  • Scenic Route Guides
  • Fall Color Forecasts
  • Photo Gallery
  • E-Cards
  • Outdoor Activities
  • Why and How Leaves Change Color
  • And so much more!

One last tip is to avoid coming to Gatlinburg on the weekend if at all possible. The busiest days are Friday-Sunday for obvious reasons. If you absolutely have to come on a weekend, either arrive before 5pm on Friday and then leave after 2pm on Sunday or else you will hit massive traffic if you have to travel in or out through Pigeon Forge. More traffic tips can be seen at our sister Pigeon Forge website as well. Even if you hit traffic, the leaves, events, activities, weather, etc make for one incredible visit. Besides…sitting in traffic just means you get to look at more leaves!


  1. Marie /

    We’re planning a trip to Gatlinburg the first week in October.. any idea if that should be a good time for fall foliage viewing??

  2. You can probably find some leaves changing in the higher elevations, so I would plan to hike some… if you are able to. I have been many times and usually in the mid to lower elevations the colors are good from about Oct 24 to about the first few days of Nov

  3. Rosemary Petty /

    Can you tell me the elevation of Gatlinburg?

  4. hasham /

    I am planning to visit gatlinburg the weekend of 10th Oct. Please suggest the locations to view the best of the fall colors during this period.

  5. can any one tell when is the best time to vist the top of smokies to see the pretty fall color’s? thanks

  6. hasham /

    i visited in the weekend of 11th Oct, it was good. I think the coming weekend will be more beautiful.

  7. Cades cove is the best place to go while visiting Gatlinburg. Just google it for directions, history and pics. AWESOME !!

  8. What is it like the Week of Thanksgiving?

  9. Great reading material. I’ve learned a lot by reading here. Thanks!

  10. Bonnie Mixon /


  11. Leaves are beginning to change now in Gatlinburg, and the nights are cooling off. And the acorns are dropping — not sure what that means, but probably that the Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains will be spectacular this year.

  12. donna dickens /

    i am planning on being in gatlinburg the week of 18-24. i hope the colors are full by then. i am taking my parents with me, they have been coming there for almost 50 years now, may be their last trip, i am hoping they will enjoy it.

  13. R Meyer /

    Last week of October seems to have the best colors.

  14. Sheila /

    We are getting married in Gatlinburg on 11-11-11 and I am hoping the leaves will still be beautiful. Can someone give me an update where the colors are at.

  15. Diana Rossner /

    Greetings from Seattle

    I’m suprising my hubby with a trip to Smokey Mountains toward the end of Oct 2012. He’s a city boy fromm Seattle and I ‘m a country girl from TX. Want him to fall in love with Gatlinberg or TN in general. I would love to relocate to this area from Seattle. Anyway, any suggestions on where to visit during Fall foliage and a great mountain geatway would be greatly appreciated!Thank you!

  16. Gatlinburg Insider /

    Sugar Maple Cabins – http://www.sugarmaplecabins.com, is a great place to stay Diana. If you’re looking for places to view the fall foliage definitely plan on Cades Cove as well as driving down Rich Mountain Road.

  17. Patti /

    We have a very comfortable, nice cabin in Pigeon Forge. It has a beautiful view of the mountains and wonderful Fall colors. I also suggest you visit Cades Cove for sure. You might even get lucky and see a bear there.

  18. John P. /

    My wife and I visited our timeshare in Gatlinburg last year from 10/22/11 to 10/29/11, and as we were driving into the foothills of the Smokies the leaves were absolutely breathtaking and at their peak. When we checked out on the 29th and departed on the same road we came in on, we were amazed at what was before us. Even from the valley on up over Hwy. 441 south, the leaves that hadn’t already fallen from the trees were mostly dark red to brown. Hardly any yellow/orange left. Might I add that as we topped the elevation around Clingman’s dome entrance, there were no leaves but it was snowing. We and the kids had a wonderful time.

    All in all, as far as last year, the second and third weeks of Oct. were the apex of the spectacular leaf viewing. We’re already reserved for the 3rd weekend of Oct. for this year. Hope this helps.

  19. Leann Vercher /

    Thanksgiving break begins November 17. We would love to know the best place for peak leaves during this time. Will it be too late??? I hope not:)

  20. cheryl makolin /

    Want to plan a trip to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinberg during 2012 color change/peak fall colors! When should I come?


  22. Gatlinburg Insider /

    They’d probably still be pretty good then Ron.


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