The Smoky Mountain region is starting to enter the phase of fall where some places are still seeing peak color, while others are beginning to fade out and leaves are already falling.
In the highest elevations (above 5,500), autumn is already fading away. From 3,000-5,000 feet, most trees are at or slightly past peak, but are still very impressive. More and more reds can be seen in the hills and on the ridgelines, especially eastward on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In the low lying foothills of the Smokies, fall colors are developing rapidly and really showing out. Lower elevations have already experienced the first frost of the season, which means that any remaining leaves are making their transformation as these words are read. If you’re out on the trail, you’ll notice the majestic reds of the black gum, dogwood, and sourwood trees. Meanwhile species like the tuliptree, black walnut, beech, spicebush, birch, and hickory gleam in gold as they take in the afternoon sun. Fall foliage is still on track to remain at peak levels in the lower elevations even through early November.
This slow-moving fall season isn’t unusual, but it sure is welcome. With a forecast calling for color to last through the first week of November in the Smoky Mountains, it’s no wonder people keep making last minute plans to visit the area. It’s not a far cry, but autumn displays could last through mid-November if the weather keeps at its current pace.
As for trees in the mid-elevation levels, a number of species are still showing great color. Oak trees are just now coming into their own. More common trees like the maples and the hickories are still as bright as ever. You’re bound to still see a few greens at the middle and lower elevations as some species try to contain themselves till the very end. So, chances are that you might get a glimpse of some new color should you decide to venture to the Smoky Mountains, and if the mild weather sticks around.
As always, the best fall color can be seen along roadways like Newfound Gap Road from the Alum Cave Bluffs Trailhead to the Kephart Prong Trailhead, the Foothills Parkway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you want to get closer to nature, hike the Rich Mountain Road Loop just outside Cades Cove, Smokemont Loop, Chestnut Top Trail, and the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail.