FALL IN THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS

The fall season brings along welcomed changes to the Smoky Mountains. While we’re sad to see summer go, the lower temperatures make enjoying the outdoors here even more enticing, along with the cascade of warm colors that engulf the landscape. Some of the area’s most popular events also happen in the fall, including the Apple Harvest Festival in Waynesville and the Maggie Valley Fall Art and Craft Show, giving leaf-peepers one more reason to plan an adventure to the Smokies during the season. Also happening this fall: the annual Monarch migration through our mountains! Read on to learn how to make the most out of a fall trip to the Smokies!

2021 Fall Color Forecast

When fall rolls around, everyone wants to know: have the leaves changed color yet? When will they be at their peak?

There is no simple formula for predicting nature’s cornucopia of color, but we can try to predict it. The “best” fall color for an area occurs when days are bright, sunny and cool; when nights are cool but not below freezing; and when there has been ideal rainfall through the growing season. Wet, cloudy, warm weather or exceptionally low temperatures in early fall tend to mute the autumn display.

Our 2021 peak color map is based on estimations from previous years. Remember, areas at the exact same elevation often change at different times, depending on sun exposure, soil conditions and more.

2021 Fall Color Timeline

Second Week in October: Peak time for areas above 5,000 feet. For the best fall color, go to Waterrock Knob, Graveyard fields, Black Balsam, and Max Patch.

Third Week in October: Peak time for elevations from 4,000 – 5,000 feet. Explore all Blue Ridge Parkway locations and the majority of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well.

Fourth Week in October: Peak time for lower elevations from 3,000 – 4,000 feet. This is when we’ll start seeing color in Haywood County’s towns and valleys. Remember that some parts of the towns do lie within the above-mentioned higher elevations.

Fifth Week in October: Peak time for elevations 2,000 feet and below. If Fall is running long, this can be a spectacular week for viewing and can run well into November.

Our Favorite Spots for Fall Color

Lake Junaluska

Lake Junaluska offers amazing fall views courtesy of its surrounding mountains. Take in the beauty with a leisurely stroll around lake on a paved 2.6-mile trail that is also perfect for riding bikes, walking the dog, or taking a jog. Cast a line for a relaxing day of fishing or enjoy the remaining warm weather with kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. This is a perfect place for a relaxing retreat, or a getaway filled with adventures.

Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam Knob is a tree-less bald that sits above 6214 ft. in elevation and gives wide sweeping views of surrounding mountain ranges. There are several trails accessible from this point on the Blue Ridge Parkway and plenty of areas to explore. A great short hike for families, day hikers, photographers. This section of trails includes some of the most spectacular mountains and balds in the Southern Appalachians

Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields offers plenty of opportunities to take in the beauty of the season. Rushing waterfalls and cool, clear streams are a favorite highlight along this moderate 3.2 mile hiking trail found at Milepost 418.8. The unique layout of the trail offers the feeling of being smack-dab in the middle of all the fall time beauty.  Here’s a tip—go early or during the week because the parking area can often be crowded.

Elk in the Fall

During fall season, also known as “rut,” male bull elks perform their legendary bugle calls to attract female cows and other bulls. At this time, bull elks can be seen sparring with one another in an overall attempt to impress female elk. This annual ritual typically begins in early- to mid-September and can last into the early weeks of October.

The elk of Cataloochee Valley are most visible at dawn and dusk, so plan accordingly. (Psst: it’s a great time to catch up on our best elk watching tips!) Pack a picnic breakfast or dinner and explore the historic valley while you wait. Travel back in time with visits to turn-of-the-century homes, a schoolhouse, and a church that tell the story of one of the original pioneer settlements in Haywood County. For your protection, please remain on the roadway and near your vehicle during the rut.

Fall Shopping Favorites

Waynesville

Carve out some time to visit Waynesville for your fall necessities. Main Street is bustling with boutiques, fine art galleries, gift shops and more. Located in one of Waynesville’s 6 charming neighborhoods, Hazelwood Soap Co. has fresh soaps and lotions made with natural ingredients that you will absolutely fall for. Lastly, get your pick of appetizing apple treats like turnovers, donuts, and fritters at Barber’s Orchard. Sounds pretty sweet to us!

Maggie Valley

If you are a shopper who likes everything to be in one place, visit Market Square this fall for a lineup of Smoky Mountain shops for all to enjoy. Located nearby, you can find a gallery of handmade pottery and crock drums at Different Drummer Pottery. Looking to spice up your shopping trip? Visit Maggie Valley for moonshine tasting at Elevated Mountain Distillery. They say when the sun sets, the moon shines!

canton

This hidden gem of a town is a must-stop for seasonal shopping. Specialty shop, Maddie’s on Main, is home to handmade gifts, vintage collectables, décor and more. For the latest fall fashions and locally made treasures, Pigeon River Mercantile is a mom-and-pop shop with the best gifts to share. Don’t forget to top off your shopping spree with a sweet treat from Wildflour Blue Bakery & Gifts. Canton truly has the pick of the patch.

Signature fall events

For a complete list of Fall events and happenings visit the Events page on our website.

Maggie Valley Swap Meet & Car Show
September 23rd – 25th

Haywood County Artists Studio Tour
September 25th – September 26th

Kustom Kemps of America “Icons of Hotrodding Festival”
October 1st – October 2nd

Annual Church Street Art & Craft Show
October 9th

Maggie Valley Fall Arts & Craft Show
October 16th – October 17th

Autumn Leaves Craft Show
October 16th – October 17th

Apple Festival
October 16th

Smoky Mountain Bluegrass Festival
October 23rd

Shelton House “A Haunting on the Hill”
October 29th – October 31st