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!



2020 Fall Color Forecast

Fall Color Forecast for NC Smoky Mountains

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 2020 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.

2020 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

Located in the heart of Haywood County between Clyde, Waynesville, and Maggie Valley, 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. Other activities include fishing, recreational paddling, mini-golf and more.

Max Patch

Located just off of Interstate 40 West before you cross into Tennessee, Max Patch is another great option for 360 views, but this time in a more remote area. Max Patch is a 4,600 foot mountain bald that offers acres of wide-open clearings with amazing, unobstructed views of surrounding fall color. Several hikes can be accessed from here, including a popular section of the Appalachian Trail. Take Exit 7 at Harmon’s Den and turn right onto Cold Spring Rd. A six mile drive up a beautiful winding road will bring you to the Max Patch parking area. Park and enjoy!

Graveyard Fields

One of the most popular spots to view fall leaves on the Blue Ridge Parkway, 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, but it’s well worth waiting for a parking spot.



Elk in the Fall

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, school-house and 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

Barber’s Orchard

2855 Old Balsam Rd, Waynesville, NC 28786

This apple-lovers paradise has freshly picked apples and various fruits and vegetables. Indulge in the best homemade apple cider doughnuts that will melt in your mouth. Other favorite treats include homemade apple cider, apple slushies, apple pies, apple cake, and apple turnovers and much more!

Hazelwood Soap Company

435 Hazelwood Ave, Waynesville, NC 28786

A family-owned business that specializes in artisanal bath, body and home products using the finest of natural ingredients and essential oils. All of their products are hand-made in small batches in order to preserve their potency, consistency and integrity. Make sure to stock up on some of their signature fall scents!

Crafted in Carolina

3073 Soco Road Maggie Valley, NC 28751

Crafted in Carolina features 18–20 artists from Haywood County. Their works of art include photography, painted art, stained glass, knitted goods, ceramics, rag quilts, beaded and silver jewelry, soaps, candles, carving boards and metal art.




Fall Events


*Due to the current environment please call ahead to ensure the events featured are still taking place.*

September 4, 2020
Art After Dark

September 5-6, 2020
Maggie Valley Labor Day Arts & Crafts Show

September 18-19, 2020
VW’s in the Valley

September 19, 2020
Rockin’ Block Party

September 24-26, 2020
Maggie Valley Swap Meet /
Southern Gas & Petroleum Expo / C-10 Nationals

September 25, 2020
Mountain Street Dance

October 2, 2020
Art After Dark

October 3, 2020
Shelby Mustang & Ford Meet Regional Car Show

October 17, 2020
Apple Harvest Festival

October 17-18, 2020
Maggie Valley Fall Arts & Crafts Show

October 23-25, 2020
Southeastern Mini Truckin’ Nationals

October 30-31, 2020
Hillbilly Jam

Stay Connected

Sign up for our eNewsletter.