5 Best Fall Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

September 17, 2018

Fall in the Smoky Mountains is a wonderful time to visit! You can expect the trails to be littered with bright mixes of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Moreover, any vista point you pass will have a mesmerizing shade of fall colors to look at across the mountains. Because we want everyone to enjoy the beauty of the autumn season we have put together a list of the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains! 

Charlies BunionCharlies Bunion rock outcrop

Charlies Bunion is 8 miles roundtrip. The trail starts from the Newfound Gap parking lot. This hike follows along the Appalachian Trail. It is a well packed trail and traverses several exposed cliffs. Along this trail you will pass the Icewater Spring shelter, which is named after the nearby spring that flows from a pip onto the trail.. This is nice place to take a  small break. Once you reach the rock outcropping known as Charlies Bunion you will be dazzled by the spectacular views! In late October and November this hike is perfect to see the higher elevations for fall leaf colors.

Alum Cave

Alum Cave is a very popular, well-known hike in the Smokies. You can reach the trailhead for Alum Cave by following Newfound Gap Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center for 20 miles. There is a large sign and parking area clearly marked for the trail. The hike is 5 miles roundtrip. This beautiful hike is steep, and in just 2.5 miles showcases some of the best features the Smokies have to offer! You will follow a calm river, pass through Arch Rock up stone stairs, and be treated to several great mountain view vista points before reach the Alum Cave Bluffs. These vista points are the perfect place to admire the changing fall colors in the Smoky Mountains!

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is a the perfect place to be for a late fall hike! Near the end of October and early November is when the fall colors finally reach the higher elevations in the Smoky Mountains. Clingmans Dome is the tallest point in the Smoky Mountains. The hike is only 1 mile round trip and paved! So giving this trial a try in the fall before it closes is a great idea! While the ascent up the trail can be difficult, once you reach the top of Clingmans Dome all you’ll care about is taking in the panoramic mountain views!

Deep Creek LoopIndian Creek Falls

The Deep Creek area is loved because of its beautiful streams and waterfalls. The trailhead for the Deep Creek Loop is located just north of Bryson City, NC. Rewards are almost immediate and plentiful along this trail. At only three-tenths of a mile hikers will pass by Toms Branch Falls. Later, at just under a mile hikers have the option to take a side trail to see Indian Creek Falls. The hike continues on to gain elevation, and pass by a lot of native rhododendron. At mile 3.7 hikers will pass Juney Whank Falls, the third and final waterfall along the trail. Deep Creek Loop is one of the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains to take if you want to avoid crowded trails and high elevation climbing. Plus if you love waterfalls it doesn’t get much better than this!

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a motor nature trail. The “trail” is an 11 mile loop that shows off some of the best views and sites that the Smokies has to offer! While the loop is navigated by car, there are lot of chances for you to pull off to the side of the road and explore the area! Along the loop you will pass by historical structures like churches, cabins, and grist mills. Moreover, you will also get to see picture-perfect views of the mountains, and maybe even spot some local wildlife like bears and deer!

While any season in the Smokies is beautiful, there’s something special about fall! We invite you to go on any one of these fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains and to take in the abundance of colors! After that, go find more incredible views! Check out our list of trails with awesome scenic views in the national park!