Smoky Mountains in October: Events in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge (2023)

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There’s hardly a better time to visit the Smokies than in the fall. It’s a beautiful time of year.

In October, fall festivals and festivities – like Autumn at Anakeesta, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, and LumiNights – are in full swing.

And of course, delicious food and seasonal treats – like pumpkin spice and pecan pie – are abundant.

Guests visiting mid-to late October will be happy to know that they might even get to see some fall foliage. Leaves usually begin to turn late in the month. They tend to reach peak color around the end of the month and sometimes even into early November. Although exact dates tend to vary from year to year.

Read Also: Tennessee fall foliage prediction map, an interactive tool

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newfound gap road in the fall
Newfound Gap Road can be an especially beautiful drive in the fall (photo by larryknupp/

Activities for nature enthusiasts

Suppose you want to venture into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In that case, we highly suggest popular leaf-peeping scenic drives on the East Tennessee side including Cades Cove Loop Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Newfound Gap Road and the Foothills Parkway.

And don’t forget about Clingmans Dome Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway on the North Carolina side of the Smokies.

Scenic drives are a great way to take in the beauty of the autumn leaves from the comfort of your car.

If you do find yourself on Clingmans Dome Road, consider making your way up to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower – the highest point in the Smoky Mountains. Just be sure to bring a jacket – the weather can be quite cool in the higher elevations.

Also, don’t be surprised if you manage to spot a bit of wildlife along the way. You might even spot a wild turkey or a black bear.

It’s a common misconception that all black bears hibernate. It rarely ever gets cold enough for bears in East Tennesee to fully hibernate. While their activity might be a bit more limited when it’s chilly outside, bear spotting is still fairly common in October, especially on a sunny day.

A scenic overlook at Anakeesta in the fall (photo by MoneyTy Shots/
A scenic overlook at Anakeesta in the fall (photo by MoneyTy Shots/

Activities for city enthusiasts

Are you more of a city dweller? No worries, Gatlinburg’s got ya covered.

Spend a few days exploring downtown Gatlinburg. There are many shops, restaurants, and popular attractions to explore like the Gatlinburg Space Needle, Anakeesta, Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, Ripley’s Mountain Coaster, Ober Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

For additional activities and things to do, be sure to check out our events calendar below.

smoky mountains in october
Expect cooler weather in the fall in the Smokies (photo by James Ovetholt/

Weather in the Smoky Mountains in October

Weather in the Smoky Mountains in October will vary drastically depending on when you visit. Typically speaking, the earlier in the month you go, the warmer it will likely be.

Halloween, for instance, is typically quite chilly.

High temperatures can be as warm as a comfortable 71 degrees in the lower elevations. Low temperatures can reach the mid-40s in the higher elevations.

Snow may even come into play in the highest elevations, like Mt. Leconte.

Hoodies are also popular in the Smokies in the fall. Pictured: Alaina O’Neal on a heated Pink Jeep Tour (photo by Morgan Overholt/

What should you wear in the Smoky Mountains in October?

The hot-natured among us could still probably get away with shorts and t-shirts for the better part of the month in October. However, the rest of us need to dress for cooler temperatures.

If you plan on visiting earlier in the month, pack a mixture of short-sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts with a light jacket or sweater. Long pants and blue jeans will likely be your friend.

I personally also like to wear comfortable ankle boots.

You may also want to pack a couple of rain ponchos or an umbrella, as rain can also be expected.

Guests make a run for shelter in an October rainstorm at Dollywood (photo by Daniel Munson/

How busy is Gatlinburg in October? A look at crowd sizes

Contrary to popular belief, October is actually a very busy time to visit the Smokies. Weekends especially.

People love to flock to the Smokies for their autumn colors. And who can blame them? In our humble opinion is the best place in the southeast to see real beautiful fall foliage.

So expect greater than normal wait times at popular attractions and restaurants. Make reservations whenever and wherever possible to guarantee yourself a spot.

Anakeesta at halloween
Anakeesta usually hosts a variety of special events around Halloween (media photo provided by Anakeesta)

Halloween in the Smoky Mountains

Halloween is a popular holiday in the Smokies. If you’re looking for a few holiday-related events, be sure to visit Anakeesta for live entertainment and live music on the big night. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park also usually hosts not-so-spooky Halloween-themed events. If you have kids in tow, also consider stopping by The Island in Pigeon Forge for their annual trick-or-treating event.

If you’re looking for something a bit more on the actually spooky side – like a haunted house – be sure to check out the Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg or Ripley’s Haunted Adventure.

And don’t forget, if you happen to visit more than one Ripley’s attraction in the area, opt for a combo pass as it’s a great way to save a bit of money.

Ripley's Coupons

Save up to $25 with the Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium + 2 attraction combo!

Ripley’s discounts

Save up to $25 with the Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium + 2 attraction combo!

Read Also: Is Ripley’s Aquarium worth the money?

Do you agree that the fall season is the best time to visit the Smokies? Are you planning a fall trip this year? Are you excited to see some colorful fall foliage? Let us know in the comments below.

If you own or operate a local attraction in the Smokies and wish to add your event to the calendar, please contact our editorial team here.

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Kimberly Grayson

Kimberly Grayson is a freelance virtual assistant and public relations manager for LLC.

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