They say the beauty of the leaves in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall is due to the diversity of trees in the forest.
The dozens of varieties of trees create a living kaleidoscope, moving with the breeze and painting a vivid landscape stolen from an impressionist’s imagination.
But where can you spot the best and brightest fall colors Tennessee and the Smokies have to offer?
They say there’s no such thing as bad pizza. At some level, all pizza is inherently good. The same can be said for leaf-peeping in the mountains of Tennessee.
If you’re on an autumn trek to see natural beauty in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s likely that you’re going to see some fall colors.
Still, if you want to get the most out of your experience, we have some suggestions.
First, check out this interactive tool that we’ve created exclusively for our TheSmokies.com readers. Second, read our top six tips below.
Fall foliage prediction map for Tennessee 2021
Use the slider below to view our predictions for peak fall foliage in Tennessee for the 2021 season.
This map represents a collection of historical data from a variety of sources to provide a rough approximation of when the leaves will begin to change color, segmented by county.
Below the state map, you will find a close-up map of East Tennessee. Sevier County is home to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.
An interactive map of Tennessee
A closeup look at East Tennessee
Tennessee peak fall foliage by county
Below, you will find a more detailed breakdown of our predictions for fall foliage by county (listed as county name/peak date).
- Anderson County: Oct 10
- Bedford County: Oct. 17
- Benton County: Oct. 17
- Bledsoe County: Oct. 14
- Blount County: Oct. 30
- Bradley County: Oct. 17
- Campbell County: Oct. 14
- Cannon County: Oct. 10
- Carroll County: Oct. 17
- Carter County: Oct 10
- Cheatham County: Oct. 14
- Chester County: Oct. 19
- Claiborne County: Oct. 10
- Clay County: Oct. 10
- Cocke County: Oct. 14
- Coffee County: Oct. 14
- Crockett County: Oct. 18
- Cumberland County: Oct. 14
- Davidson County: Oct. 24
- Decatur County: Oct. 16
- DeKalb County: Oct. 10
- Dickson County: Oct. 17
- Dyer County: Oct. 22
- Fayette County: Oct. 24
- Fentress County: Oct. 10
- Franklin County: Oct. 16
- Gibson County: Oct. 16
- Giles County: Oct. 15
- Grainger County: Oct. 10
- Greene County: Oct. 10
- Grundy County: Oct. 4
- Hamblen County: Oct. 15
- Hamilton County: Oct. 26
- Hancock County: Oct. 10
- Hardeman County: Oct. 18
- Hardin County: Oct. 22
- Hawkins County: Oct. 14
- Haywood County: Oct. 24
- Henderson County: Oct. 20
- Henry County: Oct. 17
- Hickman County: Oct. 22
- Houston County: Oct. 17
- Humphreys County: Oct. 26
- Jackson County: Oct. 15
- Jefferson County: Oct. 18
- Johnson County: Sept. 23
- Knox County: Oct. 22
- Lake County: Oct. 23
- Lauderdale County: Oct. 23
- Lawrence County: Oct. 15
- Lewis County: Oct. 14
- Lincoln County: Oct. 21
- Loudon County: Oct. 22
- Macon County: Oct. 21
- Madison County: Oct. 23
- Marion County: Oct. 21
- Marshall County: Oct. 10
- Maury County: Oct. 14
- McMinn County: Oct. 15
- McNairy County: Oct. 21
- Meigs County: Oct. 10
- Monroe County: Oct. 18
- Montgomery County: Oct. 20
- Moore County: Oct. 14
- Morgan County: Oct. 17
- Obion County: Oct. 16
- Overton County: Oct. 14
- Perry County: Oct. 14
- Pickett County: Oct. 10
- Polk County: Oct. 17
- Putnam County: Oct. 10
- Rhea County: Oct. 20
- Roane County: Oct. 21
- Robertson County: Oct. 18
- Rutherford County: Oct. 15
- Scott County: Oct. 1
- Sequatchie County: Oct. 30
- Sevier County: Oct. 16
- Shelby County: Nov. 3
- Smith County: Oct. 18
- Stewart County: Oct. 18
- Sullivan County: Oct. 14
- Sumner County: Oct. 20
- Tipton County: Oct. 22
- Trousdale County: Oct. 19
- Unicoi County: Oct. 10
- Union County: Oct. 15
- Van Buren County: Oct. 7
- Warren County: Oct. 26
- Washington County: Oct. 10
- Wayne County: Oct. 10
- Weakley County: Oct. 19
- White County: Oct. 10
- Williamson County: Oct. 18
- Wilson County: Oct. 16
Below are some of our best fall foliage spotting tips and tricks for the Smokies and surrounding areas.
6. The best time to see fall colors is October
The burst of color in East Tennessee usually comes in October. Peak time for fall foliage in the Smokies usually falls around the third week in October.
But what do you do if you’re driving into Sevier County in late September or early October and you’re seeing entirely too much green?
Get high, my friend. And no, I don’t mean the supply of medicinal you brought from some other free-wheeling state or Cocke County.
I mean raise your elevation. The leaves start turning earlier in the higher elevations and you can find some of the color you seek way up in the high mountains.
5. Where is the best fall foilage in Tennessee? Try visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There are dozens of famous walks, trails, drives and guides that will take you to the best, the prettiest, the most amazing views in the Smoky Mountains, but you know what?
Beauty is everywhere in the mountains, simply look around and view it. You could spend a lifetime in the mountains looking for the best view, the prettiest foliage and you won’t see the forest for the trees.
Step back. See the larger picture. The Smokies have thousands of scenic views and you know what? They’re all perfect.
4. Or visit one of the smaller local parks, like Panther Creek
The national park ain’t the only park in Tennessee.
There are several great state parks within an easy drive of Sevier County, each offering its own beautiful views.
The overlook at Panther Creek State Park is a personal favorite, partially because it’s 15 minutes from my house. But there are many others that will give you some leaf-peeping street cred.
Sure every Bob, Todd and Ethan from Indiana has been to Cades Cove at one time or another but have any of those Bloomington poseurs ever seen the view from the West Overlook at House Mountain State Natural Area in Corryton? No, they have not.
3. Explore Cades Cove, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Wears Valley in Tennessee
You want the picture that will make your Instagram followers chartreuse with envy? Go to the places that draw the most people.
Cades Cove? The front half of the loop is better for foliage viewing and pictures, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier spot in the world.
The drive on US 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee is an excellent way to get way up in the mountains and has several places to safely pull off and take in a majestic view. As an added plus, you’d have a good chance on this drive to see some elk.
Other popular drives include Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in Gatlinburg and Wears Valley Road connecting Pigeon Forge and Townsend through, you guessed it, Wears Valley.
2. Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway near Maggie Valley and Hot Springs in North Carolina
If you’re in the Smoky Mountains, you can literally take leaf-peeping off your to-do list by walking out of your hotel and opening your eyes.
See amazing beauty? Check. Let’s get some pancakes.
But, if you’re really hoping to soak in some serious leaf-peeping, you have to put in the time.
The Blue Ridge Parkway near Maggie Valley in North Carolina is amazing.
To the South, the Cherohola Skyway connecting Tellico Plains and North Carolina is an under-appreciated gem.
It’s a bit of a ride from Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, but it’s far less trafficked and has amazing views.
I’ve always been partial to the Hartford area of Cocke County. Located near the North Carolina-Tennessee State line, Hartford offers several excellent places to view the mountains from the car.
Finally, I’ve always liked the ride over to Hot Springs, North Carolina. It’s a beautiful drive and when you reach your destination there are some good little restaurants and, if you’re interested in such things, Hot Springs spas in which to soak and rest after a long, hard day of looking at leaves.
1. Ask a local
If you don’t know, ask somebody. I’ve been riding around these mountains for quite some time and I’m continually amazed by some view or place I’ve never heard of. Find a local, ask them what they like.
Sure you might hear the same five drives I’ve told you about above, but there’s a chance they know some holler I’ve never been to.
Where are your favorite locations for fall foliage spotting? Let us know in the comments below.
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