great smoky mountains national park things to do in the smoky mountains wildlife cades cove scenic festivals weddings stories history smoky mountain books national park policies site map national park points of interest clingmans dome hiking trails elkmont waterfalls smoky mountain springfest smoky mountain winterfest national park map great smoky mountains national park smoky mountain cabins smoky mountain hotels condos resorts bed and breakfast inns camping accommodations 101 things to do in great smoky mountains fall foliage great smoky mountains national park smoky mountain fall deals weather attractions vacation packages things to do in the national park visitor guide fall photos

25 Fun Things to Do in the Fall
in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

bear paws


Fall Foliage, White Water Rafting, Photo Tours -- just the beginning of many things to do in the Fall in the Smoky Mountains. You can enjoy the beauty of the mountains right from your cabin, hotel, or from one of our bed and breakfast inns nestled in a mountain valley. Click here to book a place to stay.

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1. Fall Foliage Viewing
fall foliage
Enjoy Tennessee's beautiful Smoky Mountains in the Fall. Fall foliage viewing begins around the first of October and continues through the second week in November.

Either driving in the comfort of your car or hiking to get closer to nature, there are trails for all to enjoy the colorful Fall foliage throughout the Great Smoky Mountains. Looking for brilliant reds, gold, yellow, orange and brown? You will find it seeing yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple, hobblebush and pin cherry among 100 species of native trees here. With over 10 millions visitors each year, it's clear why this land is for those who love the outdoors.

Fall Foliage

2. White Water Rafting
fall foliage
The Little Pigeon River runs through the heart of the Smoky Mountains. If you want heart-stopping sensations while experiencing rapids for the entire family you won't be disappointed. Class 1 and 2 rapids in the Lower Pigeon are an enjoyment for families with small children under 8 (or 70 lbs.), while class 3 and 4 rapids in the Upper Pigeon are for taking it to the edge. Stretches of river also offer you time to enjoy the breath taking scenery and time to relax. Surrounded by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, Martha Sundquist State Forest and the Appalachian Trail, the river has carved its rocky riverbed through some of the most thrilling country in East Tennessee.

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3. Photo Tours
Some of the most popular photography spots in the Smokies include:

1. Mount LeConte
2. Cades Cove
3. Cataloochee
4. Clingman's Dome
5. Ramsey Cascades
6. The Mountain Farm Museum

Photo courtesy of Richard Weisser

1. Mount LeConte, which is the highest peak in the Eastern part of the United States at an elevation of 6,593 feet
2. Cades Cove with white tailed deer, wild turkey, fox and bear are among the 11-mile one-way loop around the cove which features a grist mill, a variety of barns, three churches, and a marvelous collection of log homes and out buildings
3. Cataloochee which is one of the more picturesque areas of the park with elk being reintroduced to the park in 2001,cabins, fields, morning fog and historic churches and buildings; or
4. Clingman's Dome, which is 6,643 feet and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the highest point in Tennessee and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. From its observation tower on the summit you can have a 360 degree view of the Smokies and beyond this has a steep half-mile walk to the tower.
5. Don't forget the scenery at Ramsey Cascades. Being the highest waterfall in the Smokies, it follows rushing rivers and streams for most of its length.
6. The Mountain Farm Museum is a unique collection of farm buildings assembled from locations throughout the park. Visitors can go into a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop to feel how it felt to live there 100 years ago. Most of the structures were built in the late 19th century and were moved here in the 1950s. The Davis House offers a unique chance to view a log house built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight destroyed most of the American Chestnut in the eastern United States during the 1930s and early 1940s.

4. Hay Rides
hay ride
Gatlinburg offers old fashioned hayrides through the streets of downtown Gatlinburg. As fall begins in the Smoky Mountains, take this fun filled hayride and enjoy breath taking views of our beautiful mountain foliage. Departure is at traffic light #6 at the Mountain Mall. Rides leave approximately every 45 minutes, November 1 - December 31.
Call 865-436-3897 for more information.

Cades Cove Riding Stables offers a 1.5 – 2 hour hayride around the Cades Cove Loop Road. Passengers sit on a bed of hay in a trailer pulled by a truck and enjoy an open air view of the scenery of Cades Cove. Reservations are generally required and can be made by calling (865) 448-9009. Rates are $6.00 per person.

Apple Valley Riding Stables
has a hayride drawn by a tractor while riding on an old wooden hay wagon.

5. Apple Picking
apple picking
At Baxter's Orchard in Cosby, TN you can pick every type of apple you could want; Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Milam, Staymen Winesap, York, Rome Beauty, Granny Smith, Jonathon. Get all you can then take home and make apple crisps, caramel apples, apple pie or anything else apple that makes your taste buds soar. Baxter's also has pumpkins.

Open: Early September to late November; Mondays - Sundays, 8:00am-6:00pm.
Map & Directions

6. Fall Festivals
fall festivals
From Townsend to Gatlinburg there is a Fall festival that will meet your needs. There's the Smoky Mountain Harvest festival which is a county wide celebration that includes craft shows, decorating contests, Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, Fall Grand Rod Run, Dumplin Valley Bluegrass, Rotary Club Crafts Festival, just to name a few.

The Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair is one of the largest fall festivals. Over 200 Craftspeople from around the country assemble to exhibit their historic trades at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. This is an event that consistently attracts the country's finest artists and craft people. One of the items that makes the Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair so unique is the fact that the artists not only make their art available for viewing and sale, but they also demonstrate their special talents and skills.

7. Golf
fall festivals
There are a number of great golf courses to play in the Smokies. Enjoy playing at scenic beauty, four-season climate courses while enjoying the views of the Great Smoky Mountains -- from scenic to Championship courses.

Bent Creek Golf Course, designed by three time Masters and British Open Championship Winner Gary Player, is a par 72 course. The front nine hugs the valley floor while the back nine offers a challenging mountain course. A beautiful sparkling mountain stream meanders throughout the entire course.

Gatlinburg Golf Course offers the well-seasoned golfer as well as the beginner a challenge on every hole, while its scenic beauty is unsurpassed. The course has been acclaimed as one of the most picturesque courses in America with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Laurel Valley Golf Course offers beautiful mountain views, an abundance of wildlife, laser leveled tee boxes, and challenging undulating greens.

8. Enjoy a Cozy Cabin
Sitting around the fireplace in a cozy cabin nestled deep in the heart of the Smokies – Would you rather have economy cabins or lavish ones? The Smokies has them all. From Jacuzzis, rock climbing walls, to romantic hideaways on the lake or in the woods you can find your dream cabin. Bring your camera, your painting canvas, or a good book, and you can relax and unwind with great views of nature. You won't have a shortage of things to do if you want to get out as well.

Find a Cozy Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Fall Adventure!

9. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
ole smoky candy kitchen
This place has country taffy being made where you can watch through the front window of the store or go in. Going inside is a must with caramel apples, chocolate bears on a stick and turtles are as good as they look. The fudge is homemade and hand stirred with huge wooden paddles in copper pots; no matter what kind you get it's mouth watering. This candy kitchen also gives out taffy samples. It is located in downtown Gatlinburg.

10. View Wildlife
Clearly you can enjoy a number of wildlife in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove, Cataloochee and surrounding areas. You will see bears, white tailed deer, elk, wild turkey, fox and even barn owls. To enjoy them up a little closer there is Briarwood Ranch Safari Park (taking a 4 mile safari with animals from 6 continents), Deer Farm Exotic Petting Zoo (pet and feed the animals from reindeer to kangaroos), Dinosaur Walk Museum, Parrot Mountain (tropical birds from all over the world), Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo (over 400 live animals), and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies (with over 10,000 exotic sea creatures).

When you spot wildlife in the National Park, please pull to the side of the road to allow other vehicles to pass and to allow traffic to flow smoothly.

Most visitors understand that feeding wildlife is against the law, but many people do not realize that disturbing park wildlife is also a violation of federal regulations and can result in fines and arrest.

The laws protecting park wildlife are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations. It states that “Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces bear or elk is prohibited." In addition, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife is prohibited.

As a rule of thumb, if you approach an animal so closely that it changes its behavior, you have approached too closely. Instead use binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras with telephoto lenses to enjoy wildlife. Watch for any modification in an animal's behavior that indicates that you have approached too closely. Move away from the animal until you reach a distance at which the animal feels comfortable once again and resumes whatever activity it was engaged in before you approached.

Never feed wildlife or bait animals for closer observation or photography. Feeding park wildlife usually guarantees its demise.

11. Coffee at Coffee and Company
This is a classy, but casual cafe and dessert shop featuring homemade foods and desserts. Coffee & Company is Gatlinburg's premier gourmet coffee shop and bean supplier for the serious java connoisseur. They offer more than 20 straights and blends, including organic and fair trade offerings. Large selection of gourmet flavored coffee. There are over 50 different varieties of coffee altogether.

Coffee and Company is located in The Village shopping plaza in downtown Gatlinburg.

12. Biking in Cades Cove
biking cades cove
You can bring your own bike or rent one of theirs to ride through the Cove. This trail is for part time bikers as well as people that bike as a sport with an 11 mile loop to enjoy the beauty, wildlife and historical buildings. Don't let the 11 mile loop deter you, though. There is a cut across to shorten the journey, and either trail is worth it.

From May 5 - September 22, 2010, the loop road is closed to motor vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove.

Photo courtesy of

13. Picnics and Water Fights
Pack a lunch and maybe a change of clothes, depending on who is with you. You can picnic in the Smokies near the river, jump in if it's not too cold for you or have a water fight if you like. The memories you can make here will last a lifetime and more. Sliding off the rocks into the water, sitting back relaxing, just taking in the scenery, or going for a walk, it's peaceful, beautiful and fun.

14. Train Ride
great smoky mountains railroad
With 53 miles of track, 2 tunnels and 25 bridges, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers a variety of excursions that explore the amazing landscape of Western North Carolina. With the romance and mystique of an era gone by, guests on-board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad will enjoy scenic train journeys across fertile valleys and through river gorges in a spectacular region near The Great Smoky Mountains. This section of Western North Carolina offers a wide array of ever changing vegetation and fantastic landscapes.

First Class passengers ride in comfort and style in 1940's era bar, lounge and dining cars that feature seating at well-appointed tables and lounge/restaurant style chairs. First Class passengers receive a delicious lunch served by the car's private attendant, a souvenir tumbler with unlimited fountain sodas or coffee and tea, and an embroidered tote bag gift from GSMR. [photo courtesy of Knoxville News-Sentinel]

15. Gem Mining
pigeon forge gem mine
If you like gems, you'll love going gem mining at Pigeon Forge Gem Mine. The buckets have gemstones from all over the world in sand instead of clay and dirt. Get a couple of buckets and possibly leave making the old miners jealous with how many you might find. This is a recreation of the old Ruby and Sapphire mines from the mid 1800's.

16. Museums
great smoky mountains heritage center
From history to just plain fun, there are 17 museums to choose from. Carbo's Police Museum over 5,000 police items and not just from the USA. Dinosaur Walk Museum has life-size sculptures to enjoy and a tiny 12" tall Micro raptor. If you're an Elvis fan, you'll enjoy Elvis Museum & Gift Shops and get to see his last limousine (a 1973 stretch Lincoln Continental) among other Elvis memorabilia. Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum has one of the nation's largest most incredible collection of American muscle cars. Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center you can go back in time seeing 5,000 years of Native American Life in Townsend and Tuckaleechee Cove. Guinness World Record Museum is exciting seeing their feats, facts and records in a great display of fun. For the was enthusiasts there is Hollywood Wax Museum which has some of the world's most famous stars, and it's open until midnight every day of the year. These are just to name a few.

17. ATV & Adventure Vehicles
Either riding 7,000 acres of mountain trails and streams on an ATV or touring the Smokies by renting a car, jeep, or Hummer, adventure is waiting for you at Bluff Mountain Adventures and Southland Car and Jeep Rentals.

ATV rides offered are an introductory ride, a mountain trail adventure ride, and a custom ride which is only for the daring. The mountain trail adventure ride is idea for those who want to tour the mountain, cross mountain streams, and ride to the top of Bluff Mountain at 2,300 feet for a spectacular scenic Fall view.

A ridge run ride is a mountain challenge! Ride a 4x4 Yamaha Kodiak and experience the mountains as never before.

18. Haunted Adventures
ghost walks of gatlinburg
It's Fall, and terror is in the air at Mysterious Mansion and Ripley's Haunted Adventure. Mysterious Mansion has a haunted house with secret passageways and ghosts galore. At Ripley's Haunted Adventure you can take a tour of the Grimsby & Streaper Casket Company that was built over a cave called "The Sinks." In 1926, both Grimsby and Streaper disappeared, the company never operated again.

"Ghostwalk of Gatlinburg" is a walking night-time tour of Gatlinburg's most historic and "haunted" places which takes about one hour, and is approximately one mile in length. The walk is lantern-led and guided by a local storyteller dressed in costume. "Ghostwalk" is not a haunted-house tour. It is a storytelling experience with a twist of murder and mayhem. We get your attention, but we don't chase you around with chainsaws. The stories feature a combination of local legends, history, superstition, folk tales and fiction. The tour's purpose is to revisit many historic and forgotten stories of murder and chaos that took place during the past 100 years in Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tours leave nightly at 9, 10:30 and midnight. Reservations required. 865-556-0674

19. Historic Sites
woody house
1. Tuckaleechee Caverns a.k.a. "Greatest Site Under the Smokies" is one of the earth's oldest mountain chains dating over 20 and 30 million years.
2. Artisans have an 8-mile loop designated as Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail. Established in 1937, it's the largest group of independent artisans in North American. Every arts and crafts lover should be in an arts and crafts heaven.
3. Going back to 1830 you can visit Old Mill & General Store in Pigeon Forge; it's a national treasure that is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. The working mill is over 170 years old.
4. Historic Buildings in Great Smoky Mountains National Park - from grist mills to historic cabins.

20. Wears Valley
wears valley
Fall in Wears Valley is all about a harvest festival, pit bbq grills, beautiful open fields with a mountain backdrop, pumpkins, fall decor, and the aroma of country cooking coming from the many great mom and pop restaurants located along Wears Valley Road.

The Wears Valley Pumpkin Festival is a simple event, but one you won't want to miss.

The Autumn leaves are turning their rich colors of red, orange, and yellow in Wears Valley located just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fall in Wears Valleyis a time for harvest, rewards of hard work, enjoying crisp cool air, frosty mornings, hot apple cider on a cool night, and the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

21. Fun Rides
nascar speed park
Alpine Slide at Ober Gatlinburg you can choose one of two 1800' tracks controlling your own speed with a braking device on the sled. Dollywood has many rides and attractions including wet and dry rides such as The Thunderhead which is an award-winning wooden roller coaster to keep you dry or dry you off, and Blazing Fury that will get you wet. You can visit Wonderworks with its Inversion Tunnel, Bubble Lab and Wonder Coasters. There are over 120 interactive, hands-on exhibits. NASCAR Speed Park has 25 acres of family entertainment, wall climbing, simulators, speed bumper boats. Adults and kids alike will have a blast. Motion Ride Theater has 6 different heart-pounding movies with g-forces and 12-seats in the futuristic space capsule.

22. Apple Barn
apple barn cider mill
The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store -- It really is a barn that was built in 1910 and has over 4,000 apple trees. There is the Cider Room, Apple Pie Kitchen, Candy Factory, The Creamery, Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, Apple Barn Winery and The Applewood Farmhouse Grill having something for the whole family. From apple fritters with apple butter that melt in your mouth, apple cobbler, apple cake and applewood chicken salad croissant they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

23. Zip Lines
What a way to enjoy the beauty of fall foliage than on a zip line in the Smoky Mountains! You'll find ziplines in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Sevierville. Flying through the trees at up to 40 miles per hour is an exhilarating experience you'll never forget.

Ziplines is the fastest growing attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains, where awe inspiring panoramic views meet heart-pounding excitement!

Have you ever wondered what the treetops looked like from the same view that birds and squirrels have? The amazing expanse of branches, the lushness of the leaves as they wave in the wind. What would you give to soar through the forest the same way that a gliding blue jay does?

24. Taste of Autumn
taste of autumn
Featuring the fare of some of the area's finest restaurants and businesses, the Taste of Autumn returns to the Gatlinburg Convention Center on Wednesday, September 23, all to benefit the United Way of Sevier County.

For a $25 donation to the United Way of Sevier County, attendees can enjoy unlimited sampling from all the participating vendors, as well as live entertainment.

100% of the proceeds from the Taste of Autumn go to the 2010 United Way of Sevier County Campaign.The United Way of Sevier County distributes funds to local organizations providing services and programs to our community.

25. Walk by a Mountain River
mountain river
Throughout the Smokies you may be enticed from your car by the sight, sound, and feel of clear, cool mountain streams that tumble downslope as frothy cascades and waterfalls.

You may enjoy hiking to a waterfall or just listening quietly to a stream and observing the plants and animals that live in these cool waters. At any time of year, streams are inviting.

Water splashing over mossy rocks seems to evoke a response in people, as though they were drawn to it by some ancient instinctive attraction.

The mountain river shown in the image to your left is located at the Chimney Tops Trailhead which is located 2.5 miles past the Chimneys picnic area on Highway 441 between Gatlinburg TN and Cherokee NC.

Things to Do


Points of Interest
Fall Foliage
Cades Cove

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