Fall Color Report Smoky Mountains

When is ‘Peak’ color season….

 
The marvelous colors of Fall light up the Smokies for seven weeks or more as the peak elevations move down the mountainsides from the highest elevations down into the foothills. Autumn in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a special time enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. However, the notion that peak color happens in ‘mid-October’ is a common misconception, the timing of fall color change depends upon so many variables, that the exact dates of “peak” season are impossible to predict in advance, but here is a generalized guide for you to consider as you plan a Smoky Mountain Fall cabin getaway
 
September:  Autumn color displays above 4,000 feet can start as early as mid-September with the turning of Birch, Beech, Cherry & Mountain Maples.
 
Early October:  By the beginning of October, trees in the high country are now showing bright fall colors, while some trees in the lower elevations are showing bright reds but are scattered. Dogwoods and maples are beginning to turn different colors in areas as well. The fall color display’s usually reach peak at middle and lower elevations between mid-October and early November. This is often the most spectacular of displays due to including colorful trees such as the Sugar Maple, Oaks, Sweetgums, Red Maples and Hickories. The majority of the deciduous forest below 4,000 feet elevation is still predominantly green, but with splashes of color dotting the slopes.
 
Mid October:  By mid-October at the lower elevations fall color is coming along. The sunny days and cooler nights instigate the processes in the leaf to begin changing. However, dry and warmer-than-normal conditions will affect the timing, duration, and intensity of fall leaf season. A succession of warm sunny days and cool crisp, but not freezing nights, will bring about the most spectacular color displays.
 
Late October: Colors at the very highest elevations (above 5,500) are now past peak. As October begins to fade away up top, autumn colors at mid elevations from 3,000-5,000 feet, are at or slightly past peak and are very impressive. At the lower elevations of the Smoky Mountains, fall colors are quickly developing and will probably spill over into November as it is not unusual for fall color to last at least into the first week. While fall colors are past peak in the high country and many trees have already shed their leaves, some pockets of green can still be seen at middle to lower elevations so there is still some new color to come in these isolated areas - if we have mild weather.
 
Important things to know before you go: Understanding what makes leaves change color in the fall will give you an idea of how to know when the colors will peak. Leaves begin to change color as days become shorter and nights become longer. When this happens, the leaves go from green to a gorgeous display of red, orange, and yellow creating a wonderful sight to see!
 
Major factors are temperature and weather heading into autumn. To get the most brilliant fall colors, there needs to be a string of warm, sunny days with cool nights. This is the perfect recipe for bright, fall foliage so be sure to check weather forecasts for the area you plan to visit to look for a pattern such as that.
 
Freezing temperatures are the worst enemy for fall colors. If temperatures dip to freezing levels, leaves will brown up almost immediately and begin to fall. So also be on the lookout for a “cold snap” of freezing temperatures and try to get your visit in before it happens!
 
So, as you can see – weather must be ‘on point’ for the best and most colorful fall to take place. The Smoky Mountains have enjoyed a fairly “normal” summer without being too hot nor too dry. As always, the colors will begin to change in the highest elevations first and then trickle down into the valley (Pigeon Forge).
 
Right now, our best guess for ‘peak’ mid elevation color would be around the second week of October and remain visible thru mid November….that is, unless mother nature has a trick up her sleeve, after all this is the season of tricks…or treats!