There’s no better destination to enjoy the last days of autumn than Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains
Words by Paige Townley
When it comes to a getaway to Gatlinburg, the mountains are always calling. And though any time of year is a great time to visit, there’s perhaps no time more spectacular than those last days of autumn. Foliage in those rich shades of red, orange, and yellow are on full display and the air is clean and crisp, creating a truly magical atmosphere for enjoying one of the town’s many outdoor activities. Because the fact is, Gatlinburg is a destination for never-ending outdoor adventure. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to enjoy the never-ending activities and outdoor beauty of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.
Take a Hike
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more than 800 miles of trails. Whether you’re looking for winding pathways, stunning cascades, or sweeping views, there’s a trail for practically everyone at every skill level. One of the most popular hiking destinations is Alum Cave Trail. On the 2.3-mile self-guided trek, hikers experience the beautiful views on the path to the Alum Cave Bluffs, as well as geologic gems like Arch Rock and a stone staircase that is etched into the floor of a sculpted archway.
For those looking for more of a guided trek through the Smokies vast expanse will enjoy a guided tour by A Walk in the Woods. These experienced guides have been helping visitors see all that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer since 1998, whether it be through guided hikes, backpacking trips, or even driving tours.
Take in the View
For anyone looking for a little less physical adventure but still wanting to witness the beauty of the Smokies, there are all sorts of drivable activities that allow for the same beautiful views yet from the comfort of the car. Located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is just a short (yet still beautiful) drive from Gatlinburg, and it’s one of the best destinations for seeing the beauty of the Smokies in the fall and checking out wildlife, from white-tailed deer and turkeys to black bears and coyotes.
A drive down the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, another destination within the National Park, is another beautiful drive features beautiful scenery as well as local history thanks to the old cabins, barns, and mills that have been preserved in the area. The trailhead for Rainbow Falls is located on the trail as well.
Another must-drive that should be required on any visit to Gatlinburg is Newfound Gap Road. The road is known for its magical views any time of day, whether it’s early in the morning to see the mist floating over the valley or later in the day when it’s a clearer sight and foliate, or perhaps even a bear or elk, can be spotted.
Explore Local Attractions
While the beauty certainly abounds in Gatlinburg, there are many more ways to enjoy the outdoor destination in addition to a trail or hike. Anakeesta is a sought-after outdoor theme park, and it is getting ready to open its newest expansion, Astra Lumina, an immersive star experience that’s the first of its kind in the country.
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park offers birds eye views of the entire area on the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, which towers 500 feet above the city and includes a glass bottom section that allows for guests to peer into the mountain ravine as well.
A staple of the mountain town is Ober Gatlinburg. The Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway features a two-mile ride from downtown up to Ober Gatlinburg, and the entire ride offers unique 360-degree vantage point of not only the mountains and fall foliage but the city down below.
Enjoy the Flavors of Fall
It’s impossible to experience all that Gatlinburg has to offer without a stop by one of its breweries or distilleries for a locally made pint.
While enjoying a morning or afternoon at Anakeesta, guests should be sure to stop by Tap House to enjoy a beer with the view or perhaps a cocktail at The Bar at the Top of the World.
Around town there are many other destinations to seek out for that much-needed drink, such as Ole Smoky Moonshine. Gatlinburg’s first federally-licensed distillery, the distillery continues to brew up its century-old recipe as it has added new and unique flavors to the mix, including Lemon Drop, Peach and Apple Pie. The distillery has also added a line of whiskey to its offerings in flavors just as unique, including Salty Caramel, Cinnamon, Pecan, Root Beer, and Tennessee Mud.
Tennessee Cider Company has its spot as the city’s first true cidery, and it’s situated in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. The cidery offers a variety of locally made hard ciders and even slushy’s and mulling spices.
Spectacular Seasonal Events
From festivals and fairs to concerts and even cookoffs, the calendar of events in Gatlinburg stays packed year-round. The fall offers a variety of seasonal favorites that call for a special visit to town.
The Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival celebrates the city’s foliage through late November, featuring all sorts of fall displays around town that can’t be missed.
A cosmic celebration is scheduled at Anakeesta on October 21 to celebrate the opening of Astra Lumina. The ticketed event will truly be a spectacular night amongst the stars.
As November approaches, thoughts will begin to turn to the magic of winter in the Smokies with Gatlinburg Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff. This annual event, scheduled for November 10, is free to the public and features all sorts of live entertainment.
Whatever you’re looking to experience in the Great Smoky Mountains, it can be found in Gatlinburg. And this mountain town is just waiting to be explored.
Check out the Good Grit digital itinerary for Gatlinburg here!