By Alli Hill
Given Tennessee’s mountain-laden geography, there’s no shortage of stunning fall foliage when the weather starts to cool. People flock to the Volunteer State from all over the country to glimpse the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows that set the mountainside ablaze with rich fall hues. And when the sun’s heat starts to settle, it’s the perfect time to take a walk through the woods to see Mother Nature hard at work. Find nothing but natural beauty on these five stunning foliage hikes in Tennessee.
While this isn’t exactly a walk in the woods, this strenuous skyward hike of only half a mile makes up for its length with breathtaking views. A saucer-shaped covered platform awaits you at the top, giving you a 360-degree view of the area. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is well known for its fall color, attracting both locals and visitors from other states and countries each fall. For the best viewing, make your way here during the last two weeks in October, when the fall colors are fully ablaze. Clingmans Dome also offers access to the Appalachian Trail.
If you get here early enough, you’ll have the chance to glimpse some wildlife along with stunning fall views. This 11-mile one-way loop is opened to motorists from 10 a.m. onward, but it’s the perfect scene for hikers and cyclists prior to the onslaught of vehicles. Here you can explore historical sites and preserved buildings from the 1800s, in addition to an abundance of mountain views from the sweeping valley plains. Aside from the loop, there are several hiking trails that wind their way through this park, including the five-mile trek to Abram Falls.
This rewarding hike offers plenty of pleasant surprises as you wind your way to the top of Mt. LeConte. From a refreshing site at Arch Rock to the much-needed rest point at Alum Cave, you’ll have beautiful fall foliage following you every step of the way. The trail mostly aligns with a shimmering creek that adds a nice touch to your photographs. For the best views of the leaves, you’ll want to go the distance to the top of Mt. LeConte, which is upwards of 11 miles one-way.
Also part of the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll join the trail at the Low Gap Trailhead near the Cosby campground, then follow it for three miles before joining the Appalachian Trail. It’s a steep, unforgiving climb with multiple switchbacks, but winding your way through the hardwood forests under a canopy of glistening fall color is well worth it. The trip to the top totals about 5.5 miles, taking you nearly 5,000 feet-high.
Over footbridges, past waterfalls, and through the woods you’ll find the area alight with fall beauty. Roughly four miles down and back, hikers will enjoy the stunning views of 60-foot Fern Branch Falls before turning back toward home. All along the way, you’ll have the quiet company of beautiful leaves surrounding you. It’s a great trail for hikers who want a slightly challenging trail, as well as those who enjoy historical sites along with their intake of Mother Nature.