Cabins USA Gatlinburg Logo
Loading Page
(800) 584-9872
Cabins USA Gatlinburg Availability Search Icon Availability Search Small Icon

Smoky Mountains Fall Hiking Guide and Tips

Blog Home : Category Posts : Smoky Mountains Fall Hiking Guide and Tips

October is here and visitors can already see the first signs of fall foliage in the high elevations of the Smoky Mountains! However, when the vibrant fall colors arrive, huge numbers of visitors are sure to follow.

Hiking In THe SMokies in Fall

In 2016, over 10 million visitors experienced the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since summer and fall see the biggest visitation numbers, the park can get especially crowded when the leaves start showing their brilliant colors.

Unfortunately, sometimes these big crowds can get in the way of truly enjoying your fall vacation in the Smokies.

In certain parts of the park, you may run into problems like:

  • Crowded Hiking Trails
  • Lack of Parking at Trail Heads
  • Slow Roadways
  • Less Space at Picnic Areas

So how can you make the most of your October trip to Gatlinburg, TN? We're here to help with a special fall hiking guide to help you dodge the crowds, find beautiful autumn colors, and explore the best parts of the Smoky Mountains!

Fall Stream in the Great Smoky Mountains

Top Tips For Smoky Mountain Fall Hiking

Tip #1. Wake Up Early

Arriving at the trailhead before 10 AM is a prime way to beat the crowds this time of year. While it can be difficult to rise with the sun, you can always reward yourself with a delicious doughnut and coffee from the Doughnut Friar, a local favorite that opens at 5 am daily.

Tip #2. Know Where The Colors Are

If you're visiting in the first two weeks of October, much of the fall colors will only be in high elevation areas near the Tennessee/North Carolina border. To see leaves at this time, you'll want to drive up US Hwy 411 to Newfound Gap or Clingman's Dome.

However, in the last two weeks of October, peak fall will arrive in lower elevations inside the national park. This includes areas like Sugarlands, Elkmont, Tremont, Cades Cove, Metcalf Bottoms, and the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.

Tip #3. Have A Plan

Picking a trail beforehand and doing some research is the best way to ensure you find the right hike for your adventure. Do you want to see waterfalls? Historic cabins? Mountain views? How difficult would you like your hike to be?

Another important part of planning is accounting for how long your hike will take. A good rule of thumb is to estimate that you'll cover 1 mile in about 30 to 35 minutes. So, to have plenty of time to enjoy a 4-mile hike, you'll want to allot around 2 hours.

Lastly, bringing food, water, and extra layers for cold or rainy weather is a must this time of year in the Smoky Mountains.

Tip #4. Explore Less Crowded Parts of the Park

Sometimes, you just want to get away from everyone else to spend some quality time in nature. If you truly want to find peace and quiet in the Smokies, it may be wise to avoid these popular destinations:

  • Cades Cove
  • Laurel Falls
  • The Chimneys
  • Alum Cave Trail
  • The Roaring Fork Motor Trail

Some less crowded, but now less beautiful places to visit are Elkmont, Tremont, Metcalf Bottoms, Greenbrier, Cosby Campground, and Newfound Gap.

Best Hiking Trails For Fall in Gatlinburg

Best Trail For A Short & Easy Hike The Gatlinburg Trail

This level hiking trail meanders alongside a beautiful mountain river and passes by ruins from several historic structures. This peaceful hiking trail begins at Sugarlands Visitor Center and ends on the edge of downtown Gatlinburg. Not only does this trail allow bikes, but also the Gatlinburg Trail is one of the few trails in the park that allow dogs.

Best Hike For Views of Fall FoliageAndrews Bald Via Forney Ridge Trail

For stunning panoramic views of changing fall colors, consider exploring Andrews Bald near Clingmans Dome. This hiking trail is only a 4-mile round-trip and yields incredible views of the North Carolina mountains. This trail wanders through beautiful sections of high elevation spruce-fir forests and delivers hikers into a large open meadow with lovely fall wildflowers and a vista where you can see for miles and miles. Another great destination for fall views is the Fire Tower on Mt. Cammerer which can be accessed by hiking the Low Gap Trail from Cosby Campground.

Best Fall Waterfall HikeSpruce Flats Falls

This relatively unknown trail can be found behind the Institute at Tremont. Simply park at the school and walk up the hill to the trail head near several other buildings. The 2-mile round-trip hike has some steep rocky sections, but it brings visitors to a lovely 30 FT waterfall with several tiers. Along the way, you can see some awesome mountain views as well! From Tremont, you can also explore more waterfalls on the nearby Middle Prong Trail.

Best Fall Stream Hike – Meigs Creek Trail

This lesser-used trail begins at the Sinks Waterfall near Elkmont. The waterfall itself is a sight to behold in the fall, but you can take this peaceful trail that follows a lovely stream through a quiet part of the mountains. There are several stream crossings and scenic cascades along the way. During late fall, this trail is perfect for snapping pictures of fallen leaves along the streamside. 

Best Historic Cabin Hike For FallThe John Ownby Cabin near Sugarlands

Finding the John Ownby Cabin can be a little tricky due to the twisting network of trails that surround the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Be sure to stop by and consult a ranger at the help desk for a map and directions. This historic cabin was built in 1860 and is only a 1.2-mile loop on the Fighting Creek Nature trail. Another easy cabin hike is the trail to the Walker Sisters Cabin. The hike begins across the bridge from the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area and passes through the remnants of the historic Little Greenbrier community. Another nice historic fall hike is the Metcalf Bottoms Trail to the Walker Sister's Cabin.

Best Challenging Day Hike - Hiking up Bullhead to Mt. Leconte

If you're an experienced hiker who wants an athletic challenge, the 14.4 mile round trip up the Bullhead Trail is a great option. This lesser-traveled route to the top of Mt. LeConte offers many beautiful views of the summit and surrounding mountains – a perfect way to see fall in the Smokies. The trailhead begins on Old Sugarlands Trail just off of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. If you need a shorter route to Mt. LeConte, Alum Cave Trail is only a 10-mile round-trip, but this trail will be especially busy this time of year.

Historic Cabin in the Smoky Mountains

Map of Best Fall Hikes

Final Thoughts on Our Fall Hiking Tips

Going for scenic drives and hikes in the Smoky Mountains in the fall is surely the best way to experience this beautiful season. Whether you're staying in a Gatlinburg log cabin rental or just visiting for the day, we hope this fall hiking guide gives you some helpful tips to enjoy your visit to the fullest!

Written by

Recent Articles

Gatlinburg Activities: Fun Things To Do And Try

9 Fun Things to do in Gatlinburg

There are a lot of fun things to do in Gatlinburg. Go off the beaten path and consider trying unique options for a Gatlinburg vacation that's new again.
Gatlinburg Holiday: Fourth Of July

Fourth of July in Gatlinburg

The Fourth of July in Gatlinburg is a special time of the year. With several celebrations, events, and more, it's time to experience the red, white, and blue in the Smoky Mountains.
Smoky Mountains: Top Three Extreme Outdoor Activities

Top Three Extreme Outdoor Activities in the Smoky Mountains

Enjoy an extremely thrilling Gatlinburg vacation on your next trip with loved ones by trying our picks for the top three extreme outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains.


Blogger Bear's Adventures In The Smoky Mountains - Blog Post

Blogger Bear's Smoky Mountain Adventures

Meet our new guest blogger! This blogging bear loves sharing the Smoky Mountains with everyone. He knows his home well
Hiking Blog In The Great Smoky Mountains - Blog Post

Hiking in the Smokies Blog

Planning adventures in the great outdoors? Our hiking blog has tips and tricks for vacationers in Gatlinburg who want
Seasonal Events And Celebrations In Gatlinburg, Tn - Blog Post

Seasons in Gatlinburg

Any time of year is a great time to visit Gatlinburg and the Smokies! Explore these articles to learn more about fun e
Gatlinburg Vacation Tips - Blog Post

Vacation Tips

Make the most of your vacation in the Smoky Mountains with our tips and tricks!

Please Note: Cabins USA Gatlinburg's area information, area events, and blog pages are provided as a public service. Cabins USA Gatlinburg does not endorse any of the products, vendors, consultants, or businesses referenced in these web pages. Any mention of vendors, products, businesses, or services on the Cabins USA Gatlinburg web site is for informational purposes only. Users of this web site are responsible for checking the accuracy, completeness, currency and/or suitability of all information. The inclusion of this information does not imply endorsement by Cabins USA Gatlinburg. Furthermore, specific questions regarding any content should be directed to the appropriate organization and not necessarily to Cabins USA Gatlinburg.

Cabins USA Gatlinburg Official Logo
star star star star star
849 Glades Rd., Unit 1A1
Gatlinburg, TN  37738
(865) 436-5031

VLS #157
Smoky Mountain Cabin Rentals
Guest Reservations
(800) 584-9872
2 Night Minimum

Cabins USA Gatlinburg Help Icon
Copyright 2013-2024, Cabins USA Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg, TN

Want to receive up to date information on cabin specials and events in the Smokies? Sign up for our newsletter! Simply provide a contact name and email so that we can reach you. Cabins USA Gatlinburg respects our guest's privacy and never shares this information with third-party sites. We treat any information that you share as confidential.

For each of the fields, please provide the following information:

There are several boxes that can be checked to broaden or narrow your search. Once you select your desired amenities or locations, simply click "search" to filter out available properties for your desired date. Once search results are provided, you can sort your results by bedrooms, name, rate, and rating.

After your first search, it isn't necessary to click the "search" button again as this feature will automatically filter your results for any new search features you provide, unless you change the date, the number of nights, or go to a new webpage.

It isn't necessary that you wait for a search to be completed before you select or deselect different search features.

When browsing results, you can add them to your "favorites" by clicking the red plus mark on the bottom left of your desired property. You can view your selected properties by click the "favorites" tab at the top of the search bar.

Add/Remove Favorites
When using our "search" feature, you can make a list of favorites. After doing an availability search for your desired vacation date, our site will produce a list of available cabins. Simply click the "+" sign on the lower left side of the property you are interested in.

Doing this will add the rental to your favorites list. You will notice that the "+" has now changed to a "-". You can click this minus sign to "unselect" this property from your favorites list.

You can also remove a property from your favorites list by clicking the minus sign to the right of the property name under the favorites tab. Additionally, you clear your favorites list by clicking "remove all" on the favorites bar. After doing this, you will have to perform a new availability search.
The number next to the favorites tab is the number of properties you have selected.

View List
To see all of your favorite rentals on one page, simply click "view list"

Compare Favorites
Under the favorites tab on the search bar, you can view your selected favorites. By checking the box next to your selected rentals, you can compare up to three properties.
Simply select the 2 – 3 properties you wish to compare, then click "compare" to see these rentals side-by-side.
Once you find your perfect rental for the right date, simply click "book now" to begin the booking process.