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On hikes in the Smoky Mountains, you’re sure to happen upon some great photo opportunities, from old cabins to vibrant leaves. /Gatlinburg Department of Tourism photo

Hiking trails, festivals offer the best of the Smoky Mountains

Published: Sep/Oct 2002

To truly appreciate the culture and beauty of the Smoky Mountains in the fall, experience some of these scenic hiking trails and festive events.

Fall hiking trails

Get out of the car and get an up-close look at Tennessee’s fall foliage. Be advised, however, that only guide, search and hearing dogs are allowed on most park trails.
  • In September, check out a slice of the Appalachian Trail. Park at Newfound Gap, cross Newfound Gap Road at the crosswalk and follow trail signs to Indian Gap, where the trail meets Clingmans Dome Road. The two-way hike is 3.4 miles.
  • Also in September, traipse to Andrews Bald, a 3.6 mile round-trip hike on Forney Ridge Trail, which starts at the upper end of Clingmans Dome parking area at the end of Clingmans Dome Road. The first mile of the trail is rocky, but you’ll be rewarded with great views.
  • By October, you’ll likely spot great colors along Cucumber Gap Loop. Park at Little River trailhead above Elkmont Campground and follow the trail 2.4 miles to Cucumber Gap Trail. Follow this to Jakes Creek Trail, turn right and descend 0.3 miles past old cabins (keep to the right) to return to your parked car. Total walk is 5.5 miles.
  • October at Inspiration Point on Alum Cave Trail holds additional promise of color. Park 10.5 miles south of Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road and take a 1.8 mile hike past old-growth forest and savor the mountain views.

Fall events in the Smokies

  • Sept. 15–Oct. 31: Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival. Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville decorate themselves in autumn finery.
  • Sept. 28: Old Timers Day. Former residents and friends gather informally to perform traditional mountain music in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Sept. 28–29: Smoky Mountain Fall Trout Tournament, Pigeon Forge.
  • Sept. 28–Oct. 26: Rotary Club Craft Festival, Pigeon Forge.
  • Oct. 4–Nov. 2: Dollywood’s Harvest Celebration.
  • Oct. 10–27: Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair. This arts and crafts show has been voted one of the most popular events by the Southeast Tourism Society.
  • Oct. 25–27: Fall Craft Show, Belz Factory Outlet World, Pigeon Forge.
  • Oct. 31: Halloween Store Decoration Contest and Safe Halloween for Kids, Belz Factory Outlet World.

–Lynn Grisard Fullman

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