Leaf-peeping is an annual tradition for many − and if you’re from Tennessee, chances are you will head to the Great Smoky Mountains for the best fall color.
Southern Living magazine recently posted “5 Must-Take Drives to Experience Autumn’s Glory Across The South,” and it’s no surprise Foothills Parkway made the list.
The 71-mile Foothills Parkway is nestled at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains State Park and gives views of the mountains and the Tennessee Valley on either side, the article noted, adding construction started in the 1960s with the final portion, known as the “missing link,” opened to the public in 2018.
“Look Rock has a gorgeous overlook with a short trail that leads to a picnic area, perfect for a lunch while you’re out looking for crimson and yellow landscapes,” author Jessica Farthing wrote.
What other scenic drives made the cut?
Southern Living gave the shout-out to four other scenic drives, some of which span multiple states:
- The Natchez Trace Parkway offers 444 miles of recreation and leaf gazing through Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. There are three campgrounds available on the route, plus walks, hikes, and RV areas. Fall foliage is easy to find in places like the Little Mountain, Swan View or Freedom Hills Overlooks.
- The Blue Ridge Parkway winds through 469 miles of mountain vistas through several states, spanning the distance from the Shenandoah National Park in Rockfish Gap, Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina. Along the way, drivers can take in awe-inspiring views from more than 280 scenic overlooks.
- The Talladega Scenic Byway is Alabama’s picturesque drive, with a 29-mile route offering a view over the Appalachian Mountains. At the summit of the drive, the open air Bunker Observation Tower, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, offers a panoramic long-range view of the mountains.
- Georgia’s Dragon Eyes is well-known to motorcyclists for the 715 curves on its 77-mile road. Dragon Eyes provides long range mountain glory, with quaint towns, waterfalls and incredible state parks along the way.
When is peak fall foliage time in Tennessee?
It’s almost peak leaf-peeping time in the Great Smoky Mountains. From radiant reds to brilliant browns, the display of fall colors in the Smokies usually reaches its peak around mid-October or a little after, starting at the highest elevations and moving down.
“Fall foliage is most vibrant when temperatures are in the 70s during the day and drop into the 40s at night,” according to a fall foliage forecast from visitmysmokies.com. The exact “peak” of the fall colors is impossible to predict, but your best bet is to visit the mountains during the last few weeks of October.