The summer-long heat wave is finally, stubbornly, starting to break its grip on the Smokies, even though fall officially arrives this week. But it’s not too early to start planning your next weekend or weeklong trip to the Great Smoky Mountains this fall. It’s one of the best times of years to visit, and when you do, we’ve got some great suggestions for things you can do that will maximize your experience of being in the Smokies in autumn.
- Rent A Cabin
Of course, we’re a little biased about this, but seriously, booking one of our cabins in the Smokies is the best way to have accommodations that let you immerse yourself in the beauty and majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Wake up to gorgeous, painted-foliage views in the morning or watch the sun set behind the mountains in the evening. On those crisp fall evenings, you can soak and relax in the warmth of your cabin’s outdoor hot tub, and on the chillier nights, you can curl up in front of the fireplace. It’s the way fall memories are made.
- Hike The Great Smoky Mountains
In autumn you must, we mean must, do something in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the most popular activities there is hiking, and you’ve got dozens of trails and hundreds of miles of trails to choose from. Popular destinations include Mt. Cammerer, Mount LeConte, Andrews Bald, Abrams Falls, Charlies Bunion, Porters Creek and the Chimney Tops. Any way you go, you’re bound to be surrounded by the fall foliage as it morphs from summer green to shades of red, yellow and orange. The cooler daytime temps will make the hiking easier and the experience more pleasant overall.
- Visit Dollywood
Dollywood’s annual National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration runs September 30 through October 29 and features the sounds of gospel music at free concerts at multiple venues throughout the park. This year’s slate of performers includes Eighth Day, Eternal Vision, Freedom Quartet, the Kingdom Heirs, New Ground, Sandi Patty and The Chandlers. Meanwhile, Harvest Celebration will feature crafters from all over the nation, in addition to Dollywood’s resident craftspeople, displaying their talents in a number of traditional crafts, including jewelry, porcelain, painting, dulcimers, sorghum making, wood working, pottery, basket making, stained glass and more. Also look for seasonal decorations throughout the park as well as traditional harvest-time foods.
- Drive The Cades Cove Loop
Try to make time to drive the 11-mile one-way auto loop of the Cades Cove community in the national park. This route takes you through a historic valley setting that was a thriving community in the late 1800s and early 1900s, before the creation of the national park. Along the way, look for historic churches and homesteads, rolling valleys, towering mountains, rugged hiking trails, native wildlife and much more. You can stop and learn about the history of the area at the Cades Cove Visitor Center, located just past the halfway point of the loop.
- Visit A Craft Fair
We mentioned all the crafters that will be at Dollywood in October, but that’s not the only arts and crafts action taking place in the Smokies this fall. The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair takes place at the Gatlinburg Convention Center October 6-23, featuring some 200 crafters from around the country, in addition to daily, live bluegrass shows. Meanwhile, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community presents its annual Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show November 22-27, also at the Convention Center. In Pigeon Forge, the 40th Annual Rotary Club Craft Fair runs October 1-29 at Patriot Park, helping that organization to raise funds that will be distributed to a host of local and area-wide charities.