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Top Spots for Fall Foliage in Middle Tennessee

Tennessee is a spectacular state for fall foliage. The combination of rolling hills, steep bluffs, rivers, lakes and an amazing variety of oaks, maples, poplars and numerous hardwoods transform into a landscape of blazing color when the days shorten into crisp, cool nights.

The magical beauty attracts travelers from far and wide. Vivid reds, oranges and yellows adorn the trees and bushes in a progressive wave of color from east to west. The peak time to see great fall colors starts in mid October in East Tennessee, late October in Middle Tennessee and spreads to West Tennessee by early to mid November.

Looking for the best spots to view fall colors in Middle Tennessee and around Nashville? We have come up with some creative activities that will satisfy the adventurer as well as the relaxed sightseer.

IN THE CAR

The Natchez Trace Parkway winds 444 miles southwest from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi. Once an old Indian trace that linked settlers in the Ohio River Valley with traders in Natchez and New Orleans, the trace today is a scenic drive through farmland and forests abundant with wildlife, hiking trails, campgrounds and picturesque overlooks. Over 100 species of trees, including Dogwood and Redbud, burst into a blaze of brilliant colors in the fall.

ON FOOT

Radnor Lake State Park  just south of downtown Nashville is a nature sanctuary. Bring the family and enjoy hiking the six miles of trails skirting the lake dappled in falling leaves.

Cheekwood, a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum in Belle Meade comes alive with color as the season changes. Wander through the garden blooming with 5000 fall-hued Chrysanthemums and watch out for scarecrows hiding along the garden path. The whole family can enjoy craft days, puppet shows, bluegrass music and select a pumpkin from the patch.

Try a spot of fishing in one of three picturesque lakes in Montgomery Bell State Resort Park in Burns, east of Dickson. Fall foliage around the lakes is beautiful in October.

Fall Creek Falls offers wonderful hiking through gorges, grassland, and forests abundant with waterfalls and colorful overlooks.

CYCLING

The hills of Middle Tennessee are popular with cyclists, offering challenging grades and spectacular views across hills and valleys. Ride the ridges and winding byways ablaze with fall colors through Goodlettsville, Ridgetop and Joelton, where you’re likely to share the road with motorcycles and convertibles.

Nashville GreenBikes is a free and easy way to explore Nashville’s parks, greenways and city streets.

ON THE WATER

Kayak the Buffalo, Harpeth and Duck Rivers on the south and west side of Nashville, where you can float for miles through scenic forests of hardwoods as they turn from green to vivid golds and reds.

Take a fall foliage cruise on Old Hickory Lake. Wanderin’ Star Yacht Charters offers a unique sailing experience on a Catalina 25, where you can participate in hoisting sails and sailing, or sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Board the General Jackson showboat for a cruise down the Cumberland River and take in the fall colors on bluffs overlooking the river. Trips run from Opryland Hotel to Riverfront Park in Nashville. Lunch or dinner and Broadway style show is included on the roundtrip.

Rent a houseboat on Center Hill Lake and explore the pristine wilderness of this deep and expansive lake, stopping in quiet anchorages to soak up the stillness surrounded by hills covered in a blanket of fall colors.

BY RAIL

Climb aboard Tennessee Central Railway’s 1950’s vintage diesel train for the 216 mile roundtrip journey from Nashville to Monterey’s Standing Stone Fall Festival on the Fall Foliage Trip on October 13. The best view of the changing colors as they slip by is from the Northern Pacific Railway dome car.

 

IN THE AIR

Experience the vibrant colors of fall leaves from the treetops while ziplining through the forest at Adventureworks in Kingston Springs, or fly over Nashville in a vintage, open cockpit Waco biplane.

Drift above the countryside on a dawn or dusk flight in a hot air balloon. Several operators in the Nashville area offer shared or exclusive balloon rides. Hear the roar of the burners and then silence as you rise above the early morning fog to follow the air currents above treetops decked in autumn splendor.

Tell us your favorite spots for viewing fall foliage. During October we have some fun adventures planned, so stay tuned!

Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on

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    Diane Lockard

    Last Saturday, I returned from Chattanooga, and a stay in Pigeon Forge at a 2-floor mountain cabin in the outstanding Smoky Mountains. The leaves were barely starting to turn, but the scenery, as we were driving there was spectacular. Glistening streams flowing from the tree-covered mountains, and wide expanses of green open spaces….
    Our family toured Cade’s Cove, a eleven-mile-one-way loop with nineteen designated stops of cabins, churches, trails, and the Cable Grist Mill – ideal places to experience fall foliage and pioneer life; workers at the mill were making sorghum/molasses the way their ancestors made it….

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    Debbie

    I’m looking for a place to meet some friends that live in NC. I live in La,and we want to meet in the middle Tennessee area. We have motor homes and would like to go to a great place for cycling, fishing,hiking,kayaking. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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    Claude Reese

    We’ve come up from Florida so many Octobers just to see the foliage. It’s always been worth the trip. Thanks for reminding us.

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    Dayle Fergusson

    Debbie, Fall Creek Falls (south of Cookville), has the perfect mix for you, with RV camping, hiking trails, a lake for kayaking, and roads winding through through the state park great for cycling. In Hurricane Mills, west of Nashville, there is a KOA RV park close to the Buffalo Rivers,excellent for kayaking and fishing. Attractions in the area include Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and local Mennonite communities.

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