Fall is undoubtedly the best time of year for an outdoor adventure in Tennessee. The crisp autumn air carries the smell of changing seasons, and the warm glow of falling leaves decorates every inch of the state’s beautiful forests. Tennessee’s diverse array of trees ensures a vibrant range of autumnal colors throughout the state, creating a beautiful display of fall beauty. With such a varied landscape of well-preserved parks, you can enjoy autumn’s beauty from atop some of the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains, traversing through picturesque lakes and valleys, or watch amber leaves dance across the currents of hidden waterfalls.
We’ve scoured many Tennessee parks to find the hikes with the best fall displays. From challenging mountain treks to easy trails with rewarding scenic views of changing leaves, these hikes provide breathtaking opportunities to see fall foliage in Tennessee.
Cades Cove is a valley nestled within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known for its breathtaking mountain views, abundant wildlife and charming historically preserved buildings. The 11-mile loop road surrounding Cades Cove takes you around the entire valley and to the entrance of the various hiking trails, including Abrams Falls Trail and Cades Cove Nature Trail. Abrams Falls Trail, one of the most popular in the region, is a 5-mile trail that features some stunning fall scenery. The trek to Abrams Falls is relatively easy terrain, and the running waterfalls provides a beautiful backdrop to the changing leaves. Plus, hikers often come across wildlife like white-tailed deer, raccoons and other critters. Cades Cove also has a visitors center, several campsites and picnic areas. Visit during the last two weeks of October for the brightest autumnal colors.
One of the most picturesque places in Tennessee, Fall Creek Falls State Park is known for its lush forests and stunning array of gorges, streams and waterfalls. Due to the area’s botanical diversity, the scenery is embellished with a bright display of changing leaves in autumn, making the park full of fall photo opportunities. The park has 56 miles of hiking trails ranging in length and difficulty, with the most popular being Fall Creek Falls Trail. This moderate loop trail is a bit more than 2 miles, taking you to the base of a 256-foot waterfall, the highest in the area. The rushing water provides a lovely setting for fall foliage photo opportunities. In addition to Fall Creek Falls, other scenic waterfalls within the state park include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls and Cane Creek Cascades. The park has a multitude of campsites and cabins for overnight trips, so you have time to explore the entire park. Fall Creek Falls State Park reaches peak autumnal beauty in the last two weeks of October. To commemorate the season, the park holds the Fall Colors Spooktakular festival, which will take place Oct. 21 and 22, 2017, with autumn-themed activities, campground trick-or-treating, guided tours and more
Just 15 miles outside Memphis, the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is one of the most visited parks in Tennessee. The park is more than 12,500 acres of dense large oak, tupelo and cypress forests; two lakes; a diverse wildlife population; and beautiful wildflowers throughout. The Chickasaw Bluffs Trail is an 8-mile trail leading to Poplar Tree Lake, providing amazing views of fall foliage embellishing the water’s edge. Along with a diverse array of autumnal colors, this trail is also known for wildlife sightings: deer, turkeys, beavers and more than 200 species of birds are abundant in the area. The Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park also has campgrounds and plenty of opportunities for water activities, including canoeing and fishing.
No matter where you are in Tennessee, there are endless ways to experience the beauty of autumn. For more ideas on how to see incredible fall foliage, check out Four Ways to Experience the Perfect Tennessee Autumn.