Leaf Peeping

Two Days of Leaf Peeping in the Smokies

Fall trip ideas for leaf peeping.

It’s fall. The air is crisp, the temperature is starting to drop, and the leaves have begun to trade in their emerald green for the fiery crimson and golden yellow that transform your street into a picturesque mural. And if they can do that to your neighborhood, just imagine what they can do to the 187,000 acres of picturesque landscape that is the Great Smoky Mountains. All it takes is two days to experience some of the most beautiful vistas and jaw-dropping colors Mother Nature has to offer.

Cades Cove and Ober Gatlinburg

Tucked in a remote valley of the Smokies, Cades Cove is an old pioneer settlement that has been preserved to represent its early days in the 1800s. So you can imagine the views it offers as the leaves start to change. But you don’t have to settle for experiencing the colors from afar. The guided horseback tours will take you down winding paths through the trees of the 6,000 acres of untouched frontier so you can experience the fall colors just as the pioneers did more than 200 years ago.

One of the great parts of Cades Cove is that, while it’s isolated, it’s not too far from modern civilization. The Smoky Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg is the oldest craft brewery in East Tennessee and the perfect place to relax after a morning of hiking and horseback riding. The brewery has spent the last 22 years perfecting its beer recipes. And because it’s right in Gatlinburg, you can enjoy some shopping in the downtown district and at the Shops at Ober, where you’ll find local candy, art and souvenirs to commemorate your trip.

But who wants to shop just at the bottom of the Smokies? Ober Gatlinburg has one of America’s largest aerial tramways and provides some of the best views of the Smokies. The 2.1-mile ride will give you an aerial view of the gorgeous fall colors. And now, millions of travelers afflicted by protanopia and protanomaly (commonly known as red-green color blindness or red-blind) can see the autumnal colors as well thanks to the specially-equipped viewfinders featuring the latest technology lenses for alleviating red-green color deficiencies. And after you reach the top, you’ll find plenty of other fun shops and eateries to explore, including the Seasons of Ober Restaurant that offers incredible views to match its seasonally-inspired menu. The restaurant has been providing the ultimate “dinner with a view” experience for more than 50 years.

Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant

Start day two off right with breakfast at Sevierville’s Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. While it has a large selection of pancakes, waffles and eggs, you’d be remiss not to order the famous homemade apple cinnamon muffins.

And because it’s fall, The Apple Barn Cider Mill in Sevierville will be in full swing. You can pick apples in the orchards, then peruse the delicious homemade items in the general store. The Apple Barn Cider Mill is a great place to stock up on snacks for a day of enjoying the Smokies’ natural beauty.

The Island in Pigeon Forge

After you’ve gotten your fill at the Cider Mill, head over to The Island in Pigeon Forge where you’ll find The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. The 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel sits at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, giving riders expansive views of the mountains’ fall foliage.  After taking in the view from above, surround yourself with the vibrant colors of fall on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The six miles of twists and turns allow you to slow down and truly appreciate the stunning canopy all around you. And if you’re up for a moderate hike, you can even make your way to Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot-high waterfall that makes for a memorable autumnal photo-op.

Greenbrier Restaurant

Cap off your vacation with a dining experience that will excite both your taste buds and your eyes. Outside of downtown Gatlinburg, you’ll find the Greenbrier Restaurant in a charming historic log cabin tucked away at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Greenbrier is a family and fine dining restaurant known for its fresh ingredients, cozy atmosphere, and, of course, its views. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, you’ll be able to take in nature’s splendor while you sip on the restaurant’s large wine collection and enjoy some of the best steak and seafood the area has to offer.

This two-day itinerary represents just a small fraction of the incredible ways you can take in the beauty of the Smokies in the fall. Plan a solo trip, a weekend with the family or a romantic getaway to experience the jaw-dropping colors of East Tennessee during a fall vacation. Check out our Outdoor Leisure or Pigeon Forge page for more great Tennessee vacation options.

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