It’s fall, ya’ll, and that means leaf-peeping season is upon us. In some parts of Tennessee, the leaves are already starting to change color and drift to the ground. Here is a list of the top 5 places in the state to see the most vibrant colors this season.
Chattanooga. It’s not called The Scenic City for nothing! The Tennessee River meanders gently through the heart of downtown Chattanooga, and a handful of mountains surround it. There are several ways to see the fall colors in this town, starting with the river. The Southern Belle Riverboat and Tennessee Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer both have fall color cruises down the Tennessee River that offer some of them most spectacular views in the area. Hikers can explore the trials at Signal Point National Park atop Signal Mountain, which, in addition to being free, also boasts one of the best bird’s eye views of the Tennessee River Gorge in the city. Another great viewpoint is atop Lookout Mountain at Point Park. The main trail leads to the northernmost end of Lookout Mountain and offers a stunning glimpse of downtown Chattanooga and the Tennessee River. If the river’s not your thing, try a ride aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad as it snakes through the Tennessee Valley, offering up close views of the passing landscape.
Smoky Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the country’s most visited national parks. Offering free admission, the park boasts more than 800 square miles of forested land, with mountain ranges in Tennessee and North Carolina. Leaf-peepers will find hiking and biking trails, including more than 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail, paved roads, and scenic overlooks. Visitors headed to the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area can get a sneak peek of what to expect on their fall foliage trek by checking out the “Fall Color Update” on the park’s website. (PS – Here’s where to eat!)
Bristol. Known for NASCAR and as the birthplace of country music, Bristol is located in northeast Tennessee and straddles the Tennessee – Virginia state line – we always drive through here on our way to Washington DC. Because it’s located in the Appalachian foothills, Bristol has some pretty spectacular views. A drive through the 640,000-acre Cherokee National Forest or a hike along the Appalachian Trail are just a few great ways to explore the scenery in the tri-cities area.
Fall Creek Falls State Park. One of the most popular state-run parks in Tennessee, Fall Creek Falls is a treasure trove of fall fun. More than 26,000 acres of land nestled atop the Cumberland Plateau encompass trails, waterfalls, a golf course, lodging options, and a lake. The park is named for Fall Creek Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S. at over 250 feet high. Visitors can explore the park in several different ways including hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding, and even zip lining. The Nature Center provides naturalist-led programs, arts & crafts, campfires, games, and even live music, so there is plenty of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. There are more than 34 miles of trails to explore and plenty of fun ways to see the sites – and the colors – of Fall Creek Falls.
Reelfoot Lake State Park. Truly a unique destination, Reelfoot Lake State Park sits in the northwest corner of Tennessee along the Kentucky border. In 1811 and 1812, a series of strong earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards. This seismic event flooded the local forest and created the 15,000-acre Reelfoot Lake, which has since become a haven for wildlife. The majestic Cypress trees that are half submerged in the water turn glorious shades of reds and yellows during the fall, making it one of the most popular and unique places in the state to view fall foliage.
Thank you, Nicky Reynolds, for sharing such beautiful places to experience fall foliage in Tennessee.
Nicky Reynolds is a freelance writer who lives in East Tennessee with her fur-child, Molly. Her dreams are to explore Italy, move to Hawaii, and keep adding new stamps to her passport.
Photo Credits: Great Smoky Mountains – Gatlinburg CVB, Chattanooga River Gorge, Train, Point Park – Chattanooga CVB, Bristol, Reelfoot Lake and Fall Creek Falls – Courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development