Fall foliage in Great Smoky Mountains NP can certainly draw in a huge crowd. From the birch, poplar, dogwood and sourwood trees to the beech, hickory and oak trees, you can plan for an incredible bursting of fall colors! Some trees will start changing color in late September but the peak time of the year is typically mid to late October. Sometimes the colors may turn earlier than the October time frame and may also last into early November.
Be prepared for a lot of traffic during fall in the Smokies. The foliage change is so popular in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that it can cause bumper to bumper traffic in some parts of the park! Try visiting less populated areas like Cataloochee, on the eastern side of the park. This area offers the same brilliant colors as the more populated areas but with less traffic.
Note of Interest: At 4,500 to 6,000 feet (highest elevations) colors often begin turning in mid September. At these elevations the American beech, mountain maple and yellow birch begin their fall changes. At about 4,000 feet, leaves are typically at their peak colors in the first two weeks of October. At mid October, you can expect an explosion of color when the rest of the trees such as; red maple, scarlet oak, sugar maple and sweetgum join the rest of the fall colors.