Fall is the most magnificent time of year for mountain lovers. As the leaves turn into fiery reds and dashing golds, the forested Great Smoky Mountains start to seem more and more like a fairytale wonderland. It’s an annual display that is too magical to miss for both locals and travelers alike. So sit back with a mug of hot cider and read on about the Pigeon Forge attractions and surrounding areas that will make your fall memorable this year.
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Hiking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Chimney Tops Trail
Chimney Tops Trail features four bridges and a river over the course of 4.5 miles. This out and back trail is rated difficult due to the high elevation gain of 1,400 feet and the rock scramble near the summit. Despite having suffered a wildfire in 2016, the trail has retained its jaw-dropping bird’s-eye views of the mountains in their autumn splendor.
Ramsey Cascades Trail
This scenic trail is only for the hardiest of hikers, clocking in at about a 6-hour adventure. The 4-mile out and back trail climbs steeply over 2000 feet of elevation. It’s worth the challenge to see the highest waterfall in the entire park: a 100-foot cascade diving from rock overhangs into a small pool. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot a few salamanders hiding in the fall foliage near the waterfall.
Cades Cove Loop
Cades Cove is a valley within the Great Smoky Mountains abundant in wildlife such as black bears, white-tailed deer, groundhogs, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and turkeys. The loop itself is a one-way 11-mile scenic drive around the region. There are several hiking trails running through Cades Cove as well: the shorter Abrams Falls and Cades Cove Nature Trail, and the longer Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top. Explore the area to discover the restored historical sites of 18th- and 19th-century churches, grist mills, barns and log houses.
Alternative Hiking Trail Guides
Bluff Mountain ATV Rides
Want to take your trail explorations to the next level? Try out the all-terrain vehicle guided experiences at Bluff Mountain ATV Rides. With over 6,000 acres riddled with mountain trails, you can choose from a variety of ride difficulties. The 1-hour introductory family ride traversing the foothills of Bluff Mountain is ideal for beginners, while the custom trail ride and ridge run are reserved for riders with experience on narrow trails and cliffs. Riders are provided safety measures including training, helmets, and goggles. A CPR and First Aid certified guide accompanies every ride.
Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa
Another rather unconventional way to experience the fall colors is to delve into the forest on horseback with Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa. Take in the lush Smoky Mountains from atop your horse just as the Cherokee and early settlers did hundreds of years ago. Nothing sounds more romantic than horseback riding at sunset to see the famous Appalachian leaf season. At the end of your guided trail tour, be sure to save some time for their petting zoo, museum of civil war artifacts, fishing at their fishing pond, and mining at their gem mine.
Smoky Mountain Ziplines
Fall colors occur thanks to the changing leaves of the trees. You can’t get closer to those vibrant treetops than on a zipline! If you are a beginner, start with the canopy tour that stays relatively slow and close to the ground. The course will gradually become higher and faster, reaching up to 25 miles per hour. Choose between 7 different lines for a safe, guided flight through the leafy skies.
CLIMB Works Zipline
You could spend hours at CLIMB Works Zipline between their Treetop Zipline Tour with nine shorter zips and their Mountain Zipline Tour with five longer zips. Feel the wind in your hair as you rush over the blushing treetops and spy the winding streams below. Feeling extra adventurous? CLIMB Works Zipline is another top-notch option for ATV riding. Their property even houses three sky bridges from which to enjoy a 360-degree view of the Great Smokies.
Sky-High Mountain Views
Space Needle Gatlinburg
The Space Needle doesn’t quite reach all the way up to Mars, but it does seem to frisk Earth’s atmosphere at an astronomical 407 feet high! Ride the glass elevators to the top of the needle-shaped observation tower for a panoramic view of downtown Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a perfect way to snag a few photos of the dazzling fall colors from the comfort of the indoors. Afterward, grab a slice of New York-style pizza at the Slice Pizza Bakery and check out the arcade games in the amusement center.
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park offers five different high-reaching ways to enjoy a picturesque view of the autumnal mountains. The SkyLift is a chair lift passing 500 feet up Crockett Mountain with a photo opportunity at the top. The longest suspension bridge for pedestrians in all of North America, the SkyBridge spans 680 feet over a vast valley with 30 feet of glass panels to peer through. Not a fan of heights? The SkyCenter and SkyDeck make romantic spots to grab a bite to eat or a drink, sit by the fire pit and watch the sunset. Coming brand new this fall is the SkyTrail — an elevated boardwalk featuring viewing platforms, informational signage about the history of Gatlinburg, and rope bridges for less than a half a mile round trip.
Pumpkin spice and Halloween aren’t the only traditions that make every fall special. As the Earth prepares to embark on another loop around the sun, the changing colors from lush greens to passionate reds creates an atmosphere of unmatched timelessness and beauty. Arguably, the Great Smoky Mountains are home to some of the most stunning autumn displays in the world. It’s not too late to book your trip, pack your hiking gear, and appreciate the enchanted forests of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg this fall season.