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<em>Smoky Mountain Magic</em>

Smoky Mountain Magic

SMOKY MOUNTAIN MAGIC--Horace Kephart's fictional adventure set in the Deep Creek watershed, Cherokee Indian Reservation, and Bryson City in the summer of 1925. Written in 1929 and never before published. The original manuscript was passed down for 3 generations recently surfaced during the park's 75th anniversary celebration. "What better topic than a journey into a forbidden realm, complete with witches, robber barons, noble savages and a winsome lady, all wrapped in a cloak of mystery and myth?" asks reviewer Gary Carden. Kephart is featured in Ken Burn's PBS series on our national parks. He is the author of "Our Southern Highlanders", "Cherokees of the Smokies", and "Camping and Woodcraft". Available in hardcover and softcover. Read More >

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Fall Leaf Color Updates

  • Trees of the Smokies

    This is the best guidebook for identifying trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  • Trees & Forests of the Smoky Mountains

    An economical folio explaining the forests and trees in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  • Identifying Trees

    This is a handy book to help you learn to identify trees.

September 26 - Ploddingly, grudgingly, fall colors are starting to change in the Great Smoky Mountains. Though the pace of change has quickened, the advance of leaf colors is later than average. This means we likely have four to five more weeks to enjoy the transition before leaf colors peak and trees begin dropping leaves.

At the very highest elevations, leaves are progressing more rapidly after a light frost earlier this week. Still, only about 20%-30% of deciduous leaves have changed thus far.

Lower down, several species of trees have started to brighten. Sycamore, sassafras, witch hazel, walnut, tuliptree, black gum, sourwood, Virginia creeper, sumacs, and buckeye are all showing color. Migrating birds are flocking to the dogwoods’ red berries. Fall wildflowers are also conspicuous, including jewelweed, asters, goldenrod, and white snakeroot.

Good places for a drive include Clingmans Dome Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a great time to hike Mt. Le Conte! Upper Deep Creek Trail is also gorgeous this time of year.

The peak of fall colors at the higher elevations is likely a week or so away. At the lower and mid elevations, colors are trending toward a very late October or early November peak.

September 23 - The progress of fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains may be about to shift from neutral and into gear. The last two weeks have been unusually warm and damp, and colors have not progressed much. But with nighttime lows now hitting the lower 40s and upper 30s, that should rapidly change.

Lower down, several species of trees have just started to change. Sycamore, sassafras, witch hazel, buckeye, tuliptree, black gum, sourwood, Virginia creeper, sumacs and black walnut are all showing hints of color. Migrating birds are flocking to the dogwoods’ red berries. Fall wildflowers are also conspicuous, including jewelweed, asters, goldenrod and white snakeroot.

Good places for a drive include Clingmans Dome Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a great time to hike Mt. Le Conte! Upper Deep Creek Trail is also gorgeous this time of year.

The peak of fall colors at the higher elevations is likely to be at least 10 days away. At the lower and mid elevations, colors traditionally peak in late October or early November. At this time, we predict colors will be on the later side.

Park officials are happy to see a bumper crop of oak acorns, which should help black bears gain the weight they need to make through the winter.

September 15 - With sunny days and cool nights in the forecast, the march of fall colors should be picking up the pace very shortly. Reports from New England portend that the timing of this year’s colors may be normal to a tad late across the Appalachians.

Sourwood trees on the drier slopes are showing nice reds now. Witch-hobble leaves at the higher elevations are burgundy. A smattering of dogwood trees have begun the change. Blackgum trees will soon be blushing red. Fruits, such as the fuchsia seedpods of magnolia trees and oak acorns are now conspicuous.

By late September look for more color at the higher elevations as American beech and yellow birch trees transition to gold. Early changers at the lower elevations like sourwood, blackgum, dogwood, yellow buckeye, Virginia creeper, sumacs, and tuliptree should then be near peak. Parkwide, the peak of fall colors generally occurs between late October and early November.

The elk rut is now in full swing in both Cataloochee Valley and at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center area; and bears are busy gobbling acorns in Cades Cove.

September 12 - Witch Hobble, Sourwood, Dogwood, Red Maple and Blueberries on Sugarland Mountain.

September 7 - This week’s warm, wet weather has slowed the march of fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains. Still, sourwood trees on the drier slopes are showing some early pink and crimson colors. Witch-hobble leaves at the higher elevations are mostly burgundy now. Blackgum trees are just beginning to blush red. Fruits, such as the fuchsia seed pods of magnolia trees and oak acorns are now conspicuous.

By late September look for more color at the higher elevations as American beech and yellow birch trees transition to gold. Early changers at the lower elevations like sourwood, blackgum, dogwood, yellow buckeye, Virginia creeper, sumacs, and tuliptree should then be near peak. Parkwide, the peak of fall colors generally occurs between late October and early November. When the next cold snap arrives in a couple of days, we should have a better read on whether autumn will be early this year or not.

Hello September! (Sept. 2)

Witch hobble has turned a rich crimson hue at the higher elevations. Its bright red berries are also quite conspicuous. The very earliest yellow birch trees are also beginning to change, as are some pin cherry leaves (all at the highest elevations). In the valleys, a few dogwood and sourwood trees are reddening, as is poison ivy and Virginia creeper. Spicebush is sporting red berries. If the forecast of warm, wet weather proves true, there likely won’t be any significant change of fall color this week.

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Fall Color Reports from 2013

November 12

Surprisingly, vibrant relicts of the fall color season persist in pockets and sheltered coves of the Great Smoky Mountains. Several types of oaks, especially scarlet oak, and some other tree species, including sourwood, sweetgum, and some maples, continue to hoard their leaves. Good places to enjoy the last of the colors include Little River Road, Rich Mountain Road, Greenbrier, and the Tremont area.

Chances are good there will be some snow in the high country by Wednesday.

November 5

Though many trees are now bare, a remarkable palette of rich, late autumn colors linger in areas at the lower and mid elevations. Many of the best colors are in sheltered coves and lower elevation ridges.

Recommended drives include Little River Road, Cades Cove Loop Road, Rich Mountain Road, and Foothills Parkway east and west. Suggested hikes include Little River Trail, Deep Creek Trail, Look Rock Tower, Smokemont Loop, Huskey Gap Trail, Porters Creek, and Albright Grove.

October 29th, 2013

Fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains are now a patchwork quilt of gorgeous hues with some mountaintops past peak, other sites pre-peak, and several areas now at peak. Most elevations from 3,500-5,500 are now at peak. Areas like Alum Cave Bluffs and Chimney Tops are decorated with eye-popping golds and some red accents. Elevations from 2,500-3,500 feet are still surprisingly green, while at the lowest elevations, along areas like Little River Road, species such as the birches, beeches, sourwoods, dogwoods, and maples are putting on a grand show.

Because of the large areas of lingering green, it is now predicted that some fall colors will continue at least through the first week of November.

Color hotspots include the Foothills Parkway East and West, Little River Road, Deep Creek, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Rich Mountain, Cataloochee, and Newfound Gap Road. Good hikes would be Laurel Falls Trail, the Three Waterfalls Loop in Deep Creek, Smokemont Loop, Albright Grove, and Lumber Ridge Trail.

October 28th, 2013

Rabbit Creek Ranger Station to Hannah Mountain Trail) – Very brilliant colored foliage on higher elevations of trail.   Bright red, hot pink, orange, yellow, maroon, wine colored and gold foliage.   Sugar Maples, Sourwood,  Red Maples, Blackberry and Blue Berry foliage especially nice.   Other colorful foliage:  Scarlet Oak, Sassafras, Striped Maple, Hickory and Frazier Magnolia.

Hannah Mountain (From Rabbit Creek Trail to Campsite 14) – Scattered beautiful foliage along trail and on surrounding hillsides.   The Sugar Maples, Sourwood, Red Maples and Blueberries have outstanding colored foliage.   One sourwood was clothed in an amazing bright pink foliage.   Other colorful foliage:   Scarlet Oak, Sassafras, Striped Maple, Blackberry,  Hickory and Frazier Magnolia.

SPECIAL NOTE:  FOOTHILLS WEST PARKWAY IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION WITH ITS AMAZINGLY BRIGHT FOLIAGE PARTICULARLY IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS WHEN THERE IS FULL SUN.
IT APPEARS TO BE AT PEAK COLORS.   AT THIS TIME (BEFORE LATER WEEK STORMS) IT WOULD BE A SAFE BET TO DIRECT VISITORS TO THIS STRETCH OF ROAD.   MOST LIKELY THE FOOTHILLS EAST PARKWAY WOULD BE COMPARABLE.

October 25th, 2013

Fall colors are now at peak between elevations of 3,000 feet and 6,000 feet in the Great Smoky Mountains. In the spruce-fir forests at the very highest elevations, the few deciduous trees are now past peak. Colors are especially brilliant along the upper reaches of Newfound Gap Road. At elevations below 3,000 feet, where the forest is rich with maple, oak, hickory, and other hardwood trees, colors will likely peak during the last week of October and the first few days of November.

The fall color display is very good to excellent this year with some good reds among the rich golds. Suggested drives include Little River Road, Cades Cove, the Foothills Parkway East (near Newport and Cosby), the Foothills Parkway West (near Townsend), Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Cataloochee Valley.

Suggested trails and hiking destinations include Smokemont Loop, Cucumber Gap Loop, Lead Cove Trail, Deep Creek Trail, Boogerman loop, Mt. Cammerer fire tower, Spence Field, and Henwallow Falls.

Elk have been very conspicuous near Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the evenings.

October 22nd, 2013

Fall colors are now at their peak at elevations above 4,000 feet in the Great Smoky Mountains. This year’s display is exceptional, perhaps owing to the abundant rainfall through spring and summer and an October with so many sunny days and cool nights. Frost is predicted for much of the park later this week.

At the lower elevations, sourwood and blackgum trees are putting on an amazing show with absolutely brilliant reds. Tuliptrees, American beech, and the birches are showing rich golds. There is still plenty of color to come as the maples and oaks are just now starting to turn. Colors will likely peak at the lower elevations during the last week of October and the first days of November.

Good places for a drive include the Foothills Parkway East and West, Little River Road, Rich Mountain Road, and Newfound Gap Road. Suggested hikes are Rainbow Falls, Chimney Tops, Alum Cave Bluffs, Smokemont Loop, Kephart Prong, Boogerman loop, and Deep Creek/Indian Creek loop.

A bull elk and his harem are very conspicuous around Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the evenings, as well as in Cataloochee Valley.

October 21st, 2013

Huskey Gap Trail, Very nice colorful foliage on the last half mile before reaching Huskey Gap (coming from Little River Trail).   Offering really nice foliage are:  Sugar Maples, Red Maples, Sourwood, Blueberries, Beech trees, Sassafras and Greenbriers.

October 17th, 2013

Fall colors are now at peak at the higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains. They are especially brilliant along Newfound Gap Road between Chimney Tops overlook and Newfound Gap. At elevations below 3,500 feet, where the forest is rich with maple and oak trees, colors will likely peak in six to 10 days.

The fall color display is very good to excellent this year with some good reds among the rich golds. Suggested drives include Little River Road, Cades Cove, Greenbrier, the Foothills Parkway East (near Newport and Cosby), the Foothills Parkway West (near Townsend), and Cataloochee Valley.

Suggested trails and hiking destinations include Smokemont Loop, Cucumber Gap Loop, Old Settlers Trail, Deep Creek Trail, Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail, and Henwallow Falls.

October 14th, 2013

Fall colors are now at their peak at the mid and higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains. Sunny days and cool nights have lead to excellent colors this year. Good places to view the fall spectacle include Newfound Gap Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

At the lower elevations the colors are coming on fast. Early changing species like blackgum, sourwood, dogwood, Virginia creeper, tuliptree, and the sumacs are all turning. The peak of color at the lower elevations, where the deciduous all-stars like red maple, sugar maple, sweetgum, and yellow birch are common, should occur within 7-10 days.

All trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park continue to be closed due to the federal government shutdown.

Bear, elk, and wild turkey are very conspicuous at this time. Visitors should never approach or harass park wildlife. Approaching elk or bear closer than 50 yards is illegal and punishable by substantial fines and imprisonment.

October 10th, 2013

Fall colors are now near their peak at elevations of 5,000 feet and higher in the Great Smoky Mountains. The colors promise to be very good to excellent this year. Good places to view the colors include Newfound Gap Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the lower elevations the colors are coming on slowly but steadily. Early changing species like blackgum, sourwood, dogwood, Virginia creeper, tuliptree, and the sumacs are all turning. The peak of color at the mid and lower elevations should be in late October and early November.

All trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park continue to be closed due to the federal government shutdown.

In addition, bear, elk, and wild turkey are very conspicuous at this time. Visitors should never approach or harass park wildlife. Approaching elk or bear closer than 50 yards is illegal and punishable by substantial fines and imprisonment.

October 7th, 2013

Fall colors at the highest elevations are now approaching peak in the Great Smoky Mountains. The mountaintops are showing rich golds and some reds. In addition, American mountain-ash trees are loaded with red berries.

Lower down, several species of trees are showing good color. Sycamore, sassafras, witch hazel, walnut, tuliptree, black gum, sourwood, Virginia creeper, sumacs, and black walnut are all changing. Migrating birds are flocking to the dogwoods’ red berries. Fall wildflowers are also conspicuous, including jewelweed, asters, goldenrod, and white snakeroot.

Good places for a drive include the Blue Ridge Parkway and Newfound Gap Road. All trails in the parks are closed due to the shutdown.

The peak of fall colors at the lower and mid elevations usually occurs in late October or early November. This year’s colors show special promise due to a wet spring and summer and a perfect combination of sunny days and cool nights this week.

September 30th, 2013

A run of sunny days and cool nights has coaxed out scattered patches of fall colors up and down the Great Smoky Mountains. At the lower elevations, early changers like black gum, dogwood, Virginia creeper, sumac, tuliptree, sycamore, and sourwood are displaying nice color. At the mid elevations, yellow buckeyes are shifting to gold while yellow birch, American beech, and some maples are showing autumn hues.

At the highest elevations, fall has arrived. American mountain-ash trees are loaded with bright berries. Mountain maple, yellow birch, and berry bushes are also turning. However, the peak of color on the mountaintops is still days away.
At the lower and mid elevations, fall color is likely to peak in late October or early November.

This has been an extremely wet year in the Smokies and the deciduous trees appear to be holding onto their leaves quite well. During drought years, some trees lose their leaves by the end of September. Recent rain showers have improved the chances of an extended color season this year.

Recommended hikes include Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, Mt. Cammerer Tower, Rich Mountain Loop, and Chestnut Top. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Little River Road, and Clingmans Dome Road.

September 23rd, 2013

It’s fall color time in the Great Smoky Mountains! A spell of sunny days and crisp nights is bringing on some attractive early colors. At the higher elevations, American beech, yellow birch, witch-hobble, maples, and several types of berry bushes are showing good color. The bright red berries on American mountain-ash trees are also abundant.

Lower down, several species of trees have started to change. Sycamore, sassafras, witch hazel, walnut, black gum, sourwood, Virginia creeper, sumacs, and black walnut are all showing color. Fall wildflowers are also conspicuous, including jewelweed, asters, goldenrod, and white snakeroot.

Good places for a drive include Clingmans Dome Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a great time to hike Mt. Le Conte!

The peak of fall colors at the higher elevations is likely a week or more away. At the lower and mid elevations, colors traditionally peak in late October or early November.

September 19th, 2013

Fall color season has begun!  At the higher elevations, American Beech, Yellow Birch, and Witch Hobble are turning.  At the low and mid-elevations early turners including flowering dogwood, blackgum, sourwood, virginia creeper, and black walnut are showing some good color.

The peak of color at the highest elevation is at least two weeks away.  Clingmans Dome Road and the Blue Ridge Parkway are the best drives for fall color now!

September 2nd, 2013

Although we’re still in the first week of September, spots and splashes of fall color are beginning to appear in the Great Smoky Mountains. At the higher elevations, witch-hobble’s big round leaves are turning from green to bright red. American Mountain-ash trees are sporting heavy loads of orange and red berries.

In the valleys, early-changers like dogwood, sourwood, Virginia creeper, and blackgum are just beginning to turn. Late summer wildflowers continue to be spectacular with jewelweed, goldenrod, New York ironweed, cardinal flower, white snakeroot, gentian, and grass-of-Parnassus, putting on spectacular shows.

Recommended hikes include Clingmans Dome Tower, Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, Road Prong, Thomas Divide, Mt. Le Conte, and Charlies Bunion. Good drives are the Blue Ridge Parkway and Clingmans Dome Road. Traditionally, fall colors peak in the Great Smoky Mountains in early October at the highest elevations and in late October or early November in the valleys. What will this year bring?