2017 Fall Colors reports
2022 fall colors
2021 fall colors
2020 fall colors
2019 fall colors
2018 fall colors
2016 fall colors
2015 fall colors
2014 fall colors
2013 fall colors
Fall foliage is beginning its final encore and over the next week should display beautiful color in the Cove Hardwood forests that are found in the mid to lower elevations. Currently, the higher elevation Northern Hardwood forests are past peak and mostly defoliated. It was mostly a below-average year for peak color in the higher elevations as most of the leaves turned a brownish orange before falling off during the snowstorm last Sunday. The middle elevations now display mix of peak color, combined with trees that are defoliated, and even some trees that are at peak. The lower elevations on the western side of the park still have about a week to go before it begins to hit prime time. The eastern side of the park has a mix of trees at peak, and trees just beginning to change. This period should last at least two more weeks before the trees are defoliated. The best areas to view the fall foliage are the Foothills Parkway, Deep Creek, lower elevations along Newfound Gap, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Roaring Fork Motorway.
Crooked Arm (B-E) and Indian Grave (from Crooked Arm to Rich Mountain Loop Trail) – The report is somewhat flawed because most of the foliage was covered with a wet snow. I could see some colorful foliage on Red Maples, Sugar Maples, Sweet Gum, Beech, Sourwood, Mountain Maple and Tulip Poplar.
Rich Mountain Loop (B-E) – By the time I got on this trail the snow was melting. Some of the Sourwood, Red Maple, Sweet Gum, Hickory, Beech and Sugar Maple were quiet colorful especially against the blue sky and what snow that was hanging on.
The Sourwood foliage is at peak color – very beautiful and many of them – some bright red, some orange, some pink, some salmon and some light red.
Also the following have outstanding displays of colorful foliage: Sweet Gum, Red Maple, Sugar Maple and some of the Beech and Hickory. The following’s foliage is changing but not that colorful: Dogwood, Redbud, Greenbrier, Mountain Maple, Blue Berry and Scarlett Oak. The display of foliage is nice on this trail especially after the first mile up the trail.
Fall foliage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is following a similar pattern as last year when the best display of color occurred in the later weeks of November. Currently, in the upper elevations above 5,000 feet, fall color is sporadic, with some trees defoliated, others at or near the peak, and some still slowly turning. Somewhat-less-vibrant colors so far this year could be due to the warm weather we experienced mid-September into October. This week saw the first true cold front, although no major frost has occurred yet below 5,000 feet.
In the mid-elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 feet, fall color is just starting. The foliage has begun to yellow, with peak color still a week or more away. In the lower elevations, similar to last year, our foliage may again wait until mid-November to produce its best show. Our trees are still exhibiting a considerable amount of green in the canopy with most just showing signs of changing. Another high pressure system is producing above-average temperatures currently, although early next week should bring a cold front with rain and temperatures into the 40s with lows below freezing. We could even see our first snow Wednesday, Oct. 25. This upcoming cold front should advance the change of fall foliage, and mid-elevations could see brilliant displays of color by next weekend.
Rabbit Creek (B-E) – Most of the foliage that has changed is a faded pale yellow color with a lot of brown on it. There are a few Sourwood and Red Maple trees that have pretty foliage as well as one Sweet Gum.
Lynn Camp Prong (From Middle Prong Trail to Campsite #28) – Most of the foliage that has changed colors is a pale faded yellow color with a lot of brown showing on it. There are a few Red Maple, Sourwood and Sugar Maple with colorful foliage. Because of fog, I could not see the surrounding ridges, which usually have nice foliage at this time of year.
Currently, fall color is a patchwork of peak colors in the mid elevations to peak color at the higher elevations. Fall color is not as strong this year, and a lot of trees are not as vibrant as in previous years. The higher elevations are often at peak during the first couple weeks of October, along the Clingmans Dome road a patchwork of fall colors are visible along the Clingmans Dome Road. This year, it’s about a week off from normal.
Due to the lack of considerable cold fronts from September into mid-October, along with mostly dry conditions with only a few rain events, these weather conditions are prolonging fall peak.
Along Little River Road, in Cataloochee Valley, and elsewhere at the lower elevations, early-changing species like black gum, sourwood, dogwood, sumac, black walnut, buckeye, poison ivy, and Virginia creeper are showing color.
This is a great time to take a drive on any road above 4000 feet. Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or Balsam Mountain Road. A hike to Andrews Bald on Forney Ridge Trail or along the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion would be time well spent.