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Leaf Peeping and hiking

Iwant2gonow

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I’m planning a trip to hike and leaf peep in Tennessee this fall and need help with the timing and area. For hiking purposes would I be better off in the Cumberland/Crossville area or the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area?

As far as timing if I’m trying to hit the peak would I be better off checking in Oct 18th or 26th. There were also earlier weeks available but from reading it seems later is better. It also sounded like the area I choose might dictate the week.

Also any suggestions on other activities are appreciated. It's just my husband and I.

Thanks in advance.
 

Lisa P

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The week following October 18th would be my preference, particularly if you plan to go up into the Smokies. There may be some early color the week prior but we anticipate peak color during the 3rd full week of October. Either of your weeks may work if you'll be at lower elevations and the season is delayed.

There are some very pretty areas for hiking in the Cumberland plateau. Check out Fall Creek Falls State Park in TN. If you stay in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, there's plenty in the Smoky Mountains National Park but don't miss the driving loop at Cades Cove either, about an hour away. Make a full day of it with numerous stopping points and trails in the area.
 

sfwilshire

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Catching the peak leaves is not an exact science. I live between the two areas you mention with plenty of options to vary my dates, but still miss the peak a lot of times. Oct 18 is probably too early. You might see a little color at the highest elevations. In the valley, the peak was around our anniversary years ago (October 21), but it gets later and later. Early November is better most years. In the mountains, the week of the 26th is probably a better bet. Of course, weather plays a big part in the timing and is hard to predict.

Our favorite drive is the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico Plains TN through the corner of NC and on to Maryville TN. You could extend the day by jumping onto the Foothills Parkway and driving part of it. You go pretty high on the Skyway, with some majestic views. Typically, the color will be pretty good on one side of the peak and either not ready or past prime on the other side. I don't think I've ever found it "perfect" on both sides of the mountain. Not recommended if you're a timid driver because the NC to Maryville part includes "The Tale of the Dragon", where some of the motorcyclists drive like crazy people (as do some of the little sports car drivers).

Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg has more tourist stuff, including the ever expanding Dollywood. If you want to avoid that mess, Crossville/Cumberland County might suit you better. Prices are probably less as well. For even more opportunities to commune with nature, Big South Fork is nice. Lots of nice places around the corner where NC, TN, and Georgia meet as well.

I can drive an hour in any direction and be in the mountains. I'm truly blessed, especially in the Spring and Fall.

Enjoy your visit.

Sheila
 

Lisa P

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...the Foothills Parkway... high on the Skyway, with some majestic views... Not recommended if you're a timid driver because the NC to Maryville part includes "The Tale of the Dragon", where some of the motorcyclists drive like crazy people (as do some of the little sports car drivers).
So true! It's a really fun drive/ride, beloved by both sports car and motorcycle enthusiasts throughout the warmer half of the year. When traffic levels peak along with the stunning (distracting) peak colors, regional Lifestar, MAMA, and Lifeflight helicopters can get and stay pretty busy, sadly. Drivers, please use the turnouts to take in the views and meanwhile, keep your eyes on the road and be safe!

Catching the peak leaves is not an exact science. I live between the two areas you mention with plenty of options to vary my dates, but still miss the peak a lot of times...

I can drive an hour in any direction and be in the mountains. I'm truly blessed, especially in the Spring and Fall. ... Enjoy your visit. ... Sheila
You are so right on both counts, Sheila! :)
 

sfwilshire

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When traffic levels peak along with the stunning (distracting) peak colors, regional Lifestar, MAMA, and Lifeflight helicopters can get and stay pretty busy, sadly. Drivers, please use the turnouts to take in the views and meanwhile, keep your eyes on the road and be safe!


You are so right on both counts, Sheila! :)
It has gotten less dangerous the last few years because the local government serving the area got REALLY tired of absorbing the cost of the accidents and deaths on the "Tail". They are VERY aggressive now about enforcing the speed limits. It has slowed the speeds dramatically.

I will never forget the motorcyclist's head that came within inches of our car's side mirror as he leaned over to pass us in a no-passing zone. I was sure he was a goner, but he apparently survived to get his picture made by the next photographer stationed along the road.

Sheila
 

hjhauss

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If it fits your interest, you might want to consider spending a night at LeConte Lodge on Mt. LeConte.
 
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