Gatlinburg Fall Colors Forecast and Foliage Report 2015

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gatlinburg fall colors foliage
Each year, we post the very first Gatlinburg Fall Colors Forecast before anyone else, which we we have historically posted in August…way before anyone else even attempts to “guess”. We put a lot of research and experience into providing the most accurate forecast, which have been right on the money since we started posting our fall foliage forecasts years ago! This year, we’re doing something crazy…we are jumping way ahead of everyone else and posting our 2015 forecast in MAY! Before you think we’re crazy, keep reading to see the science behind our prediction and see when we expect fall colors to start appearing throughout the Smoky Mountains.

Fall is a special season in Gatlinburg, TN and the Smoky Mountains as the temperatures drop, sweet aromas fill the air, and trees turn into an incredibly beautiful display of colors. The fall colors in Gatlinburg are one of the most beautiful sights that you will ever see. Each year, people always ask when the leaves will change color in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains in hopes of planning a visit at just the right time to see the colors at their peak (when they are the brightest). Below, we provide information on what makes the leaves change color, when they normally peak, when the estimated peak color dates are for 2015, and links to live webcams to see what the colors look like. We’ve even provided a video to give you an idea of what the Gatlinburg fall colors look like! We’ve packed everything we could think of into this ultimate guide to the 2015 Gatlinburg fall colors forecast to help you prepare the best vacation possible to the Smokies!

How Leaves Change Color in the Fall

gatlinburg fall foliageUnderstanding what makes leaves change color in the fall will give you an idea of how to know when the colors will peak. There’s a long, detailed, scientific explanation available at the USDA Forest Service website, but here’s a basic overview. Leaves begin to change color as days become shorter and nights become longer. That’s the primary catalyst for getting the fall colors developing in the foliage. During the fall, the nights are longer so trees slow down their photosynthesis process (which is what makes leaves green). When photosynthesis comes to a halt, the leaves go from green to a gorgeous display of red, orange, and yellow. Historically, fall colors normally peak in mid-to-late October in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Will this year’s peak fall foliage be during that same time? Read on to find out!

The length of day isn’t the only factor, but it’s arguably the most important. Two other major factors are temperature and weather heading into autumn. To get the most brilliant fall colors, there needs to be a string of warm, sunny days with cool (not freezing) nights. This is the perfect recipe for bright, fall foliage so be sure to check weather forecasts for the area you plan to visit to look for a pattern such as that.

Freezing temperatures are the worst enemy for fall colors. If temperatures dip to freezing levels, leaves will brown up almost immediately and begin to fall. So also be on the lookout for a “cold snap” of freezing temperatures and try to get your visit in before it happens!

So When Will the Leaves Change Color in Autumn 2015?

Ah, so the big question everyone wants an answer to. The answer is often as accurate as guessing the weather… after all, they are both connected. Fortunately for you, we put enormous amounts of time and effort in analyzing all sorts of data to provide you with as accurate of a forecast as possible. We know many of you plan vacations around the fall colors and we hope that our accurate report helps you time the best possible visit this year!

Foliage Forecast: May 14, 2015 – We’ve been watching the “formation” of a strong El Nino building up that will start taking affect this fall. You can see full details about this particular El Nino (and what an El Nino is) on the Weather Channel’s recent article about this particular system. We’ll spare you the details and instead dive straight into what this could mean.

The last significant El Nino was in 2009. And it had an affect on the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains. We had our first freeze on September 29 and then our first snow on October 17. This gave us a shortened fall color season as leaves would quickly change color and then dry out & fall shortly afterwards. Here is when the colors peaked in 2009 when the weather patterns were similar to what we’ll see this fall.

  • Tennessee/North Carolina State Line Overlook – The colors peaked on top of the mountain from October 7-14. Yellows and Reds first, and the rest of the colors follow after that.
  • Downtown Gatlinburg – Colors peaked October 19-25
  • Pigeon Forge – Colors peaked October 25-31

At this time, we’re sticking to this same timeframe for peak color, but that will all depend on the temperatures and rainfall in September. If we start seeing way-below-normal temperatures, we’ll move these forecasted dates back a week earlier for each. If we get heavy rain, that’ll possibly delay the colors a week, so make sure you’re signed up for our free weekly email newsletter to get the latest updates!

So there you have it – our 2015 Gatlinburg Fall Color Forecast! Like we do each year, we’ll keep these original predictions posted to grade our accuracy as the fall colors arrive. We’re hoping for a b

Identifying Trees by Their Fall Colors

Each kind of tree typically turns a specific color in autumn, which often makes it easy to identify exactly which tree is which color. So if you’re curious as to what color each tree turns or if you want to impress your family and friends, here is a simply guide of the colors that some of the most abundant trees change to during the fall.

  • Oaks: red, brown or russet
  • Hickories: golden bronze
  • Dogwood: purple-red
  • Birch: bright yellow
  • Poplar: golden yellow
  • Maple trees:
  • Sugar Maple: orange-red

    Black Maple: glowing yellow

    Red Maple: bright scarlet

Gatlinburg and Smoky Mountain Webcams

Want to see what the leaves look like right now? Click here to see our full list of live Gatlinburg webcams or check out some of the most popular webcams below to see what the foliage looks like in various locations in and around Gatlinburg, TN:

Webcam from a vacation home in Gatlinburg:

Pioneer Cabin Rentals Webcam:

Webcam of foliage from Look Rock:

Webcam of foliage from Purchase Knob:

Video of Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains

Below is a video that created by the USDA Forest Service showcasing the beautiful autumn colors found throughout the Smoky Mountains and various scenery that can be found. Pretty much everywhere you look resembles a postcard! In the video, they also share how to get more information on fall color reports directly from the Forest Service.

Final Thoughts about Fall Colors in Gatlinburg

The fall foliage is amazing throughout the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park and there are numerous parkways, highways, side-roads, etc to drive and enjoy the views. When you visit Gatlinburg, be sure to at least drive up the Gatlinburg bypass (accessible from both ends of Gatlinburg) to see some scenic views of the mountains for some great photos of the Gatlinburg fall colors!


  1. says

    Thank you for this most informative piece of information above. I have been visiting the Smokies for years and will be back again this year in October, 2012.

    Thank you for all you do!


  2. Deb Smitty says

    Thanks for the article! My fiance and I have a trip planned for the last week.of october and are hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful colors!

  3. David says

    Thanks for the 411 on fall foliage, I have been many times during the month of October and the best week to visit is the third weekend to peak colors.

  4. Joe Rodriguez says

    We will be there the week of Oct 13-20. What do you think the fall colors will be like then?
    Thank you in advance and we have planned this trip for over 2 years! Looking forward to visiting!!

    • Gatlinburg TN Guide says

      If you want great mountain views then take the Gatlinburg Bypass (accessible on both ends of Gatlinburg on the Parkway).

      If you want incredible valley views then head out to Cades Cove in nearby Townsend for a 7 mile loop with wildlife, primitive buildings, and some great fall scenery!

    • PENNY KOUNTZ says

      This will be our first trip to the Smokeys in October…..we are trying to find out if we will be better off to come Oct 10-16 or Oct 17 – 23, 2015? We normally come in the summer months but want to see the beautiful fall colors this year.

      Thank You!!

    • Gatlinburg TN Guide says

      The word is that this should be one of the longest-lasting fall color seasons we’ve had in years, so the colors should still be good during that time!

  5. Darrell Anderson says

    We were down this year during the week of the 10/22. There were some nice color left but I think we missed most of the red/yellow/orange from the maples. Did we just miss this by a week or so?

  6. Pam R says

    We would love to catch the peak of the leaves changing in fall of 2013. How can I find out the peak time in order to rent a place to stay in advance? Many thanks for sharing this information on this site! :D

  7. Phyllis H. says

    We’re planning a trip to Gatlinburg from 10-19-13 thru 10-23-13. How would you expect the color to be during this time?

  8. Sandy says

    Thanks so much for the update. We’re planning our annual ‘girls trip’ in October this year as one of the girls hasn’t gotten to experience a Smoky Mountain autumn yet, and the dates you’re predicting are PERFECT! We arrive on the 9th and leave on the 19th (2013). We were praying for good color for her….

  9. Jennifer says

    We’re making our plan.
    Which is the better time to go there, Oct 19~21 or Oct 31~Nov 2?
    If somebody answer the question, it would be very helpful to me. ^^

    • Sandy says

      Jennifer, I’m certainly no expert, but having visited the Smokies many times in the fall, we have found there isn’t a great deal of color left around the 1st of November…most of them seem to be faded and dull by then. We have seen much better colors the middle of October. Hope this helps a little….every year is different, but these are the conditions we’ve experienced.

  10. David R Phillips says

    My wife and I will be in Gatlinburg from Oct. 15-19. Will this be close to peak for the colors?….also, if this stupid government shutdown ends, how long will it take for the park to re-open?

  11. pritam says

    is the nationalpark is closed due to shutdown??
    we are visiting on oct 18,so will be able to see the colors or not?

  12. nirav shah says

    I am visiting smoky mountains in October 12-14 2013. is there a chance of good fall colors or it is too early?

  13. KMM says

    Thank you for the updated information on the Fall Colors… our trip from Nashville is planned for a week starting 10/19. Looking foward to taking some great photo’s that I never seem to have time to capture when I am home.

  14. Melissa Snyder says

    My fiance and I are planning a few days honeymoon in Gatlinburg this fall, and I was trying to figure out the best time to come where it would be cooled down from the summer, but the area wouldn’t be choked up yet. Seems the mid to end of October is the most popular, so maybe we should plan for early in the month? Would’ve gone for November 2nd, but I don’t like temps in the 50s and the trees would be bare which would be somewhat depressing.

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