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
Understanding 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:
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!