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 2013, 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 2013 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 2013?
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, the closer it gets to fall the more accurate the fall color forecast becomes.
Smoky Mountain Fall Color Forecast Oct, 24 2013 – The fall colors are at their peak color on top of the mountains. The lower elevations are seeing lots of color now as well. With the freezing temps in the Smokies this week, the leaves at the highest elevations will begin to fall. This weekend (25-27) is a great weekend to see the most colors. The weekend after that will see colors mostly in the lower elevations.
If you want to see fall colors in the Smokies, then make sure you visit before October is over!
We put a lot of research into accurately predicting the timing of the fall colors as we strive to be the first news source to launch a fall colors report each year. We know many of you plan vacations around the fall colors and we hope that our accurate report has helped you time the best possible visit this year!
Viewing Fall Foliage if the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Closed
While the government shutdown remains in effect and leaving the Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed, there are still some great places to drive through and see fall colors. One of the best routes to take coming from Pigeon Forge on Highway 441 is to get off on the Gatlinburg bypass just before you get into Gatlinburg. Follow that route up the mountain and you will come to a fantastic overlook on the left with picturesque views. Follow that road until it dead-ends back into 441. At that point you have the option of going into downtown Gatlinburg, or you can head up the mountain to Newfound Gap for a beautiful drive that as an incredible overlook at the top.
The State of Tennessee website has a great section on fall foliage, color reports, activities, events, and more available at:
Also be sure to check out the current fall foliage reports on weather.com to see if the area you are traveling to has peak colors:
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 the Gatlinburg Space Needle:
Webcam from a vacation home in Gatlinburg:
Pioneer Cabin Rentals Webcam:
View of Smoky Mountains from WBIR’s cam:
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!