Gatlinburg Fall Colors Forecast and Foliage Report

Fall colors in the Smoky Mountains
Each year, we post the very first Gatlinburg Fall Colors Forecast before anyone else, which 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 forecasts, which have been right on the money since we started posting our fall foliage forecasts years ago! 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 2022, 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 2022 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 2022?

Ah, so the big question everyone wants answered. 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: October 10, 2022 – After nearly of month of dry weather and cool nights, we’re starting to see some beautiful gold & yellow colors in the higher elevations! Below are a few photos posted on the Visit Gatlinburg Facebook page showcasing some of the colors we are beginning to see at the highest elevations.

These colors are now beginning to slowly trickle into the valley (downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge) as orange and red foliage will soon join the vibrant display of the Smokies.

The biggest factor we are keeping our eye on is freezing temperatures. The current forecast shows that the season’s first freezing temperatures could arrive on October 17th with temperatures predicted to dip to 31 degrees. If this happens, it will accelerate the foliage change and lead to leaves beginning to fall. If we stay above freezing, we could see beautiful colors hang on through early November.

If you plan to visit the Smoky Mountains before the end of October, you’re very likely to see some beautiful fall colors!

Foliage Forecast: September 13, 2022 – While the summer months were full of wet days that can often delay colors, we now have about 2 weeks of dry weather, which is one of the major ingredients for colors to begin changing. It is still slightly warmer than needed, so that could push the start of colors into the later part of October.

Our current fall color prediction is that we expect to see vibrant colors appear in the highest elevations around mid-October. Once that begins, colors will slowly spread down the mountain and into Pigeon Forge over the following weeks and could last well into November. The biggest things to watch out for are 1) temperatures that dip below freezing or 2) storms with heavy winds. If either of those happens, it will negatively impact foliage and cause a shorter season of color. Thankfully, neither are in the forecast in the next couple of weeks…so we’re hopeful for a beautiful fall!

As weather and colors begin to change, we will continue to update this forecast.

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 simple 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:

See Anakeesta’s Firefly Village along with the Great Smoky Mountains in the background!

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
Check out the beautiful mountaintop view from SkyLift Park high above downtown Gatlinburg!

Webcam from the Gatlinburg Space Needle:

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort webcam to see snow and snow-making:

Webcam from a vacation home in Gatlinburg:

Preserve Resort Smoky Mountain Webcam

Webcam of foliage from Look Rock:

Webcam of foliage from Purchase Knob:

Newfound Gap Webcam

Clingmans Dome Webcam

Mountain Mall

Video of Fall Colors in the Smoky Mountains

Below is a video 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! Also, be sure to check out our list of the best fall events in Gatlinburg to see numerous things to do!