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 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! 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 2019, 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 2019 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 2019?

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, 14 2019 – As mentioned in our last forecast, most foliage is more shriveled and wilted than in “normal” years and we are noticing transitions to brown and then falling at a faster rate than we normally see. While we remain hopeful that we’ll see a surprise “pop” in colors, this is shaping up to be a much different fall than usual due to the excessive hot & dry days we had leading up to early October.

We do see some color scattered throughout the Smokies, but it’s still predominantly green. The weather for the next couple of weeks looks fantastic, which will be great for drives through the Smokies or hikes on the numerous trails.

We still expect colors to spread in the highest elevations over the next couple of weeks and then trickle down to Pigeon Forge around the last week of October and on into November. Keep an eye on our Gatlinburg webcams to see live views of the foliage.

Foliage Forecast: October, 9 2019 – Cooler weather is finally here!!!! They hot & dry September definitely pumped the brakes on fall colors, but cooler weather has arrived and we are finally beginning to see colors appearing in the highest elevations. There is a bit more wilting in the leaves than normal due to the extended period of dry/hot weather, which could lead to a fast color transition & falling of the leaves especially if we have a frost or high winds.

We expect colors to spread in the highest elevations over the next couple of weeks and then trickle down to Pigeon Forge around the last week of October and on into November. Keep an eye on our Gatlinburg webcams to see live views of the foliage. Check out some of the photos below showing foliage changing near the top of the Smokies!

Foliage Forecast: September 23, 2019 – While today is the first day of fall, it still feels and looks like summer in the Smokies. The temperatures have remained hot with many days in the 90’s and the weather has remained dry. The lack of cool nights continues to delay the transition to colorful foliage…and the longer this heat sticks around, there is the potential that the fall colors will continue to not only be delayed, but may also be short-lived once they begin to turn.

As of right now & based off of the current weather forecast (with temperature hitting 90 all the way into October) we speculate that fall colors will be most visible in late October/early November. This, of course, is completely dependent upon the weather…specifically the temperatures. Once we begin having cooler nights, the foliage will begin turning. As long as we can avoid an early frost or severe storm, the foliage may continue to be visible well into November in the lower parts of the Smokies (Pigeon Forge).

The image below is from the Clingmans Dome Webcam taken this morning on the first day of fall 2019 looking west (toward Gatlinburg). As you can see, foliage remains heavily green throughout the Smokies.

clingmans dome view first day of fall 2019

Foliage Forecast: September 3, 2019 – Summer temperatures continue to linger as it continues to be HOT in the Smokies. These warm days and nights are hitting the pause button on leaves changing color. Currently, forecasted temperatures all the way up through September 17th are expected to be no lower than mid 80’s for the high, which means we’re going to be waiting a little longer for leaves to start their transition.

As of right now, our first prediction for the 2019 Fall Color Forecast for the Smoky Mountains is for colors to begin appearing around mid-October in the higher elevations and will work their way down to lower elevations through mid-November…and possibly lingering around until the end of November. As always, the colors will begin to change in the highest elevations first and then trickle down into the valley (Pigeon Forge) over the following weeks. As temperature and weather patterns change over the next month, we will update this forecast accordingly. If colder weather approaches before the end of September, it could bring fall colors earlier in October. So stay tuned!

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