By Leif Palmer
It's true. Every season in the Great Smoky Mountains is gorgeous in its own way. The breathtaking whiteness of snow-capped mountains against a backdrop of brilliant blue is dazzling. The fresh greens of spring bring to mind rebirth and joyful celebration, while the deeper hues of summer make us want to find a shady spot near a gurgling stream for an afternoon nap.
But fall is when the mountains show their true colors. Vibrant oranges the color of ripe pumpkins, golden yellows, and rich crimson blanket the landscape like a well-loved quilt. The morning air is crisp and carries the sweetly spicy scent of falling leaves, and the evening skies shimmer with the light from a million stars.
No matter when you visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, you're sure to find plenty to do. From skiing to shopping to whitewater rafting, there's something for everyone. But in the fall the scenery takes center stage, and there are nearly as many ways to enjoy it as there are leaves on the trees.
If you prefer a laid-back trip, miles of scenic highways make an afternoon drive a stunning excursion. Simply pick a direction and drive, stopping along the way to explore a walking trail or two. Camera buffs will want to get a little closer to nature, so grab your hiking boots and head deeper into the woods. In addition to the brilliant fall colors, you'll spot plenty of wildlife busily preparing for winter.
Adventurous types might want to hook onto a zipline for a flight through the treetops you'll never forget. You'll glide dozens of feet above the forest floor, zipping from tree to tree like a bird. Surrounded by the reds, yellows, oranges, and greens of autumn, you'll feel like you've just taken a trip through a kaleidoscope.
Want to really experience the beauty of fall in the Great Smoky Mountains? Pack up the family and rent your own quiet cabin in the woods. You'll start your days with a cup of steaming coffee on the deck, watching the sun come up over a distant mountain. After a hearty breakfast it's time to put on your hiking shoes and head for the nearest trail. With hundreds of miles of walking and hiking trails crisscrossing these mountains, you'll probably find one right outside your back door.
Evenings are family time. Enjoy dinner at one of the dozens of family-friendly restaurants in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, or simply build a campfire in your back yard and roast some hot dogs. Later, with no traffic to compete with, the night sounds of the forest are all you'll hear, ensuring the best night's sleep you've ever experienced.
Even if you've visited the Great Smoky Mountains in the past, until you've seen them in all their glorious autumn colors you won't know just how beautiful they can be. Whether you take in the scenery by car, on foot, or soaring through the treetops, one thing is certain: You'll never look at the changing of the seasons the same way again.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in east Tennessee. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.