6 of the Best Trails to Hike During Fall in the Smoky Mountains

fall leaves on the ground in the Smoky Mountains

Fall is a beautiful time in the Smoky Mountains. Gorgeous shades of oranges, yellows, and reds can be seen everywhere you turn. Each year, visitors flock to the Smokies to see the fall colors at their peak. One of the best ways to experience fall in the mountains is by going for a hike! To help guarantee you have the best time while you’re here and the best views, we’ve made a list of the top 6 trails for you to hike during fall in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls in the Smoky MountainsLaurel Falls is one of the most popular trails in the park all throughout the year. This is partly because it’s great for families and is beautiful during every season. The star of the hike is the 80-foot waterfall you’ll reach after walking for 1.3 miles. The waterfall has both an upper and lower section that is separated by a walkway at the base of the upper falls. Accompanying the stunning sight of Laurel Falls itself are thousands of colorful fall leaves.

2. Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Trail is a must-do hike during fall in the Smoky Mountains. Its high elevation offers the best views of all the fall colors. A highlight of the trail is Inspiration Point, which you will reach after hiking for about 2 miles. Inspiration Point is a bald that offers incredible panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains. After about 2.2 miles, you will reach the Alum Cave Bluffs, a concaved bluff that is about 80 feet high. If you want to continue along the trail, you can follow it to the summit of Mt. LeConte, the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains, for even greater fall views.

3. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Trail during fallRainbow Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains and one of the best to do in the fall. On sunny afternoons, hikers can see a rainbow that is produced by the mist of the waterfall. Rainbow Falls is 80 feet tall and a miraculous sight. If you’re looking for a hike with a little bit of a challenge, this is the one for you. The fall foliage that surrounds you every step you take combined with the waterfall views makes every moment on this trail special. The distance to and from the waterfall is 5.4 miles. Keep in mind that through November 15, the trail is only open to visitors Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

4. Porters Creek

You’ve heard that Porters Creek is a popular spring hike because of the spectacular wildflowers, but did you know it makes for a great hike in the fall as well? This trail has it all — from historic sites to a waterfall! It runs through a heavily wooded area, which means it’s perfect for seeing the leaves once they’ve changed colors. About 2 miles into the trail, you will reach Fern Branch Falls. Fern Branch Falls is a 60-foot waterfall that is even more beautiful during high water flows.

5. Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades near Gatlinburg.Ramsey Cascades may be a challenging hike, but it is definitely one of the most rewarding. The trail itself gains almost 2,200 feet in elevation during its 4-mile course to the falls. And we all know that the best places to see the fall foliage are at higher elevations! On your way to the waterfall, you’ll pass through an old-growth forest that is full of fall colors and follow along rushing rivers and streams. Make sure you have your camera for when you reach Ramsey Cascades itself! Water drops 100 feet and collects into a small pool at the bottom for a picture-perfect scene.

6. Gregory Bald

Gregory Bald is one of the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains. It is perched above Cades Cove, its high elevation making it a great spot to see the colors of fall. What’s just as beautiful as the view from the top, however, is the view you’ll get along the trail on your way there! You will hike through a forest that comes alive in the fall. On a clear day from Gregory’s Bald, you can see Cades Cove and Rich Mountain in one direction, Fontana Lake in another direction, and Clingmans Dome in another direction. The views from this hike cannot be beaten.

Where to Stay

Breathtaking vistas of the Smoky Mountain fall colors from the deck of the Grand View Lodge cabin.There is no better place to stay for your fall vacation than our Smoky Mountain cabins. Not only will you have incredible fall views on your hike, but you can see the gorgeous scenery from your cabin as well! Enjoy the fall weather as you sip a cup of coffee on your deck or soak in the bubbling hot tub as you admire the fall scenery. Whether you’re roasting marshmallows in the fire pit, shooting a game of pool, or just relaxing outside, you will have a blast when you stay with us at Hearthside Cabin Rentals.

Now that you know where to hike and where to stay when you visit during fall in the Smoky Mountains, it’s time to plan your trip! Browse all of our Smoky Mountain cabins and book your stay today.