Peak Fall Leaf Season in Cades Cove Part of the Great Smoky Mountains
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There is no questioning that this weekend will be the peak leaf season for Cades Cove Tennessee, which is the most visited part of the most visited park in the United States: The Great Smoky Mountains national park.
Yesterday when driving around and hiking in Cades Cove you can clearly see that there are a few days to go before all the leaves colors into brilliant shades from the mountain peak to the valleys and even before getting to the valley, brilliant fall color can be seen on any road or trail in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.
Cades Cove Fall Peak Color
As you can see by the picture I just took in Cades Cove above, there is still plenty of green but also some very brilliant fall color!
We have not had any real precipitation for quite a while in the Smokies and the next 2 days we are guaranteed to get some. This should make what leaves are very green last longer on the trees and as long as the winds stay low, only blow of the poorer colored brown leaves so we can see the brighter fall colors in the trees even better.
Little River Road has some must see spots as soon as you leave the Gatlinburg Area on the way to see the fall color in Cades Cove.
The fall color is at peak along the Laurel Falls Trail which is a very easy paved walkway up to a very pretty waterfall about 3 miles from the visitor center in the Sugarlands.
Just before the Laurel Falls parking area are 2 pull out parking areas with spectacular long range and short range views of the fall color. Be sure to get some pictures here!
When you leave Laurel Falls you go by Elkmont. While not quite yet peak in many areas of Elkmont, spots of the early fall color are already bare so while taking a few boulder shots here in the river would be nice, you do better to push on to Cades Cove where the color is much better.
Past the Metcalf Bottom Picnic area which will be on your right will be a parking area on the left for the waterfall area known as the Sinks. Unless there is no parking left, be sure to spot here and take a few pictures of the leaves and the waterfalls and boulders.
Watch for a rock wall on the left with parking about a 1/2 mile past the Sinks and you will be able to see Meigs Falls which I just took a video of yesterday. As you can see the yellows are getting brighter and so are the reds and oranges around it so by the weekend it will be stunning!
You may want to park along the Townsend Wye on the way to Cades Cove. This very photogenic spot will let you have some great pictures of fall color reflecting in the water along with rocks in the river and the rock wall.
As you continue toward Cades Cove you start to climb up to a Gap which has a pullout. The leaves are around here are just starting to hit peak fall color yesterday and should be great for the weekend.
Once you are in Cades Cove I would suggest taking the Loop Road around all 11 miles. Many of the cabins and churches are past peak, but just look up around the mountains and you will be able to see breathtaking fall color at its finest.
I would also suggest if your car can handle it to take Rich Mountain Road out of Cades Cove as you are then right in the best fall peak color of Cades Cove and can see great views when looking down into the valley.
Labels: Cades Cove, Elkmont, fall color, Laurel Falls, peak leaf, Sinks
Last Weeks of Peak Color for 2013 in the Great Smoky Mountains and Where It is.
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The word unusual is what best describes the peak autumn leaf color of 2013. Well pretty, late and long lasting work too. With all that said, I will even throw in unpredictable too.
I have been chasing fall color in the Smokies for 15 years now and so far the pattern has been very clear and predictable. This year's fall starting and peak color has lasted longer than usual in most locations, and most spots are later than usual and surprisingly much is out of synch making it more of a challenge.
The great news for everyone coming to the Great Smoky Mountains to appreciate the fall leaf colors is that the weather has been wonderful with virtually no rainy days and most of the time seasonably warm except when we got a light dusting of snow on the higher elevations along Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
All those sunny warm and dry days, has pushed the leaves to start changing color just a little latter than normal. It has also created more of an islands of color effect where spots of color appear caused by just a few trees close together change color more than large bands of color moving down the mountain at the same time.
We have also seen where the fall color start and just stop as seen in the picture above taken at the Chimneys overlook 2 days ago where you can clearly see the tops of the ridge lost their leaves and was in peak last week, yet the lower part of the mountain that should be in peak right now is still in dark greens and yellows.
Normally when the top of this range is red, at least 300-400 feet below, the trees and bushes that change in the fall are very bright yellow and light green too. Clearly this is not the case.
Though peak color is at around 3,000 feet, a few spots such as along the Foothills Parkway Spur which more than 1,000 feet lower have dropped many leaves and have yet to peak color. The same can be seen in Cades Cove, Tremont, Greenbrier and Cataloochee.
The picture above was taken yesterday at the Middle Prong River in Tremont where many trees have just turned yellow in the past 3 days. The bright reds and oranges are just around the corner.
The hiking trails in Tremont such as the West Prong Ridge Trail and the Lumber Ridge Trail are both very quiet and there is some fantastic color in spots that is only getting better by the day. Highly suggest both of these trails to see fall color and enjoy some tranquility.
The Middle Prong Trail in Tremont is much busier and has better color is spots. The 2 major waterfalls along the trail Lynn Camp Prong Falls and Indian Flat Falls have unusually light water flow, but are still very pretty.
Lynn Camp Prong Falls will be at peak color sometime late this week which may not last long. Indian Flats has mostly evergreens around it so anytime of the year is pretty.
Early mornings are beautiful in Cades Cove as pictured in sunrise this Sunday above. While peak color is working down the surrounding mountains ranges and should be still very bright and pretty into next week in parts, some of the color in the lower elevations never peaked and is surprisingly gone.
Don't get me wrong, with the help of some gentle moisture we could have an absolute riot of color still in Cades Cove as the trees with later colors to come out are still more than 80% green. At this rate we will have color into the second week in November.
Remember, Cades Cove does not open until sunrise to cars, but you are welcome to park At the orientation shelter by the entrance and walk in to watch the sunrise. Sunrise in Cades Cove is magical and before 9 am THIS LAST Sunday I saw bear, coyote, tons of deer and turkey.
The Cataloochee Valley about and 1-1/2 hours from Gatlinburg and its peak fall color is usually about 2 weeks ahead of Cades Cove due to the fact it is so much higher and generally colder as well.
As you can see by the picture above taken 3 days ago, its fall leaf color is far from over along the peaks and down the mountainside.
Although the lower elevations along the valley floor are not very bright this year, just look in the distance and up the mountains and hill surrounding the valley and there is still plenty of great fall color to see.
Right now the best hiking trail to get the best fall leaf picture and enjoy stunning long range fall leaf season views is along the Cataloochee Divide Trail right at the park entrance.
Since the Cataloochee Divide Trail is not a loop, you can walk in a few minutes or hike in 10 miles or mile on this very easy trail. Take a break at the overlook with the large rock.
Down in the valley, Cataloochee is one of the best spots to see wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains other than Cades Cove. Of the more than 150 plus elk that live in the Smokies, more than 90 call Cataloochee home.
The elk rut, which is their mating season, is just about over. Some of the elk such as the one pictured above who obviously lost a battle with another elk over a potential mate must be glad their days of fighting will be over next week.
Unlike the peak fall color in Cataloochee the elks mating timetable seems to be right where it should be. You should be able to still get some great elk photos with fall color in the background for at least another week or so. Far later than normal!
So where is the best fall color right now in the Great Smoky Mountains that should also be very bright, colorful and beautiful this coming weekend? the Foothills Parkway West in the photo below from yesterday is the place to go!
Not only will the 18 mile long scenic drive thrill you will great colors surrounding you on both side of the road, make use of the pullouts on both sides of the road. The northern pull outs look out past Walland, Maryville, Townsend, Alcoa and all the way out to Knoxville. Best night view in the Smokies.
On the Southern facing pull outs you are looking out at the Great Smoky Mountains national park and in some cases down into Happy Valley as well. In my opinion, some of the best views in the Great Smoky Mountains are right off this roadway and they are never more beautiful than during fall.
Sunrises and sunsets off of the Foothills Parkway West are fantastic. If I could choose just one time, it would be sunrise when the fog can fill the valleys below. Indescribable.
So what is the best part of the fall peak leaf season for 2013? The fact that since it is running so late and lasting so long, that so many more people can enjoy it than usually can.
Where it is usually impossible to take advantage of any special deals on good cabin rentals, because the season should be over, there are still some cabin rentals left at the lower November rates and you can use the coupon below for an additional 10% discount!
Labels: Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Chimneys, Fall, Foothills Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, last, peak color, Tremont, week
Fall in the Smokies: Peak Color and First Snow for 2013
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As we first predicted 10 days ago, not only are we right in peak leaf season or the Smoky Mountains with the best color at about 3,000 feet and up, we have had our first taste of snow for the fall of 2013.
The 2 places that first recorded snow as to be expected took place in the very high elevations of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount LeConte to triple peaked mountain visible all around Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville Tennessee.
Whereas Mount LeConte received just a few furies, Rangers had to close the access road 128 due to some snow but mostly being frozen sleet. Mount LeConte reported no accumulation this morning, but temperatures that dipped down into the teens with a high yesterday in the mid 50's.
The valleys in Pigeon Forge, Wears Valley and Gatlinburg stayed much warmer in the 40's last night with some of the foothills dripping down into the 30's and we are still under a frost warning and expecting a as much as few inches tonight at Clingmans Dome and Mount LeConte.
The combination of this cold weather that the jet stream drip brought into us here during peak autumn leaf color and the high probability of snow accumulations high in the mountains will mean brighter leaf colors, better long range visibility all with snow capped peaks? What could make for a better fall picture that that?
In the meantime, the fall color in the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains has already been getting brighter at 4,000 feet and above with most of the fall color presently concentrated at 3,000 feet and up which of course will rapidly change given the cold weather that just moved into the Smokies.
I did an extensive fall color survey yesterday in the Smokies and I was not disappointed with what I saw. Starting up top at Clingmans Dome I had to break out both a winter coat and hat as it was windy and foggy and along the highest parts of Clingmans Dome Road we are already past peak which hot a week ago.
You don't go up to Clingmans Dome to see fall color in the leaves up close, but to get long range views looking down into North Carolina and going up and over to look down the valley into Tennessee. While it was in the lower 40's and windy, the fog would break every now and then so that you can see the color below.
See the video above from Clingmans Dome yesterday to see the fall color looking down into Deep Creek, Bryson City and you can see a glimpse of Lake Fontana. As you can see, yellows and some reds are out, in another 73 hours the reds will be far more prevalent.
Going down to Cherokee, some of areas around the Kephart area have turned and a few of the beech trees are already past peak. Cherokee has another week before hitting peak and there is far more green left than I can ever remember along the way.
Light Greens and yellows are creeping into Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road, and Cades Cove Will be really great starting this weekend and should have color lasting more than another week.
One of the best spots to see the fall colors right now in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is in the Cherokee Orchard Road area of the park behind Gatlinburg and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trails.
Don't rush when you come here. One of the best places to spot bear early in the day and late in the afternoon is along this road - even before you hit the Ogle Cabin pictured above from yesterday.
If you want to have a gentle walk in the woods and an opportunity to see the color up close, park here and take the small guided loop trail around to a mill in the woods and along the way enjoy great photo opportunities and an opportunity to see the Smokies up close, all without steep climbs!
Further on up the road is the Rainbow Falls Hiking Trailhead. This trail goes along a large stream at the beginning and the fall color higher up on this trial is great!
Go past the second Rainbow Falls parking lot and on the right is the entrance to the Roaring Fork Motor nature trail. The further up you go, the better the fall color is right now and with 2 large overlooks, you have the opportunity to take some great pictures with a stunning long range view.
The first hiking trail parking area is for Grotto Falls a very easy 2-1/2 mile round trip with some nice fall color and if you hike about another 2 miles past the falls, you come to the best view of peak fall color in the Smokies on Brushy Mountain.
Further along on the motor nature trail are 3 more spots with historic buildings that look fantastic with the fall colors as well as many small cascades and waterfalls is the streams near the road.
This has been a very good year so far and it still looks as though we have more than another good week of peak fall color left in the Smoky Mountains!
Labels: Fall, Gatlinburg, peak color, Pigeon Forge, Roaring Fork
Fall Color for October 21st 2013 in the Great Smoky Mountains
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Last night was another cool night and tonight it will dip into the 40s again and the cool weathers timing is perfect as the leaves are just starting to change in the lower elevations and is in peak higher up.
In an around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg it was bright and sunny and in the mid 60s today with no real traffic what so ever compared to the weekends in fall. Many restaurants did even have lines.
Cades Cove remained busy today with a moderate flow of well moving traffic except for the 3 black bear jams. You can tell the bear are desperate to fatten up as one was working the trees in the first field near the horse stables and another by the exit of Cades Cove Loop Road in the middle of the day. It isn't often you get to see black bear so easily in the middle of the day in Cades Cove when it is not raining.
Bears need to fatten up now in the fall before they slow down for the winter and these bear were working the cherry, oak trees as well as the Persimmon trees whose fruit will be much sweeter after the first frost.
Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road all still all leafed in boasting various shades of green and some yellows with an occasional red.
Even the waterfall by the Sinks has yet to color in, but with near or at freezing temps for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night, you can be assured that the bright color is right around the corner.
Fall color has crept further down on Rich Mountain, Cove Mountain, and Mount LeConte with the brightest color up high still a few days away. The view from Clingmans Dome was wonderful.
The hiking trails were fabulous from Greenbrier to Tremont and even the very busiest trails such as the Little River Trail pictured above today were still quiet and peaceful.
As you walked along the trails, you hear the rustling leaves underfoot and the bright blue sky set off the color in the leaves in the trees above or on vines growing on the trees like the flame red Virginia creepers.
Deer were out on 3 trails which is fairly unusual that they are so brave in the Smokies. They now have their darker grayish winter coats and like the bears are looking to take advantage of the few easy acorns left to find.
The squirrels are sill chattering at one another as they do in the fall and they are in a mad rush to make the most of what's left of the red oak and white oak acorns littering the forest floor.
It doesn't just look, feel and sound like fall, it smells like fall too. In the daytime you can smell the fresh leaves and in the evening, those lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace are making themselves cozy in front of it while that wonderful smell of seasoned wood burning is in the air.
The exciting part is, we know it is just going to keep getting nicer and nicer day by day as the fall peak runs from the mountain peaks into the valleys.
If you haven't booked a cabin to come and enjoy the fall peak season, don't even bother trying to this weekend as any good unit is already booked.
If you are smart, take advantage of a last minute deal during the week when the traffic is light, trails are emptier, restaurants have no wait and you can still get a great deal and see what could be the best peak fall leaf season in years!
Labels: Fall, Gatlinburg, leaf, peak, Pigeon Forge, smokies
2013 Fall Peak Color In The Great Smoky Mountains Has Started!
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After losing more than 2 weeks of being able to have full access to everything in the Great Smoky Mountains due to the government shutdown, everything turned around just in a nick of time to be able to catch to beginning of the 2013 fall peak color in the Smokies.
Even with the prospect of a government closure that kept people out of our beloved national park, it did not stop the leaf peepers from coming to the Smoky Mountains and who could blame them?
As a matter of fact it appears that what few regulars who come every autumn to the Smokies to see the leaves change each year that didn't show up were replaced by many new fist time leaf peepers. You just needed to drive through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee to see how busy we were.
With the very wet spring, summer and early fall in North Carolina and now the mild temperatures with mostly sunny days, the fall peak leaf season is generally running a few days late in most areas and the same for Tennessee.
Normally you would expect to see a lot of bright reds at the highest elevations along with some deep maroons of early hardwoods starting to show for days now. Instead, yellows and oranges are still the dominant changing colors and the cooler weather that started last night is just starting to bring out the flame reds.
The Blue Ridge Parkways no has some areas of full peak and the light greens and yellows are as low as the Chimneys Overlook on Newfound Gap Road with full color stating on the Alum Cave Hiking Trail parking.
The vista at both Newfound Gap and the Oconaluftee Overlook just a little south of the Gap on the North Carolina Side is really starting to look beautiful. Further south at the swinging bridges overlooks you can see we have another week to be in real peak.
Fall Color at the Swinging Bridges
By the time you work just another 1,000 feet down in elevation along Newfound Gap Road, you are still predominantly dark and light green.
Little River Road, Lakeshore Road, the Foothills Parkway East and west all still mostly green and when you look up at the peaks in the distance the oranges and reds are getting more prevalent on the ridges every day.
For the most part, Cades Cove does not really have great color yet and the best way to enjoy it is long range looking from Rich Mountain across the valley. The hike to Gregory Bald is fantastic right now and will be for another week up top.
Looking Down at Cades Cove from Rich Mountain
Cherokee Orchard Road behind downtown Gatlinburg and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail have some nice color, but again this is really getting better by the day and will start peaking by the weekend. Be sure to past Grotto Falls and up to Brushy Mountain and the visibility has been good and the vista fantastic.
Cosby, Big Creek, Deep Creek and Elkmont all have spectacular color in spots as you hike up higher and best yet, the weather is amazing for hiking and though it is fairly crowed in the park, many trails are not overrun especially during the week.
The river in Greenbrier is just beautiful and has about 2 weeks of color left in spots. Do not miss out on Ramsey Cascades or the Pinnacles. Though the cascades water flow is light right now, the changing color in the forest is worth and the view from the Pinnacles today was breathtaking.
Greenbrier Tennessee - Pigeon River
Bluff Mountain, Ski Mountain and chalet Village all have some color coming in with a ways to go and Brothers Cove which is all decorated for fall looks like it will have some real vibrant color this year.
Be sure to take some pictures on the overlooks on the Gatlinburg Bypass which is a week to peak. The Spur leaves may drop before they hit peak as some have done in other places. If the leaves start falling here, be sure to check out Tremont which should be in peak at that time.
Fall Color in Cataloochee
The fall color will be peaking this week in Cataloochee and the elk are still putting on a show and rutting. Color will last into next weekend.
All said we will have good color this year and so far with real staying power. We may be a few days later than expected due to so many sunny days but then again, those were fabulous days to be outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather in the Smokies.
Related Fall Color Reports for 2013
Labels: Cades Cove, Cataloochee, fall color, Gregory bald, Newfound Gap Road, peak color, Ramsey Cascades
Fall Color Report for 2013 Leaf Season in the Great Smoky Mountains
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Right on time in the Smokies we have seen fall color in some random trees and bushes such as sourwood and dogwood for the past 2 weeks, and yellows in hardwoods such as oaks above 5,000 feet for more than a week.
Late summer and early fall have been a mixed bag between dryer than normal on the Tennessee side and wetter than normal on the North Carolina side. This very strange combination has mean for a bumper crop of apples, but lousy acorns due to the stress.
The fact that we have good apples has us very excited as that is usually a good indication of a great autumn for color. The fact that the acorn crop is light means that the bears will be moving around looking more for food to fatten up for the winter.
The great news for leaf peepers looking to enjoy a both long colorful fall leaf season in the Smokies is that stressed trees and bushes often produce the best fall color. The trick is not to have too much stress which can cause a tree to go from green to brown and dropping its leaves within a day or 2.
Fall Leaf Season along Newfound Gap Road
To get the best fall leaf color possible, just as the leaf is turning off sugar production, you want a cold snap to convert the sugars in leaves such as maples into bright reds and hot oranges. Not enough cold and when the green goes, all what remains are yellows - still a very pretty sight.
Some places have many of the same species of tree or bush at the same elevation with the same exposure. When this is the case, you get a mass of basically the same color all at once. The peak leaf season in that case may only be a few days, but it can be quite spectacular.
The Smokies on the other hand vary greatly in both diversity and environment. Just go to Gatlinburg and look up at Mount LeConte and you are looking at more than mile in elevation gain - the most dramatic elevation change east of the Mississippi.
You also do not have 10, or 20 different species of trees growing in the Great Smoky Mountains, you have more than 100. There are more local native tree species growing in the Smokies - most of which produce color in the fall - than there are in the entire European continent!
The timing on all the trees as to when they shut off their leaves and produce the bright colors that remain in the leaves are all different. Even for the same species of tree, since elevations, canopy cover, soil types and conditions vary so much, so does the peak leaf season for each species of tree in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Since we have hundreds of different trees with different leaf colors in the fall peaking at different times, you can see that coming to the Smokies in autumn to see the leaves change; you have a window of 2 to 3 weeks minimum when the leaf color is great.
Bad weather conditions such as an extreme drought, or a huge wind storm or rainstorm that blows down leaves can reduce this window by a week, great conditions such as light moisture when needed, light winds and real cool nights to process the sugars can extend a peak leaf season to 4 or more weeks of color.
To time peak fall color in the Smokies it depends on where you want to see it peak. Even then it is part science and park art. We all know for example that folk legends such as the position and width of the bands on our wooly caterpillars is not an accurate predictor of how cold it will be during the winter. A coin toss works even better on average!
The biggest variable is weather conditions as to when the peak begins. Leaves turn off their green color which is chlorophyll and become colorful as both light and the temperature changes. When the days become shorter, less light means less sugar is produced triggering a fall shutdown of the Chlorophyll producing parts of the leaves. Continuous bright sunny days mean that the fall season will start later and thus peak later.
Darker, cloudy and rainy day's make plants start turning into fall colors faster, thus moving the peak season start and end sooner. With all this going on, temperature has an effect too so you can see since weather patterns can change real fast in the mountains, what can look like a late peak season can turn into a normal fall peak season in days.
Right now we are just starting to peak at the highest elevations which are generally only producing yellows at around 5,000 feet. Higher points such as along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 6,000 foot range are seeing bright reds in some bushes and trees. If you are high up and looking down along the higher ridge lines, the fall colors including reds and oranges will really start to pop by next weekend.
Most people do not have the ability to be along higher ridge lines so the fall color when it moves to the middle and lower ridges will offer both better fall color long range views as the ability to be closer at the mid line where you will find many cabins and scenic pullouts so you can see the leaves with their fall colors up close in person.
The best time to enjoy peak season fall color in Cades Cove is right about when the mid range comes into color. For some reason the valley does not hold color long and f you wait too long for it to creep down the mountain, the tops of the mountains around Cades Cove are already done.
Cataloochee and the bald at Max Patch are at least a week earlier to fall peak leaf season than the lower parts of Tennessee such as Cades Cove.
Of course the best you can ask for is when the tops are at the tail end of peak, the mid and low elevations are at peak and there is a dusting of snow up top. If you are lucky enough to catch this, the contrast is thrilling and makes for postcards perfect pictures.
Long range forecasts today show the possibility of a dusting of snow in high altitudes on the 20th, 24th, 25th and the 31st. For most of this week we are expecting highs in 70's, and for the rest of the month in the 60's.
If you are coming here for a visit to see fall colors during October, pack warm clothes if you plan on going to the upper parts of Newfound Gap Road or on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is open all the way through to Virginia as we already have had lows up there in the 40's for days.
As long as the rain predicted for the 16th and the 17th is a gentle, long, soaking rain, some of the tail end of the fall color in hardwoods such as red oaks will still be visible in the Great Smoky Mountains and valleys such as in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg into November. In 2005, reds were still nice the second week in November.
The best bet to be sure to see the best fall colors in the Smokies is the 3rd week in October, you might not have full great color in the hardwoods and valleys, but you will be sure to have the mid elevations very bright and colorful. Even if a huge storm blows through, there will still be fresh fall color peaking everyday further on down below every few days.
Labels: autumn color, Blue Ridge Parkway, Fall, Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, National Park, Newfound Gap Road, peak leaf season, Pigeon Forge, smokies, Smoky Mountains
Government Closure Status in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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It is hard to believe that we are already in the 11th day of the Government Shutdown that among other hardships has closed the Great Smoky Mountains national park and the Blue Ridge Parkway facilities just as peak tourist season and leaf season begin in the Smokies.
Of course great news would be that everyone is working again and all national parks and forests are open. So far this is not the case; however, the federal government decided that if a state government can pay the expenses, federal parks can be reopened as long as the expenses are being covered.
The Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) encompasses more than 800 square miles straddling the states of North Carolina and Tennessee with the state border slicing the park lengthwise. While the GSMNP is has more land in North Carolina, the most accessible and heavily visited parts of the park are in Tennessee such as Cades Cove.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is presently working with Tennessee congressmen to see if it is feasible to use state government resources to reopen part or all of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with 3 other areas that the federal government shutdown has closed.
No official word yet if North Carolina will be willing to help pay to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains national park and with Tennessees help alone, it may not be enough for the park to open until the Federal Shutdown is lifted.
Presently the national park is legally closed to all use other than traversing the 3 roads which remain open, along with utilizing unblocked pullouts and overlooks which include the Newfound Gap parking and the Newfound Gap bathrooms.
The only roads in the park right now open are Newfound Gap Road US441 all the way from the entrance at Cherokee North Carolina, to where it ends 30 miles away at the city of Gatlinburg Tennessee and the Gatlinburg Bypass which connects Newfound Gap Road by the city limits to the Spur.
The Spur is also open and it is part of the Foothill Parkway outside the park and it connects Gatlinburg with Pigeon Forge Tennessee.
Current Road Conditions and Closure Status in the GSMNP
The entire hiking trail system in the Great Smoky Mountains national park is officially closed due to severe manpower shortages from the Government Shutdown as they are now considered unsafe.
Hikers right now are tolerated along the Appalachian Trail, Husky Gap Hiking Trail, Gatlinburg Hiking Trail, and the Oconaluftee River Trail.
If a trailhead is blocked off with cones or barricades do not hike there as you are subject to fine or arrest and you're putting others in danger.
As for facilities in the park such as Visitor Centers, Stores, Stables, Picnic Areas, Bathrooms, Historic Buildings, Campgrounds and Campsites, they are all closed. Do not trespass in these closed areas.
Looking to go horseback ridding? We suggest Walden Creek Stables.
Even though campgrounds are closed, the campground hosts are still there and looking to report any trespassers which is their duty, so please stay away from areas you are not allowed!
As for all the closed roads in the park, cars, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, skateboards, and roller skates are forbidden.
Even though these closed roads are off limits to all use. Walking is tolerated. If you wish to walk along any park roads, keep in mind that you want to be walking in a way emergency or maintenance vehicles may use the road and not expect you so stay away from blind curves.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be the most visited national park in the United States, but the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited park unit in the country with almost twice the users that the GSMNP has.
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles from the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains national park in North Carolina all the way up to Virginia where it reaches the edge of the Shenandoah National Park.
Originally the Blue Ridge Parkway might have been closed during the shutdown, now all of its 469 miles are open to vehicles even there was a partial closure which required some emergency road repair work that was just finished yesterday.
All facilities such as picnic areas and visitor centers along the entire parkway remain closed. The Pisgah Inn in North Carolina which serves food along with the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant in Virginia, have been allowed to reopen.
Another great attraction along the Blue Ridge Parkway and only about an hour away from the Great Smoky Mountains national park just east of Asheville is the Folk Center which just reopened.
At the Folk Center you can see museum quality exhibits of local craftsmanship from furniture to clothes as well as a craft store.
There are picnic tables at some of the pull offs along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but cooking is forbidden. There is also a picnic area at the Folk Center which I would suggest as a stop.
Presently none of the pullouts for scenic outlooks or parking areas for hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway are blocked off or closed. At this point the hiking trails have not been listed as off limits. Use of camping and campgrounds are prohibited.
Graveyard Fields: Blue Ridge Parkway October 10th 2013
One of the most popular hiking areas on the Blue Ridge parkway is Graveyard Fields about an hour away from the Great Smoky Mountains national park. As of yesterday it has the most advanced fall color of any of the areas I have seen in more than 300 miles with a ways to go.
Once you are past the first 20 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkways entrance at the Smokies you will see small markers showing hiking trails every few miles. From short scenic walks to 20 mile or longer hikes, there is something or everyone.
Hiking Trails on Blue Ridge Parkway
If you love scenery such as what you see at Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap, I can assure you that you will be blown away by the stunning beauty you will see along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will also see numerous wildlife especially off the road and on the trails such as black bear, elk, and deer is also quite numerous.
Ranger presence is light along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it is best you do not hike alone, past your capability and be prepared as a fast rescue may not happen.
Be advised, though their presence is lighter than usual, rangers are taking enforcement seriously, especially speeding and passing on double yellow lines in both the Great Smoky Mountains national park and the Blue Ridge Parkway because of the seriousness and number of fatal accidents such behavior cost.
Besides the hundreds of miles of great hiking trails still apparently open along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Pisgah National Forest is also close by and accessible right off the Blue Ridge Parkway or I-40.
The Pisgah National Forest is enormous covering 512,758 acres with about 10% of which is old growth forest and like the GSM national park there are no facilities open, but people are using all of the hiking trail without any issues so far.
Other great places to go hiking not extremely far away are the 3 TVA trails: Tellico East Lakeshore Trail, the River Bluff Trail and the Hemlock Bluff Trail.
There is also Haw Ridge Park between Knoxville and Oak Ridge and the very nice moderate hike on the Pinnacle Trail in Sylva, North Carolina about 30 minutes tops from the GSMNP.
Not enough hiking for you? Add on the Panther Creek State Park in Tennessee, North Carolina's Dupont State Forest and the Nantahala Forest, the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, and an awesome drive along the Cherohala Skyway in the Lenoir area of Tennessee.
Wait a minute! I never mentioned the weeks of attractions you will find in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Tennessee, not including our beloved Dollywood Theme Park and the Ripley's Attractions Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Sure the park being closed hurts, but no one is expecting it to remain closed by next weekend, and even so, so at what else there is do around the Smoky Mountains. Now you see why we all call them the GREAT Smoky Mountains!
Twitter Account for Great Smoky Mountains National Park Info
Twitter Account for Newfound Gap Road US441 Info
Last updated 10/11/13 4:05pm
Labels: Blue Ridge Parkway, Government Closure, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, status