Everything you need to know about fall foliage in Tennessee

It’s late September and the leaves are just starting to change in Tennessee. Since our state has some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the country, why wait? Start planning a trip (or two or three) to see the fall foliage.


Typically, Tennessee fall foliage peaks from east to west beginning in mid-October. Places at a higher elevation, like the Smoky Mountains, will also see the leaves change a bit earlier. To see where the leaves are at in their cycle, click on this link: Fall Foliage Map.


Actually, the colors you see in the fall are the colors that leaves normally appear. But in the spring, they start creating chlorophyll. This chlorophyll is a key component that allows trees to turn sunlight into glucose, which feeds the tree. The millions of chlorophyll  cells saturate the leaves and make them appear green. In the fall the leaves stop producing chlorophyll and they revert to their true colors of yellow, red and orange.


There are a number of beautiful places to see leaves in Tennessee. Here are some of our favorite:

1. Cherokee National Forest– the Cherokee National Forest is divided into northern and southern sections by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The 650,000-acre forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee and adjoins other national forests in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. The Ocoee Scenic Byway is one of our recommended routes. It is the National Forest byway in the nation. It winds through the Cherokee National and gives you stunning views of the Tennessee Valley. It takes about forty five minutes to drive it. You can also check out the Cherohala Skyway. We wrote about it in last week’s blog. In case you missed it, here is a link: Tennessee- The perfect place for nature lovers.

2.Natchez Trace Parkway- if you live close to Nashville, you must drive the Natchez Trace Parkway during peak season. Around Nashville, the third week of October is usually the optimal time for seeing fall color.


3.In a winery- Most people don’t know this, but grape vines turn gorgeous colors in autumn. There are a number of wineries in Tennessee. It makes a beautiful weekend trip to visit one and checkout the leaves.


4.Bluff View Art District- This is a fun way to see leaves and get a little culture. Chattanooga’s Bluff View Art District is an historic neighborhood with restaurants, a coffee shop and an art gallery. Perched high on a stone bluff, it gives you a beautiful view of the Tennessee River and downtown Chattanooga.

5.South Cumberland State Park- This is one of Tennessee’s newer state parks, and is located on the gorgeous Cumberland Plateau. It has some beautiful hiking trails to view the leaves up close. We love the Fiery Gizzard Trail.



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Sparta, TN

The River Club is located in idyllic Middle Tennessee. It is in a quiet, rural location that is an easy drive from Nashville.

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