The most popular time to travel to Gatlinburg is definitely the fall because everywhere you look there is something remarkable to see; from a tiny orange leaf to whole hillsides bursting with color. We decided to put together this checklist for you to keep handy when it comes to finding some of the most beloved fall photo ops; but we'll also include an out-of-the-way spot or two, so you can create some special photographs with which to remember your trip.
This 6,800-acre natural area offers hundreds of photography opportunities; from the historical grandeur of the old homesteads to the amazing wildlife. There are over 200 species of birds in Cades Cove, including swallows, woodpeckers, warblers and many more. Wild turkeys make awesome photo themes! These birds alone can provide dozens of great subjects for photos.
There are some unusual photo opportunities in Cades Cove: Enjoy the cool fall air and walk through the old cemeteries. You'll find many photo opportunities here. The old chapels make great subjects too.
Driving through this motor nature trail offers one of the best settings where you can pull over and take unforgettable photos. Waterfalls, streams, hiking trails and mountain views all offer amazing topics for photographs. The old homesteads are captivating; they offer unlimited possibilities for photos.
Here's a fun tip: Look for old-growth hemlock forests in this area. A picture of one or more of these trees would definitely be unusual.
This is one of the top spots to view the fall colors in the Smokies. Climbing to the observation tower can be a bit of a challenge, but our post about Clingmans Dome provides details on how to get there and what you can expect as far as viewing opportunities. This is definitely one of the top attractions for viewing the Smokies, so the earlier in the day you go, the better chance you will have of arriving before it gets crowded.
Here's an interesting Clingmans Dome photo hint: Many travelers report that the views on the access trail on the way up to the observation tower are very beautiful in and of themselves. Be sure to watch for those!
Chimney Tops sounds like a difficult mountain hike, but the 2-mile trip to the top is very doable; as hikers, 6-60+ have traversed the 1,400-feet climb from beginning to end. Fall color viewing doesn’t get any better than right here. Please note that some hikers have reported difficulty ascending the final half-mile due to some rocky areas. The photography opportunities are definitely worth the hike. If you go early in the day it can be a bit cold, so it may be wise to dress in layers.
Newfound Gap Road
Beginning the journey in Gatlinburg, Newfound Gap Road spans 16 miles of beautiful mountainous scenery on the way to Cherokee, NC. In the fall, onlookers can get scenic views of breathtaking foliage full of warm red, oranges, and yellows along the way. Due to a 3,000-feet climb in elevation, the forest ecosystem is extremely diverse with trees ranging from the Cove Hardwood, Pine Oak, to the Evergreen causing a tapestry of colors among the fall leaves. We don't recommend distracted driving, so your passengers will never run out of beautiful photo opportunities along this route. Don't worry though, drivers have a chance to catch that perfect Instagrammable moment, too, on the many overlooks located along Newfound Gap Road. With the beautiful Smokies behind you, this is the perfect place to grab a fall picture with the whole family.