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.
Cades Cove: This 6800 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.
Here 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.
Take some shots of thunderclouds building up in Cades Cove.
Roaring Fork: 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.
Clingmans Dome: As of November 3, 2014, Clingmans Dome is closed due to inclement weather. Check in with us on Facebook for updates on when it will reopen or follow @SmokiesRoadsNPS for up to the minute information. 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: At 4,800 feet high, 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 1400 feet climb from beginning to end. Fall colors 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.
Here you can see some amazing videos of Chimney Tops so you'll know what to expect when you make the climb.
We have one more stop for you on your quest to photograph the unusual and the interesting this fall in Gatlinburg: Try the pottery shops around town! When you visit these shops you will discover that many of the artists’ work in depictions of local wildlife and plants into their work. These artistic pieces make awesome gifts for you and your loved ones (some people purchase a new piece or two of pottery every year, to add to their collections), and provide some amazing photo ops! As you drink from a mug you bought in Gatlinburg, stop a moment and capture the expert artwork with your camera. These pictures will surely remind you of your visit!