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When’s the best time to see fall color in the NC Smokies?

​Fall colors appear first at the highest elevations and work their way down over a 5-6 week season. So you should be able to find beautiful color no matter when you visit in the fall.

Not only do the Smoky Mountains explode with beautiful color in the fall, the small town of Bryson City itself puts on a festive fall show, too! Colorful fall flowers, corn stalks and hay bales decorate the streets mixing with the beautiful fall foliage changes. Explore trails under canopies of colorful leaves, take a bike ride, or view the leaves on scenic roads or from the comfort of a railroad car.

Because fall is such a popular time in the mountains, lodging does book up fast. Planning ahead will ensure you get the dates and the lodging you want. Find lodging

Recommended By Travel Writers…

Travel Channel — “10 Great Places to Go Leaf Peeping Down South”

Southern Living — “One of 10 Must Take Fall Trips”

AAA Magazine — “Great Spot for Fall in the Smokies”

Read Paul Anderson’s excellent article about getting the most out of your Fall getaway to the Smokies — Autumn in Bryson City – the spectacular grand finale of summer fun in the Smokies.


Guide to Five Scenic Roads to View Fall Foliage in the Smokies

With our varied elevations, you should be able to find beautiful color no matter when you visit in the fall.

Special Train Rides

Leave the driving to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on the special “Leaf-Looker” excursions to the Nantahala Gorge. Daily trips, and most are onboard the steam train. Named one of the 10 Top Fall Foliage Trains by Travel and Leisure.

More Ways to Enjoy Autumn

Biking trails – ride through a canopy of color

Darnell Farms – Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hayrides, live music, fall dream whips, fall decor, playground, farmers market on the Tuckasegee River.

Farmers Market– Every Friday & Saturday  morning May thru October, 9 am – 2 pm on Island Street at the Aquarium in Bryson City. Food truck and live music..

Easy hikes to waterfalls in the area

Soar above the trees on a zip line

FestivalHarvest Festival at Stecoah Arts Center with music, dance, old-time farm demonstrations and a quilt show.

Thru October – Oconaluftee Indian Village open Monday – Saturday, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (last tour at 4:30 pm.). Tour the authentic working village with dwellings, residents and artisans right out of the 1760’s.

Scenic drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway or through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or on “The Dragon.”

Take the  “Road to Nowhere” for beautiful fall color and a spooky tunnel.

Listen to The Bugle of the Smokies Elk

Hearing a bull elk’s bugling during the fall rutting season is a memorable experience… that comes with a caution. While the animals are not frightened by humans, they are wild and potentially dangerous, particularly during mating season when the males are aggressively guarding their harems. Observers should stay at least 50 yards away and use binoculars or telephoto lens for a closer view.

Where to view elk. For years following the herd’s 2001 reintroduction into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, elk watching meant driving deep into the Cataloochee area of the park, about 1.5 hours from Bryson City. But these days, you’re just as likely to see elk grazing in the fields next to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, or in the lowland fields along US 441 in the National Park. Where to find elk

Sponsors of Bryson City / Swain County Chamber of Commerce Events

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad logo
Town of Bryson City NC logo
Explore Bryson City logo

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director


Visitor Guide pages

Order a free Visitor Guide featuring Bryson City and the North Carolina Smokies