Visiting Gatlinburg in October? From fall fests to beautiful weather, changing foliage, and Halloween activities, you have picked a wonderful time of the year to go!
The average high temperature in Gatlinburg in October is 75 degrees with an average low of 55. This makes for perfect daytime weather to adventure outside and then head back to your hotel or cabin in the evening and cuddle up by the fireplace.
Whether you’re looking to get outside or enjoy an indoor activity, there is plenty to do!
If you’re hoping to experience the Smoky Mountain Fall Colors, be sure to plan to visit late October or early November. The colors change based off the weather as well as elevation of the trees with trees at higher elevation changing earliest.
Take A Scenic Drive
Driving through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great way to see the fall colors while covering a lot of ground! During your drive, there are many pull-offs where you can stop and take photos or park and sit and enjoy the views!
Pro-Tip: Download a google or apple map of the area prior to leaving your rental or hotel to ensure a continuous stream of directions. Sometimes in the mountains, your signal may drop and you may have a tough time figuring out exactly where you are.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – a 5.5 mile, one-way loop featuring Roaring Fork mountain stream winding throughout the trail. Take this drive after heavy rain and the stream will be very active! The driving trail is narrow and winding which forces you to take it slow and truly enjoy the sights. The entrance to the motor nature trail is located a short distance beyond the parking area for Rainbow Falls.
- Newfound Gap Road – Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is often much cooler than the surrounding lowlands – dress appropriately to account for this temperature drop!
- Little River Road – 18 miles long with 7 marked signposts signaling points of interest along the way. There are many waterfalls along this road, but only 2 are observable from your car. You can park and take short hikes to see the others. This road will dead-end into Cades Cove (a very popular valley surrounded by mountains).
- Cades Cove Loop Road – 11 miles long, this road offers a beautiful drive with a scenic backdrop of beautiful mountain peaks and takes anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete. There are many restored buildings along the way that you can stop and visit. October is a great time to look out for black bears along this drive – late afternoon or early evening as it quiets down is the best time to spot bears and other wildlife.
Bird Watching For Everyone
Looking for a guided adventure? Check out this highly-rated bird watching adventure!
This experience is available to book through Airbnb experiences and is led by a Tennessee native. You will head out on foot to explore one of the richest bird areas in Sevier County.
This bird watching experience incorporates about a 2.5 hour walk, so pack your walking shoes!
There is a ton of birdlife in the area, so if bird watching is something that interests you, try out this adventure… don’t forget your camera!
Zipline In Gatlinburg
No view of Tennessee’s fall foliage compares to that from a zip line! A top-rated zipline adventure is CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains. They offer 2 zipline tours. The treetop zipline tour has you up in the air for 2.5 hours! The mountaintop zipline tour offers side by side zips with constant 360-degree views of the mountaintops. This one would be fun to do with a friend or family member.
There are age and weight requirements to maintain safety standards, so be sure to check this before you plan to go!
Ober Gatlinburg offers an indoor/outdoor Oktoberfest featuring many original traditions from Munich, Germany. Bavarian food, dress, and culture are all a part of this popular event. If you are a fan of German folk dances and yodeling, then you won’t want to miss it!
While you are at Ober Gatlinburg, you can also check out their aerial tram, mountain coaster, alpine slide, or scenic chairlift! There is something for everyone in your group!
Explore The Smokies – Sights N’ Photo Tour
For another guided tour, try out this tour from local residents that will show you some of the best views of the Smokies!
On a guided coach/van tour, your hosts Mike and Jenn will wind through the Smoky Mountain National Park and tell many stories from the area as well as give historical information.
There are 5 stops that allow you to get out for amazing photo opportunities including waterfalls and streams. You will also receive professional photographs of each of these locations from your hosts.
This experience also includes short, easy walks in order to lead you to the most beautiful photo spots, so be sure to wear some comfy shoes!
Ripley’s Fright Nights
Fright Nights occur every weekend leading up Halloween/October 31st and is appropriate for those 6 years and older. While young visitors enjoy the evening character parade, the older guests can get a kick out of the scary but thrilling performance that follows. Shows run every weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for the entire month.
Dollywood Harvest Festival
Considered one of the world’s premier theme parks, on a daily basis, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features fun rides, delicious food, and wonderful entertainment—all surrounded by the amazing views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
But visit Dollywood in October and you’ll experience a little extra fun! Enjoy the Great Pumpkin LumiNights, southern gospel and bluegrass concerts, and world-class artisans all throughout October.
View The Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage
With over 800 miles of trails to explore, there is definitely a hike for everyone! Strap on your hiking shoes and explore all the Smokies has to offer! Here are some popular fall trails.
Tip: Download AllTrails before you go! This is an app dedicated to trail details, visitor experiences, trail tips, and current trail conditions
- Alum Cave Trail – 5-mile, one-way trail. It passes through some of the coolest geologic formations including Arch Rock and the Alum Cave Bluffs.
- Laurel Falls Trail – this is a very popular and crowded trail as it is one of the most accessible and beautiful trails in the Smokies – the earlier you visit, the quieter it will be!
- Gregory Bald Trail – 10 miles of hiking with high elevation, but the views are worth all the hard work
- Baskins Creek Trail – a short easy hike that features a waterfall
- Meigs Creek Trail – features 18-foot Megs Creek Cascades. This hike isn’t as popular as others, so come here for a peaceful hike
- The Chimney Tops – 2 miles of challenging, steep terrain, however, the hike is worth the amazing panoramic views of the Smokies
Moonshine / Whiskey Walking Tour
If you want to see what all the hype is about southern moonshine, try out this top-rated tour!
This moonshine tour is a highly rated Airbnb experience. Your host will begin this tour with an informative history of Appalachia and moonshining. You will then have the chance to see behind the scenes to learn how the moonshining process works.
After that, it’s time for the fun part, the tastings! You will then visit 2 more distilleries and sample more moonshine and whiskey.
The host shares fun moonshine history as you walk from place to place. The nice part is all tastings are covered in the cost of the experience.
After all the moonshine, you might need a ride home!
Autumn at Anakeesta
Check the calendar of events for October at Anakeesta here – you will not be disappointed!
Enjoy seasonal food and drinks, games, and live entertainment all while enjoying amazing views of the mountains.
At sunset, thrill-seekers can take a haunted ride on the Rail Runner mountain coaster or a nighttime zipline experience through darkness 200 feet above the forest floor.
For those who aren’t as daring, you can relax around the fire pit or grab a bag of popcorn to watch a Halloween movie that shows on all weekends.
I’ve taken an October horseback ride through the Smokies and would highly recommend it!
We visited Five Oaks Riding Stables in Pigeon Forge (here’s their website).
It is a family-friendly one hour guided tour on their trail through trees, over streams, and with mountain views.
Again, this activity is age and weight dependent so check all requirements before you go.
They also offer zip lining which allows you to enjoy multiple things at one location.