Scouting Fall Color: Great Smoky Mountains NP

Clingman’s Dome Sunrise this morning

Today started out at sunrise at Clingman’s Dome parking lot. Driving up through the fog, I was hoping that it would be clear at the top. Around 5200 feet elevation, I broke through the fog and saw blue sky. I arrived at the parking lot just before the sun peeked over the edge of the clouds. It was glorious to look down at a sea of clouds with just an occasional mountain peak protruding upward. Looking around, the color didn’t seem very intense in the foliage, but the color had definitely changed up at this elevation.

Color at 6000 feet elevation

After shooting for a while and seeing a friend of mine, Bill Lea, up at the top, I decided to venture downward and see where the color was most intense. I went over to Beech Ridge on the NC side, but that was fogged in. I headed back toward the TN side and stopped at Morton’s Overlook. Nice color here and fog down in the valley.

Color at 5000 feet at Morton’s Overlook

Heading further down, I stopped at 4000 foot elevation and 3000 foot elevation. Still good color. Reasonable color at Chimney’s Picnic area, but it will get better over the next 4-7 days. By the time I hit 2000 foot elevation, there was just occasional color amongst the green. I think within the next 10 days, the color will be peaking along Little River Road. The question will be how long the peak holds. The nighttime temps and whether we have heavy rains and winds will make the difference. If you haven’t made plans, make them for the next 2 weeks.

Color at 2800 feet just above Chimney’s Picnic Area

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