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Tennessee–North Carolina in October
  
 
dipan0000
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Hi folks,

Planning to visit Tennessee and/or North Carolina in October. We are more close to fall so we should close to accurate forecast now.
Though, Smokeys are much discussed, I am open to other areas in Tennessee–North Carolina as well. So two important queries -
- Which area would be more photogenic and I should visiting during my 5 days ? I am fine to hit roads and cover different places, instead of spending whole time at one place.
- Which weekend of October should serve purpose well, out of 16/17, 20/21 and 28/29 (though later two have cheaper air-fare than 16/17) ? I was reading fall discussions on other posts and many of them say that this year fall is not going to be as dramatic and can be delayed by a week due to extreme heat flow. So I really need help from guys, for guidance.

Thanks in advance.



Sep 29, 2017 at 06:31 AM
NCAndy
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Any of those weekends should work depending on elevation and location. Exposure, drainage, elevation, all make a difference for timing of color. There are websites that show timing for the area though they are general guidelines. So far as intensity of color, I wouldn't put too much faith in predictions as I find they are driven by the tourist industry. I've never seen a bad color year forecast though we have had them for sure.

People tend to like the Smokies because they offer a wide range of conditions in one area. Outside of the Smokies are other areas, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway, the southern escarpment with all the waterfalls. There will be color somewhere on the weekends you mentioned though the highest elevations will done by then, but the highest elevations don't have the best color anyway. Generally the NC side of the Smokies turn earlier than the Tenn side by about a week though there are always exceptions.

Expect crazy traffic in the Smokies in Oct. leaf season. My advice is to get out as early as you can. Scout locations the day before for the the next morning. I've been able to get around just fine if I head out before first light to catch the sunrise, typical photographers schedule. Most tourists get a much later start to their day. Traffic eases again as people head back to town for dinner. Pack a lunch and drinks for the day. In the middle of the day seek out shady streams for photos. Often little pulloffs on roads will get you easy access to quiet stream scenes.

Cades Cove is fantastic in the fall but again start when it opens at sunrise and try to be done before it becomes a parking lot. Evening might be another option.

If you choose to explore away from the Park there is plenty of info available on the web about the other locations I mentioned. A search for WNC Waterfalls will give you lots to read. It's a big area so driving times are often longer than people expect.

Irma stressed many trees as it passed through this area. Some trees are turning early, some have lost leaves, some seem unaffected. It's difficult to say how the color will be though I think it will be good from what I've seen so far. Usually the third week of Oct. is a general peak but that moves down to the lower elevations towards the end of the month. Storms can affect that too. The Blue Ridge Parkway peaks around mid Oct., before the Smokies. Have fun!



Sep 29, 2017 at 12:37 PM
dipan0000
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Hi Andy,

Your detailed response was helpful. Thanks for it.

As per your profile, you seem to be in very much in that area, so I am sure or your observations and rely on your views.

I understand that it is complicated science to give accurate predictions for fall colors and its intensity. But I would like to go with "close to good" at least, may be 21/22 weekend should be okay, I assume.

I did some reading for Smokies, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway and all have few wonderful areas to shot. With combination of most convenient time and cheaper fare for that weekend will let me fly in Atlanta and fly out of Nashville. A big loop will hopefully let me take to few nice routes.

Keeping these dates and airport, do you think I should keep my lodging at different places instead of one central location ? Because we are not 100% sure on colors, should I keep two sets of lodging and when time comes close, I will cancel other ?

Thoughts ?



Sep 29, 2017 at 05:17 PM
CreationBear
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Andy has given you some great options--I'll just add that by the third week of October you might also want to have the option to explore the mid-elevations (say, 2000-3000 feet), especially those roads that follow rivers like Little River or its tributaries in the GSMNP; likewise, the drives along the Tellico down in the Cherokee National Forest can be beautiful as well. Again, just to reiterate, don't be surprised by the amount of traffic and its effect on your travel times.


Sep 29, 2017 at 06:00 PM
dipan0000
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


I just checked all flight fares of nearby locations and rental car and it looks like, I will fly in and out from Atlanta only. From there, I will take a big loop for 5 days.

While expecting to see Smokies and Cherohala Skyway, how much part of Blue Ridge Parkway, should I go ? I am looking to have a loop together.



Sep 29, 2017 at 06:41 PM
NCAndy
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


I assume you chose the 21/22 weekend to base around. That is a good overall choice for general color as per past years. The BRP begins (or ends) at Newfound Gap Road in GSMNP just outside of Cherokee which is milepost 470. I would plan on not going past mp 408 at the Pisgah Inn. That's 62 miles of road out, and then back, would make for a big part of a day. Lots of pullouts along the Parkway will pull you in for photos. By the third week of Oct. the lower sections should be nearing peak and the higher part of the BRP will offer long views with good color below and past peak above. I would suggest you get at least as far as MP 430 which is just past the highest point on the BRP at 6053ft. But the views continue if you choose to go on beyond that.

It is possible to exit the BRP and take a side road down to the main highway, and those roads NC215 and 276 have some very nice rural scenery. You can find your way back though cell service can be spotty in the mountains. You might try to stay on the NC side a couple nights an the Tenn side the other nights. It would cut down on driving some if you worked closer to where you stay.

When you go to the Cherohala Skyway, I suggest as CB mentioned, to head down to the Tellico River Road. The Tellico is a beautiful classic eastern stream with large boulders and several waterfalls.




Sep 29, 2017 at 07:21 PM
CreationBear
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


On high level, I can see two options, in fact three options .
1- Drive to Cherokee and stay there. Do day trips to Smokey, Cherohala Skyway and till Pisgah Inn.
2- Boone, Grayson Highlands, Roan Mountain area.
3- Drive to Boone (long drive from Atlanta on first night), stay there. Visit Grayson Highlands, Roan Mountain. Later couple of days near Smokey and Cherohala Skyway.

dipan-- I took the liberty of quoting part of your PM in hopes that NCAndy or others will chime in with their advice, especially since I don't have a lot of first hand knowledge of your Options #2 and #3.

As for the Cherokee option, that puts you in the middle of some beautiful country, as NCAndy well knows. Just a few thoughts:

1. In terms of the GSMNP, I might think in terms of "river walks"--from Cherokee, access to the Bradley Fork above Smokemont, then Deep Creek and Noland Creek above Bryson City, is very easy. Further afield, Cataloochee Cove near Maggie Valley is lovely as well. Of course, as long as you're practically on U.S. 441 (Newfound Gap Road) you really have to take it to the top of the hill at least, visiting Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome.

2. In terms of drives, try exploring back West of Cherokee through the Tuckasegee Valley and perhaps all the way to Nantahala Gorge--the area between Whittter and Bryson City, for instance, has some lovely, bucolic views.

3. I understand you'll be wanting to do a lot of landscape photography, but as long as you're in the neighborhood, try to make time to explore the local culture--there will no doubt be demonstrations and exhibits at the Oconaluftee Vistors Center, and Museum of the Cherokee is worth a visit as well.

Otherwise, I do wish you luck in getting accommodations--it is very possible that you'll have to alter your plans to meet where you end up staying. At any rate, let us know if you have any specific questions as your trip firms up, especially if you think you might wander down a trail or two.



Sep 30, 2017 at 01:56 PM
dipan0000
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Thanks for great outline. I was going deeper in minute details, so I thought, if it would be better to ask via PM to you guys, instead of spamming forum :-)
Let me read more about places you mentioned. I have not booked flight yet. I have been reading and gathering information. For the dates I picked (20/21), few posts are saying that this will be good weekend as fall is delayed this time due to recent heat wave going on. While I can also read that previous weekend (14/15) would be better, according to some. So yes, its a crap shoot, which is difficult to predict accurately. In any case, it looks like colors are muted, in comparison to previous years.



Sep 30, 2017 at 03:59 PM
NCAndy
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


We've cooled down off the near record temps of the last couple weeks but the forecast is for slightly above average temps through early Oct. It does look like we will have a chance of a freeze around the 14th and if that happens will cause the leaves to turn quickly after that. So it seems the third weekend still looks good but there are many micro climates in the mountains here and color will be found many places throughout Oct. starting at the highest elevations moving lower and then south towards Ga. and SC.


Sep 30, 2017 at 05:24 PM
Whisle
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Excuse me for jumping in as I'm making my first trip to Grayson Highlands on 10/23-24 so if any advice could be given it would be really welcome, thanks.





Sep 30, 2017 at 06:48 PM
 

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dipan0000
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Andy/CreationBear, I tried to map places and routes and I can some rough plan. I am sure, it will need edit/change and your suggestions. It is from Charlotte.
19-Oct - Reach Charlotte airport in evening and drive and night stay at Blowing Rock/Boone
20-Oct - Boone - Grandfather Mountain - Linville Falls - Asheville - Brevard - Pisgah Inn - Maggie Valley. Night stay.
21-Oct - Maggie Valley - Bradley Fork - Noland Creek Trailhead - Cherohala Skyway - back to Cherokee. Night stay
22-Oct - Cherokee - Codes Cave (early morning) - some more parts of Smokey area and back to Cherokee for night stay
23-Oct - Cherokee - Charlotte (not sure, what to visit on this day)



Oct 01, 2017 at 02:12 AM
CreationBear
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Those are certainly full days! Assuming you'll be able to find lodging, don't underestimate your travel times, especially with the days getting shorter--you'll be traveling winding, two-lane roads for much of the time, with lots of fellow tourists. I would take my advice with a grain of salt--chances are you're younger and more energetic than I am!--but I think my itinerary would look more like this:

October 19: Arrive Charlotte, drive to Asheville and spend the night.

October 20: Leave Asheville early A.M., explore Maggie Valley/Cataloochee Cove; drive to Cherokee/Bryson City and explore Bradley Fork and/or Noland Creek; return to Cherokee for night.

October 21: Leave Cherokee, drive to Robbinsville, N.C., then take Cherohala Skyway to Tellico Plains. (Another possible destination along the way--either coming or going--might be the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest). "Loop" routes are hard to find, but note that you can take Hwy. 74 through Nantahala Gorge on the way to Robbinsville, then Hwy. 129 to Hwy. 28 back to Bryson City and on to Cherokee.

October 22: Leave Cherokee early A.M. for Cades Cove; then Clingman's Dome for sunset. (You might could fit in a walk along Little River above Elkmont in between.)

October 23: Take Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee to Asheville; then I-26/I-40 back to Charlotte.

At any rate, I hope Andy will chime in--as I said, my experience is mostly with the "western" part of your tour (i.e., the GSMNP and Tellico region)--he might give you better feedback on how to integrate the Blue Ridge Parkway into your trip.



Oct 01, 2017 at 01:52 PM
NCAndy
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


dipan0000 wrote:
Andy/CreationBear, I tried to map places and routes and I can some rough plan. I am sure, it will need edit/change and your suggestions. It is from Charlotte.
19-Oct - Reach Charlotte airport in evening and drive and night stay at Blowing Rock/Boone
20-Oct - Boone - Grandfather Mountain - Linville Falls - Asheville - Brevard - Pisgah Inn - Maggie Valley. Night stay.
21-Oct - Maggie Valley - Bradley Fork - Noland Creek Trailhead - Cherohala Skyway - back to Cherokee. Night stay
22-Oct - Cherokee - Codes Cave (early morning) - some more parts of Smokey area and back to Cherokee for
...Show more

CLT to Boone is about a 2 hour drive though I'd expect a bit longer in reality. Driving the BRP back to Soco Gap/Maggie Valley is near 200 miles and at 35mph average might take 6 hours in driving time not counting stopping for photos. Side trips to Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, Mt. Mitchell would obviously add significantly to the day. It would be a busy day but doable if a drive on the BRP is what you want.

Day 2, I'd go straight to the Skyway and add the Tellico area in place of the Bradley Fork and Noland Ck.

Day 3, Cades Cove and back to Cherokee, early start needed, lots of leaf peepers but stop along the streams on the way back and hit Clingmans Dome at sunset.

Day 4, depending on when you need to get back to CLT, head back into the Park or take a route back to the airport that will take you by some scenery. I could suggest something but that depends on your schedule.

CB, had some good suggestions too. Availability of lodging might dictate your itinerary in the end.



Oct 01, 2017 at 02:31 PM
dipan0000
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Thank you both. You are amazingly helpful.
I re-look at my itinerary and it looks like Boone area is adding some significant distance. I don't know, if Smokey will give comparatively better scenery, then I can skip Boone area. In that case, flying in Atlanta or flying in Charlotte won't make much difference in distance.
For some ease and with your suggestions, I edited it a bit like this -

October 19: Arrive Atlanta, drive to Cherokee and spend the night.
October 20: Leave Cherokee early A.M. for Cades Cove; walk along Little River above Elkmont, then Clingman's Dome for sunset.
October 21: Cherokee, Pisgah Inn, Brevard, Asheville, Maggie Valley, Cherokee.
October 22: Leave Cherokee, drive to Robbinsville, N.C., Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, then take Cherohala Skyway to Tellico Plains (and if time left, then small loop suggested by CB)
October 23: Leave Cherokee - Franklin - Highlands - Dillard - Tullah Gorge SP - Atlanta, Fly out

Does it make more sense, to keep one single base in Cherokee and completely skip Boone area ?
Will October 20 take whole day, or I can club more stopovers along with other three ?
Seems like Codes Cave is most crowded on weekdays, so kept it on Friday (Oct 20). Or other days are more crowded ?
I tried to keep some part of Blue Ridge Parkway on October 21, while going to Asheville. Am I going through good route ?



Oct 01, 2017 at 06:41 PM
CreationBear
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Glad to see things firming up! A couple of thoughts:

1.) Charlotte might be marginally closer than Atlanta to Cherokee, especially since Hartsfield is south of the city, but I would check with Andy to see what the ETA would be from CLT...one thing that you will learn is what looks good on the map doesn't always apply to real life!

2.) Regarding Cades Cove, the issue there is that access is limited to an one-way, 11-mile loop with limited pull-outs, so your speed will determined by the slowest driver. (And my condolences if you get in the middle of a "bear jam!" ) With heavy traffic--and I don't think it will be lighter on a weekday--you can spend several hours getting around the loop.

That said, one thought I had is that if you are able to get in and out of Cades Cove, say, by lunchtime, you could exit the Park through Townsend, then take Foothills Parkway back south and west, and make your way back to Tellico Plains where you could take the Cherohala back east without backtracking. Otherwise, you could use the Foothills Parkway to go to Robbinsville by taking Hwy. 129 South, but that section is the famous "Tail of the Dragon," which would be challenging driving to say the least.

At any rate, hopefully the pieces will fit into place for you!



Oct 01, 2017 at 07:41 PM
NCAndy
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


It's a little about 3 hours to Cherokee from ATL. Thursday evening should be ok for traffic, it gets slow on the weekends towards the mountains but rush hour is legendary. Friday would be the better day for Cades Cove, though in leaf season it's all relative. Lot's to see along the Little River on the way out of the Cove. Tremont, Elkmont, the main stem of the Little River, Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon, Roaring Fork Motor Road, are all on the way back or near Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Day 2, BRP to Pisgah Inn (good lunch if you have time), Hwy 276 to Brevard, check out Dupont State Forest if you have time. Asheville, Biltmore Estate.

Day 3, Nantahala Gorge, Cherohala Skyway, the Memorial Loop short hike in Joyce Kilmer, Santeetlah Lake, Tellico River with Bald River Falls, Baby Falls, and the river itself. It's lower elevation but there should be some good color. On the way back Deals Gap, NC 28, Twentymile Ck, Fontana Dam, pullout views of the Smokies across the lake on 28.

Day 4, Franklin, Hwy 64 through Cullasaja Gorge, Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Highlands. Hwy 106 to Dillard to Tallulah Gorge, get permit hike down if you have time.

Just suggestions. Good luck.



Oct 01, 2017 at 11:05 PM
Ed McGuirk
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


This reply may or may not have relevance to your plans, so take it with a grain of salt.

I live in New England, and the abnormal heat in late September and early October has harmed our New England foliage season in 2017. The heat is causing it to be delayed, but it is also producing dull, bland colors, early leaf drop and leaves turning brown and dropping without changing color. Right now we are seeing this in the places that turn first such as northern Vermont
http://www.scenesofvermont.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3789
There is concern that this problem may also affect the rest of New England when it turns, which it did in 2005 the last time we had a year with essentially no good foliage change.

The Smokies are not New England. But if there is talk of the peak being delayed in the Smokies due to unusually warm weather, well then you better hope that it doesn't affect the Smokies the same as New England. New England also had a bad drought in 2016, and some speculate that the stress from last years drought, plus the heat in 2017 are the culprits for poor color in 2017.

Of course this is just an observation about the poor season in New England. It may or may not have any relevance for the Smokies.






Oct 04, 2017 at 01:12 PM
NCAndy
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


General forecasts and observations are just that, very general. IMO the websites that forecast color typically forecast great color most years. Truth is, in my experience we get great color in the Smokies much less often, maybe once every 5 years or more. Here in the SE the weather is just so variable and the first freeze has become much less reliable. While fall is our driest time of year, lately it has been drought dry. It's been dry so far this year, Irma not really bringing all that much rain. Irma's wind stressed a lot of trees, or stripped trees especially up at higher elevations. So it's hard to say how this color season will play out.

The good news is that even in very poor color years there are always areas of brilliant color. In hot dry years the northern exposures often show well for example. Rarely do the Smokies match for color a good year in New England. We have too many different tree species for pure brilliance, but we make up for that with varied hues some brighter than others. The best color often shows where the most maples grow, in the 3000-4500ft elevation range. That section usually peaks the third week of Oct. give or take several days. Regardless of how this year turns out, a fall morning on a stream at first light is remarkable, a glow that seems unique to the Smokies. If you keep an open eye there are always great photos to be had whether on a ridge in a holler.



Oct 04, 2017 at 08:40 PM
dipan0000
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


Will there be any effect of heat/drought on Smokey and around area, on colors ? Like delay, as Ed McGuirk said ?
If that is case, will 4th weekend (10/28-29) be better bet ?



Oct 05, 2017 at 02:02 AM
NCAndy
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Tennessee–North Carolina in October


dipan0000 wrote:
Will there be any effect of heat/drought on Smokey and around area, on colors ? Like delay, as Ed McGuirk said ?
If that is case, will 4th weekend (10/28-29) be better bet ?


No one knows. A tropical system is forecast to impact the area to some degree this weekend into Monday. Hard to say what that might bring. Flip a coin I guess. The last weekend might be better but I would think the higher elevations above 4500ft should be well past peak by then.



Oct 05, 2017 at 02:30 AM
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