The Foliage Experience

A few suggestions of how to have a lovely foliage experience in Tennessee by the Smoky Mountains. Anna and her boys write of their experience.

The Foliage Experience
Foliage at Fort Loudoun

Anna, the Mom

Fall foliage is one of the most remarkable experiences in the year and one of my favorites. The red, yellow, orange, brown, and the green of the foliage can brighten up an overcast, gloomy autumnal day and fire up a surreal light on sunny days. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people, living so close to the fall paradise that can be found not far from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Foliage canopy around Fort Loudoun. 

Millions of Americans come from all over the country to enjoy this unique event in the Great Smoky Mountains. Not far from Knoxville, around Gatlinburg, and in the surrounding hikes up to Clingsman Dome in the Smoky Mountains National Park, a multitude of visitors is waiting in line to see the glorious beauty of nature in this season.

We were in a long line of cars inching down towards Gatlinburg coming from Clingsman Dome. At least we could look outside at the beauty all around us while waiting for cars in front of us to move. 

We fell for it a few times, trying to get to our favorite places in the National Park at this time of the year. It seems like everybody wants to go there.

Three colors in some random park, called Sandy Springs Park. 

This year we found a few places around Knoxville that weren't so crowded and had great foliage.

A fall rug. 

Foothills Parkway is a beautiful scenic road located at the entrance to the National Park. We like driving up to the Look Rock Tower Trail, which is a short trail that takes you from the parking lot up to a tower from where you have a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

View from the Look Rock Tower.

The mountains all around are covered in deciduous trees, whose leaves turn a multitude of colors in the fall. It is just wonderful to see the forests unrolling all around you like a beautiful tapestry.

Colors at the beginning of October on Foothills Parkway.

Dean Stone Bridge on Foothills Parkway is another spot where we stop to admire the foliage. Actually on the way there, from place to place, parking spots are provided for visitors to stop and enjoy the view of the hills below and of the Smokies, in the distance.

View from Dean Stone Bridge on Foothills Parkway. 

Fort Loudoun is a State Historic Park where visitors can see what one of the first significant British outposts west of the Appalachian mountains in the French and Indian War looked like. The original fort was built from 1756 until 1757 and was made to help assemble Cherokee support for the British at the beginning of the war. The fort was named after the Earl of Loudoun, the commander of British forces in North America at the time. This is a place the kids loved to explore, I enjoyed the surrounding woods by the waters of the Little Tennessee River. At the end of October this year, the foliage was just perfect there.

Colors of the fall in the woods close to Fort Loudoun.

Townsend, dubbed "the peaceful side of the Smokies" is a mountain city in Blount County, Tennessee, one of the main three entrances to the Smoky Mountains National Park. We love going there to ride our bicycles on the all-purpose loop trail through the city. In the afternoon light, the mountains surrounding Townsend just fire up with a myriad of colors in the fall. It is just wonderful to bicycle surrounded by so much beauty.

Townsend trail. 

At the end of the Townsend cycling trail, just before entering the national park, we stop for a short walk at the river, which at this time is very peaceful and calm. The kids love playing skipping stones there and while they do that, I enjoy just taking in the foliage mirrored in the almost still waters of the river.

By the river at one of the of Townsend 

Any trails in the woods close to Townsend are not so crowded and will for sure make the foliage hunters fall in love with the fall in these parts of the world.

A tulip tree leaf on Ace Gap Trail, not far from Townsend. 

Another way to enjoy the foliage is riding horses on the horse trails. Davy Crockett riding stables are located conveniently outside the Smoky Mountains National Park that tends to get very crowded this time of the year. On our way to Ace Gap Trail, a trail less used by the tourists flocking to the national Park, we spotted this fun place. For his birthday, as a birthday gift, Paul, our youngest, wanted to have the experience of riding a horse on a trail. Being his first time on a horse, he enjoyed the experience thoroughly. He loved driving the horse, talking to it, coaxing it to go that way and the other while all the time enjoying a conversation about his favorite video game with his cousins. I loved the ride, especially at this time, it is magical to ride a horse in the fall.

A horse ride through the woods in the fall. 

The boys wrote about their foliage experience at Fort Loudoun, which to them was the best among all the foliage we have seen this year. They were very much interested in the fort, not so much in the foliage, but it is true, at this particular spot the foliage was remarkable this year.

Mihai, 15

Fort Loudoun is a reconstructed fortification on an island in East Tennessee. We came here to visit the old fort and to enjoy the surrounding foliage.

The old fort. 

This fort was built from 1756-57, but was reconstructed in the original area in the 1930s. It is built with large sharpened wooden stakes on the outside and has a collection of fort-related buildings on the inside. The fort has forest around three-fifths of its perimeter, and you can see the Little Tennessee River on the other side.

The boys walking toward the fort. 

My favorite thing to do there is walk around inside the fort and look at the houses. I told my cousin Josh that the fort would be habitable if the people living there wouldn't mind putting up with leaky roofs and such other problems.

By the beef. 

Inside the fort, we saw a shack which held replica guns and projectiles. A row of houses nearby were evidently barracks for the troops, as they were loaded with bunk beds and long tables.

In the barracks.

Down the hill were yet more houses, which were the storeroom, blacksmith, woodworking shop, a locked shack, and what looked like another barracks building. However, the guard house was the most interesting of all.

This was the best-furnished house and was connected to another locked shack, which we tried getting into. We could not and decided to go down to the river, where we saw an Indian winter house and a summer house right next to it.

Another nice thing to do there is look at the foliage in the fall. The trees here are covered with orange and yellow leaves all October. They fall on the ground and make a carpet.

Fort Loudoun is:

The calm, slow river rolling by the fort;
The leaves rustling as I stepped on them;
The strong scent of old wood;
The rought cast iron of the cannon:
The small clay Indian winter home.

I would go again to see the foliage next year.

Paul, 12

When we entered the fort, we spotted many rustic wooden cottages that were filled with the bare essentials of life, such as beds, chairs, desks, and food. Inside a cottage, we sat down on the beds, they groaned in resistance.

Bare essentials of life. :)

On top of a nearby hill was a guard house that boasted an upstairs room and six beds. My cousin and I said that if we were to live anywhere, we would transform the fortress into a modern gaming hub. We walked into a nearby Cherokee style building and sat down on some rough bamboo, and imagined who would live there.

A Cherokee summer house by the tree.

Another of my favorite things at the fort were the foliage. Many of the nearby trees had begun showing colors. One of the trees had a small puddle of leaves underneath it, and they were all a golden yellow. I tried shaking a tree that was full of orange leaves, many of them fell down on my head.

Having fun with the boys.

I would go there again to live for a few days in the barracks.

Loudoun Fortress was for me:

The waves on the transparent blue river;
The creak of old wood as I sat down on one of the beds;
The small pile of golden leaves under the tree;
The rustilng of red leaves in the wind;
The branches in the tall trees bending in the wind.
Foliage at Fort Loudoun.