Tennessee is brilliant for autumn colors. The state is crumpled with old, rocky mountains blanketed in forests, and these groves turn into a riot of flaming hues come fall. Thousands of tourists return every year to witness the seasonal show. Of course, there’s more than just the pretty vistas. You can also fish wild rivers, hike into the heart of the mountains and state parks, and hop on a bike to explore scenic pathways.

Raccoon MountainBiking in Chattanooga

There’s a reason they call Chattanooga the ‘Scenic City.’ It’s one of the best cities of its size for biking, surrounded by pretty forests and pathways that range from gentle elevation to steep mountainsides. You can take an easy ride alongside the city’s Riverwalk, or pump your legs and tackle the long haul 80-mile Mountain Cove Loop. Thanks to Bike Chattanooga, all adults have access to bicycles via a 24/7 bikeshare system.

Make it happen

Tennessee is far south enough to retain mild climate for much of fall. When it comes to fall leaf palettes, the state is far north enough to lay claim to consistent color shifts – you still get big patches of green in more southerly states.

If you are coming with leaf spotting mainly on your mind, pay attention to the forecasts: particularly hot summers or droughts can have an impact on leaf colors, and heavy frost can end the foliage show. In general, leaves start changing by mid-September; the state reaches ‘peak fall’ sometime in October, but if it’s a warm year, colors will last into November.

While traveling, keep an eye out for scenic viewfinders installed at three scenic lookout points in East Tennessee, with more on the way. These viewfinders allow the colorblind to experience the vividness of the state’s autumn colors; more information here.


Published online September 2018: Written by Adam Karlin