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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Updates from Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Here are some updates for your fall visits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, near Asheville, Cherokee and Waynesville.

Fall Color Update
If pleasant, sunny autumn days and cool nighttime temperatures continue, fall color in Great Smoky Mountains National Park could arrive in the higher elevation as early as the first week of October. The park observed the first hints of color at elevations above 4,000 feet yesterday. Right now, the high country is still predominantly green with only a hint of color change among early fall starters like red maple, sourwood, witch hobble, sumac, and Virginia creeper vines. More notable now are the fall wildflowers such as the cardinal flower, black-eyed Susan, closed gentian, coreopsis, great blue lobelia, skunk goldenrod, southern harebell, ironweed, and a variety of asters, as well as the bright fruits on hearts-a-bustin shrubs. See our Asheville Fall Color Guide for more details.

Park rangers remind all of us to exercise caution as we view and photograph elk so that both the animals and ourselves are protected. Elk are currently entering the fall breeding season, known as the rut. During this time period, from September 1 through October 31, fields in Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed. Even if the elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields. You can watch from the road. During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge. See our guide for Cataloochee Valley and the Elk.

Chimney Tops Hiking Trail
Great Smoky Mountains Park officials have extended the Chimney Tops Trail closure through December 11 to fully complete the 3-year trail rehabilitation. The trail will continue to be closed each Monday through Thursday as workers complete the full-scale rehabilitation. The trail is open Friday through Sunday each week offering hikers a unique opportunity to see improvements taking shape along the trail. The combination of heavy use, abundant rainfall, and steep terrain turned the Chimney Tops Trail into a badly eroded obstacle course of slick, broken rock, exposed tree roots, and mud. Since April 2012, the Park’s Trails Forever Crew has been rebuilding the trail using durable stone and rot-resistant black locust timbers that will stabilize the trail for decades to come, reducing annual maintenance and greatly improving the visitor experience. See our guide for Chimney Tops Hiking Trail.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Autumn at Land of Oz, Beech Mountain, NC

Watch some of the fun coming up on October 4 & 5 at Autumn at Oz as you walk down the yellow brick road with Dorothy to see the Wizard of Oz. It's only one weekend a year, atop Beech Mountain at the former Land of Oz amusement park. Tickets often sell-out, so reserve in advance. Get all the details at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Train Excursion

Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train through the Nantahala Gorge in North Carolina. The 4.5-hour train excursion takes you by Fontana Lake and along Nantahala River. It's a fantastic way to see the fall color. See photos and a complete guide at