Fall colors start to show in Great Smokies

Fall colors start to show in Great Smokies

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Early fall colors from the Newfound Gap parking area, October. 3, 2011 (source: National Park Service) Early fall colors from the Newfound Gap parking area, October. 3, 2011 (source: National Park Service)

GATLINBURG (WATE) - The first hints of fall color are starting appear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials said Monday.

A few sumac, dogwood, red maples, sourwood, black gum and Virginia creeper vines are beginning to show their seasonal red colors.

Only a few scattered trees are showing color now. However, by late September more color will develop at the higher elevations as American beech and yellow birch trees turn gold.

The change starts at higher elevations and moves down the mountainsides to the mid and lower elevations.

The timing depends on temperatures, rainfall and sunlight, making it impossible to predict the peak color more than a few days in advance.

As days grow shorter and nights grow longer and cooler, chemical processes in leaves begin to paint the landscape.

Visitors will typically find color somewhere in the park anytime from late September through mid to late November.

The park's current suggested scenic drives are: Newfound Gap Road, Cades Cove Loop Road and Little River Road.

The suggested hikes are: Albright Grove and Sugarland Mountain Trail, as well as high elevation hikes to Andrews Bald or Mt. LeConte.

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