Falling for the Smoky Mountains: Traveling hacks during peak fall colors tourism season

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — It feels like fall throughout East Tennessee, but it’s also beginning to look like it. As the colors of the leaves change, the number of people coming to the mountains explodes. It’s why October is the busiest travel month for places like Gatlinburg.

RELATED: See beautiful East Tennessee fall colors along Cherohala Skyway

Dennis Webb has worked along the strip, promoting timeshares for Five Star Marketing, for 15 years. The increase in visitors means an increase in potential business, but more time in traffic.

“Getting out of town in the evenings is a nightmare,” Webb said. “You’ve got to know the back roads just to get home. I live in Pigeon Forge. It takes me 15 minutes usually. It takes me an hour on weekends now.”

Webb remembers the bad years, like the Great Recession in 2008 and the Sevier County wildfires of 2016. He thinks this year shows the city is “pretty much” where it was before the fire.

“You couldn’t get any busier than it is right now,” he said.

His advice to anyone planning to come to the Smokies is to plan ahead.

“Make your reservations early. That’s the best way to do it. Just make sure you’ve got your spot on the books, you’ve paid your deposit, you know you’ve got a place.”

Marcus Watson, SkyLift Park’s marketing coordinator, said he expects the number of people taking the lift and walking across the new SkyBridge to grow in the coming weeks, and dip again around the first week of November.

“It’s definitely a great time to be in Gatlinburg,” Watson said.

His advice to people considering a trip to East Tennessee, or a staycation in the mountains, is to consider another route.

“You can also take the Gatlinburg Bypass. That’s a beautiful, scenic way to take in, you can bypass a lot of traffic that way, too. it will ultimately take you to your destination, which is downtown Gatlinburg anyways.”

VisitMySmokies lists six ways you can avoid traffic in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg:

  • Travel early or late at night
  • Walk to your attractions
  • Look out for special events
  • Consider quieter destinations
  • Take the trolley
  • Visit during offseason

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