Our local landscape is already bursting into a flame of color, and Chattanooga urban forester Gene Hyde predicts that this should be an excellent year for fall leaves.
"I think we are going to see lots of reds and purples," says Hyde. He explains that while predicting leaf color is not an exact science, some factors can contribute to the hues we see in the Scenic City. Warm, wet autumns, for instance, typically result in yellow and brown leaves. Cool, dry fall weather accompanied by those electric blue skies often produces the ruby reds, violets and purples most leaf watchers love to see. Other things, like soil fertility, the condition and genetics of a tree also factor in to an extent, says Hyde.
"Beyond that, it's hard to say," he says. "I've been doing this for decades and trying to look at the factors and figure it out is really hard." Hyde adds that his favorite leaf-looking destination is along the Cumberland Trail, starting from Signal Point and overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge. "It's very stunning," he says, "and you can probably get that from pretty much any of the mountains here."
Discover the color on your own autumn leaf adventure by boat or train, or by simply hopping into the car for a Sunday afternoon drive.
Southern Belle Riverboat:
Sightseers can board the Southern Belle's Fall Leaf Cruise for a unique perspective of the Tennessee River Gorge. Along with the vibrant landscape, this three-hour tour offers live entertainment and lunch. Check the schedule and buy tickets at chattanoogariverboat.com.
River Gorge Explorer:
With the help of a Tennessee Aquarium naturalist, guests aboard the River Gorge Explorer can spot wildlife and historically significant points of interest among the oranges, purples and reds of the fall tapestry. The catamaran also takes guests through Tennessee's Grand Canyon, the Tennessee River Gorge. For more information on the boat's schedule and tickets visit tnaqua.org/RiverGorgeExplorer.
Sit back and enjoy the ride aboard a locomotive bound for the area's most scenic spots. Courtesy of the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure, passengers board at the L&N Depot and Museum in Etowah and chug along the lower Hiwassee River Gorge. The three-and-a-half-hour trip covers 50 miles of prime leaf-viewing territory as the train runs through the Hiwassee Loop. Find out more at tvrail.com.
This 40-plus-mile National Scenic Byway covers ground from the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee to the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. Along the route is a helpful visitor center, Bald River Falls and other perfect spots to picnic. Find directions to the route at cherohala.org.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Newfound Gap Road for dazzling scenes of fall foliage in the Smokies. Pick the peak times to drive by checking the Great Smoky Mountains Association's blog updates on the changing colors at smokiesinformation.org.
Ocoee Scenic Byway:
Plenty of Chattanoogans have rafted down the Ocoee on a hot summer day, but the November landscape of Parksville Lake and Chilhowee Mountain have just as much to offer. Travel by car on the winding US 64 and up the seven miles of the Chilhowee Scenic Spur, complete with overlooks and breathtaking views. Find out more at tnvacation.com/vendors/ocoee_scenic_byway.