Clearly peak leaf season in the Great Smoky Mountains is right around the corner, but is sure did not feel that way in the lower elevations in Greenbrier, Tremont, Cades Cove, The Foothills Parkway West and the Abrams Falls area.
Traffic is seasonally heavy for mid week on Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, Laurel Creek Road and the Cades Cove Loop Road. The Spur section of the Foothills Parkway that runs between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge has not only seen heavy traffic and numerous accidents, 2 separate accidents this month each resulted in a single fatality, so drivers are asked to exercise extreme caution on park roads.
To get away from all the traffic, take the Foothills Parkway West and go south on 129 to the Abrams Creek part of the Great Smoky Mountains national park which is not only just starting to show some posts of color in the higher elevations, it is virtually deserted right now with about a dozen campsites in use and during a hearty 8 mile loop hike of Rabbit Creek, Hatcher Mountain and Little Bottoms Trail, I did not see a single other hiker.
Long range views along the trail were crystal clear with just random areas showing light green and tinges of yellow other than sourwood trees which have started to change toward the bright and deep reds we all love so much. At least a dozen different species of wildflowers are still blooming and wildlife including birds was plentiful.
The views from the Foothills Parkway West are still mostly summer-like with some lower bushes and some random trees turning and well as from Look Rock. By next weekend The Foothills Parkway West and the higher portions of Abrams Creek and Cades Cove will be a sight to behold as the riot of color will swing peak leave season into those areas.