If you look outside in mid and lower elevations right now, you would swear it was the first weekend of peak leaf season in the Great Smoky Mountains, not the second. Regardless there areas still see some nice fall colors and for sure there will be more next weekend as well.
The fall leaf colors in the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Newfound Gap Road are gone, however the long range views are still nice. The traffic is extremely heavy though and I would suggest Foothill Parkway West as a better drive.
The Foothills Parkway Spur between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is not showing its best, however there are some decent spots of color along parts of Little River Road and now Laurel Creek Road all the way into Cades Cove.
Cades Cove Loop Road is very crowded and still not at peak in the valley. Rich Mountain Road and Parson Branch Road coming out of Cades Cove both have nice color in spots, and will continue to have color into next week. Both the Gregory Bald Hiking Trails and Hannah Mountain Hiking Trails have decent color and long range views are still very good.
Deep Creek, Tremont and Elkmont are 3 of my top picks right now for a great place to have a moderate hike and see decent fall color in the Great Smoky Mountains national park. All three of these sections of the park have significant water features which add to fall photography even though the amazing fluorescent fall colors along the rivers have yet to show themselves.
Deep Creek North Carolina has some great color along the Loop Trail, Sunkota Ridge and especially the Noland Divide Trail up to and beyond Lonesome Pine to Sassafras, as well as along Thomas Ridge. Other than Little Creek Falls, none of the Waterfalls in the Deep Creek area have color left.
In Elkmont if you hike the Little River, Cucumber Gap, Jake's Creek Loop, there is only limited bright fall colors out as of yesterday. Hiking further up Jake Creek Trail especially up the Panther Creek Trail there are spots of colors which are wonderful. A hike along Meigs Mountain trail or the Curry Mountain Trail will not be disappointing.
I normally love to walk the roadway in Tremont this week in October and stop all along the way at the many pools and small waterfalls and take photos of the fall colors in the leaves in the trees above reflecting in the water. This is not one of the best years for that, at least not yet.
Hiking along the West Prong Trails is very nice right now, but I suggest in the next few days to still take advantage of the Middle Prong Trail and the Greenbier Ridge Trail, however there is no color left by the time you get up to the AT. Indian Flats Falls is nice as the water flow rate is fairly low, but it is not a waterfall for "fall pictures".
Reports have come in the color is getting much nice along the Lakeshore area, but I have not been there since Monday and sadly many areas that should provide brilliant color have not done so this year even though based upon high hope we had at the start of the season.