SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Fall colors are finally popping up around East Tennessee, bringing people to the Great Smoky Mountains to see the leaves on full display, and for good reason. Red, yellow, green and every shade in between are showing off right now in the Smokies.
"We are starting to see colors a little earlier than last year, which we know the public is excited about," said Jessie Snow with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Fall in the mountains attracts a lot of people, from out-of-state visitors to young but tough critics.
"It's really pretty, but I have to say it's not my favorite time. Christmas is, but it's really pretty," said Selena Ritchey, 11 years old.
People are flocking to the mountains taking in their beauty at a time when Sevier County can use the help. They saw tourism rates fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We've been down for the last three or four months as far as total revenue, but we've had people here really since Memorial Day," said Leon Downey, Tourism Director for the City of Pigeon Forge.
He said this is always a busy time of year, but it may be busier this fall.
"Research we've seen tells us that people feel safe here because they can socially distance," said Downey.
The national park is used to the congestion and officials said they are looking for ways to make it less crowded.
"Roadside parking can kind of break down those roadside areas, damage vegetation, and damage road structures. So, that is something we're keeping in mind too, to make sure that the roads get only the amount of love they can handle," said Snow.
The weekends are always going to be the most crowded times to see the fall foliage, but visitors can travel out to the mountains in the middle of the week to try to avoid the crowds.