9 Lakes, Area Events, COVID Safe vacations, driving trails, fall foliage, Getaways, motorcycles, Water Trails
Fall in Love with Autumn in East Tennessee
Saying goodbye to summer means welcoming the beautiful colors of fall. Autumn is traditionally a time to hunt and gather the bounty of the land. Hunters are “in the woods,” while gatherers are harvesting the bounty of apples, pears, and nuts that hang heavy on the trees ready to be picked. Others are awaiting the resplendent colors of the season when the mountains are a rich tapestry of orange, reds, and yellows, and the river shorelines are abloom with wildflowers in the majestic colors of purple and gold.
Here are some tips for where to find some of the best fall adventures in the 9 Lakes to add to your autumn bucket list.
Corn Mazes and Pumpkins:
COVID has greatly impacted the number of festivals in the region, but the corn mazes and pumpkin patches are open for business. Fall and hayrides are a rite of passage for “down on the farm” fun. For little ones, picking that perfect pumpkin in the field is a memory-making and Instagram ready.
Check out these ready-made adventures:
Deep Well Farm in Lenoir City, TN- Hayrides, corn maze, and pumpkin patch
Echo Valley Corn Maze in Jefferson City- Pumpkin patch, pumpkin cannon, 3 mazes, one kid’s maze, and evening bonfires.
Oakes Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch in Corryton, TN will be opening their season on October 1. Corn Maze, pumpkin patch, and hayrides will be limited, so buy your tickets online.
All of these mazes are family-owned farms, so please respect the requirement to social distance and/or wear a mask when visiting these attractions.
Flat Water Paddling:
When the summer ends and the boat traffic slows on the lakes, the waters become as smooth as glass. Savvy paddlers wait for this season when the waters are warm and the skies are a canopy of puffy white on a brilliant blue canvas. Early fall also has a distinctive song: bird migration. Watch than from the solitude of a quiet paddle along the shorelines. Not sure where to go?
Rankins Bottom on Douglas Lake in Newport, TN is recognized as one of the Audubon’s important birding sanctuaries. Bring your binoculars and your birding book. It is not uncommon to see shorebirds such as plovers, sandpipers, great egrets, and occasionally pelicans and storks. Guided tours are available.
Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge is best known for its championship rowing course. Often overlooked is the quiet serenity that this “river-like” lake affords paddlers. If you don’t own gear, this is a perfect lake for novices. The Adventure Outdoor Center rents equipment through the month of October by appointment.
Tellico Blueway is nestled in the Cherokee National Forest. Eleven miles in length, the route will take you along wildflower-covered banks and towering limestone bluffs. The underwater structure of the blueway is a habitat for osprey and eaglets. Download a map here.
The skies are blue and the water is warm. What better way to experience the changing seasons and fall colors than on a gentle paddling trip?
All these outdoor activities will surely work up an appetite. In the 9 Lakes, you can find hearty southern cuisine or playful takes on traditional fall fare. The bounty of the season is reflected in the menus of these eateries:
Located in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Carvers Orchard, a family business has been growing apples for generations. Overlooking 40,000 apple trees is the Apple House restaurant legendary for its catfish and home-style breakfasts- the perfect place to fuel up before or after hiking the trails of the Smokies. Don’t forget to buy one of their legendary apple hand pies.
Motorcycle riders know that a planned ride needs a planned stop. In the fall, the Cherohala Skyway is a popular ride for leaf peeping and scenic waterfalls. A tasty platter of southern pit style BBQ is a nice ride break. Bradley’s Pit BBQ and Grill in Sweetwater has both outdoor and indoor seating. Stretch your legs and enjoy a meal. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner.
The regions’ food truck scene is an eclectic blend of fusion and tradition inspired by the personalities of their owners. A crisp fall afternoon paired with the aroma of grilled sausage is street food at its best. We are loving the simple menu of Knox Wurst. Their take on burgers and brats puts a spin on fall tailgating. All of their meat sausages are handmade and free of nitrates, but vegans will also find something to love. Vegan sausages and burgers, Beyond Meat and Impossible are also on the menu. This tailgate has something for every taste.
Summer has transitioned into fall. Fall in love with the bounty of the season in the 9 Lakes of East Tennessee