10/07/2011 05:42 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2011

Tennessee Fall Foliage: A MapQuest Guide

Tennessee fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing Tennessee fall foliage. — Nick Romano

Old Trace Drive

When you take the Old Trace Drive loop off the current Natchez Trace Parkway, you'll travel just two-or-so miles along a partially paved road. But you'll travel back in time, and see some of the most spectacular fall-foliage views on the Trace. The Old Trace (this part gets a little confusing!) travels one-way along the original Natchez Trace roadway, which settlers in the early 1900s used when traveling to the Mississippi Delta from Tennessee with crops like tobacco. (To get a taste of what a working tobacco farm from that era may have been like, visit the Tobacco Barn, which has exhibits and information on the tobacco-drying process, at mile-marker 401.4.) The area is popular among history buffs and fall foliage lovers because of its historic significance and the brilliant colors of the hickory, sumac, maple and oak trees.

Mile Marker 375.8, Natchez Trace Parkway, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464 | Get Directions

Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile, three-state scenic road, renowned for its beauty -- especially in fall. In the Tennessee portion, one particularly appealing stop is the Swan View Overlook, which provides vistas of the area’s hardwood forest and the Big Swan Creek valley below. Many travelers along the route make a point to stop here for a look at the shades of red, orange and gold that flourish in the fall. Although this is only a brief stop along the way on the Natchez Trace Parkway, the forest-covered hills and the Hohenwald water tower in the distance provide visitors with an unparalleled photo opportunity. Continue up the Natchez Trace just a short distance and you'll come to the amusingly named Devil's Backbone State Natural Area, which offers a rewarding three-mile hiking trek along Tennessee's Highland Rim.

Swan View Overlook, Hampshire, TN 38461 | Get Directions

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in America and boasts a diversity of plants and wildlife. Looking at a comprehensive list of the park's trees, it's hard to know where to start, but fall-foliage standouts include sugar maples, big-toothed aspen and blackjack oaks. In addition to the spectacular tree foliage, the park is well known for its wildflowers and fauna, the latter of which includes everything from the star-nosed mole to (non-native) wild hogs -- and even American bison! Culturally, the area is home to Dolly Parton, whose Dollywood theme park is in nearby Pigeon Forge.

107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | Get Directions

Fall footage from the Cherohala Skyway.

Did we miss a Tennessee fall-foliage spot? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.