TOWNSEND, Tenn. – There’s a nip in the air, chili is on the stove and leaves are painting the early strokes of their yearly masterpieces.

There’s nothing like fall.

But while autumn’s pastoral beauty colors landscapes across the United States, things are just a little more special in Blount County, Tennessee. Nestled in the towering Smoky Mountains mere minutes from Knoxville, Blount County offers a rare blend of stunning scenery and dynamic activity that places it among the state’s fastest-growing fall destinations.

Why are tourists throughout the Southeast making the area a must-visit fall getaway? There are three primary reasons: beauty, adventure and escape.

  1. Beauty

               When you stand in Cades Cove, no matter which way you look, the mountains are your audience. They surround the serene valley, which is one of the most beloved spots in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sightseers relish Cades Cove’s mountain splendor, whether they’re exploring its 11-mile loop, hiking its trails or enjoying a quiet stroll. Bicyclers take over on Wednesday and Saturday mornings through late September. The park closes the road to cars on those mornings and lets the sights and sounds of nature take over.

Cades Cove is one of hundreds of vistas inside America’s most visited national park, but fall foliage enthusiasts don’t have to enter the park to take in one of the best views in the Southeast. The Foothills Parkway skirts the spine of Chilhowee Mountain for 18 miles, starting in Walland and winding past several overlooks en route to the Little Tennessee River. To the north of the parkway rests the fertile East Tennessee Valley; to the south, the Great Smoky Mountains. The overlooks offer panoramas of both.

  1.       Adventure

Don’t mistake beauty for boredom. Blount County may be a scenic getaway, but it’s also stocked with opportunities for exploration and adventure.

The mountains provide the perfect venue for camping, hiking, climbing, caving and fishing. Little River Outfitters offers fishing classes for novices, sells supplies and connects anglers with guides. Little River Trading Company holds regular group hikes and sells outdoor apparel and equipment.

“The Smoky Mountains are an outdoor lover’s paradise, and our mission is to give our customers everything they need to enjoy the area to its fullest,” said Little River Trading Company Intentory Manager Jason Embler. “From hikes to goods to advice, we help visitors make the most of their adventures.”

Blount County is a mecca for motorcyclists. The Tail of the Dragon is nationally known for its 11-mile, 318-turn labyrinth, which attracts thousands of bikers and sports car enthusiasts each year. Large trucks are banned from the circuitous route, making it the perfect playground for thrill seekers.

The adventures don’t stop there: For the first time in 2016, visitors are invited to taste Tennessee’s heritage at Grains and Grits, a celebration of Southern spirits and gourmet grub in Townsend. More than two dozen distillers from across the Volunteer State will showcase their whiskeys at the inaugural event. Even Jack Daniels is getting into the act – the whiskey legend’s first-ever East Tennessee tasting.

“We are thrilled to have so many well-known distillers at our first-ever event,” said event organizer and Old Forge Distillery Manager Kris Tatum. “Visitors to the area won’t want to miss this rare chance to interact with a who’s-who list of Tennessee whiskey makers, from craft distillers to world-famous brands.

  1.      Escape

The Peaceful Side of the Smokies got its nickname for a reason: Whereas other areas around the Smoky Mountains specialize in accommodating large crowds, Blount County treasures its role as an authentic getaway.

Bed and breakfasts dot the landscape. Private cabins offer rustic retreats from reality. Mountain streams take away problems. And they’re all a little sweeter in the crisp fall atmosphere.

“A lot of people just enjoy sitting on the rocking chairs on the porch and letting their troubles flow out on to the river,” said John Pullias, owner of Chilhowee Inn Bed and Breakfast, Blount County’s oldest lodging destination. “We’ve got mountains and trails, and we’re ten minutes from the most visited national park in the country. We feel blessed to live here.”

The world’s premier food and wine resort offers myriad delights for luxury travelers and corporations alike. Blackberry Farm, a world-renowned resort in Walland, invites guests to bask in deluxe accommodations, premium meeting spaces, fine dining and one of the most impressive wine lists in the nation. The resort is an extremely popular destination for corporate retreats and offers special group packages.

Blount County treats guests of all kinds to a stunning autumn show. Its stirring scenery, energizing exploration opportunities and relaxing escapes appeal to families, couples, thrill seekers and business travelers.