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Where to See Fall Foliage

Visitors and locals alike love the fall season in Johnson County. The air takes on a crisp, clean feel. Life takes on a different pace as the hues along the mountain vistas display the glow of autumn. Located in the upper northeast corner of the state, Johnson County has several unique areas where leaf watchers and shutterbugs can enjoy our beautiful mountain scenery. Peak leaf viewing in our area usually occurs between the last week of September and the first two weeks of October.

Doe Mountain Recreational Authority. 

Nestled in the heart of Johnson County, Doe Mountain Recreation Area features 8,600 acres of protected mountain terrain and trails. The highest peak at Doe Mountain is approximately 3,900 feet above sea level but the best vantage point for the optimal view is the Kettlefoot Fire Tower. This 60-foot tower – with views on a clear day of Watauga Lake, Grandfather Mountain, and the surrounding area – can be accessed by ATV, mountain bike or by hiking along on the well-marked trail. Legend is that the tower was named after a large bear that got its foot stuck in a kettle. Whether that story is true may well remain a mystery, but one thing that is for certain is that the views from the tower are magnificent. Make sure you include a trip to Mountain City for a meal and stop in at one of our antique or specialty shops.

Watauga Lake 

This year commemorates the 75th anniversary of the development of Watauga Lake. While this is one of the most breathtaking areas of our county, we are yet reminded of the haunted history of Old Butler that lies half-mile down below the lake’s surface. Whether you tour Watauga Lake to view the gorgeous fall foliage from a boat, kayak or just sit along its banks, you will enjoy the views that are especially treasured in our area. A public dock is located at the Bayview Campground area and nearby watercraft rentals are available at the Cove Ridge Marina in Butler. Stop by the Trading Post or Maddy Moe’s Pizza to dine-in or grab a take-out meal for a picnic.

The Snake – Shady Valley

For those who are more adventurous, you may enjoy taking in the fall foliage from vantage points along The Snake. This road, which is part of Highway US 421, is completely paved but with about 489 curves over 33 miles, the exciting twists and hairpin turns will add adrenalin to your visit. What starts out as a leisurely ride through country farmland climbs into views of majestic, lush mountain terrain. Toured by motorcyclists and drivers alike, visitors love stopping by Backbone Rock while in the area for a break or a picnic. The gates to the Backbone Rock Recreation Area open at 7:00am and close at 10:00pm with hiking trails open year-round, from sunrise to sunset. A great place to stop during your ride on The Snake is the Shady Valley Country Store for a quick bite, souvenirs, and our exceptional hospitality. 


Villa Nove Vineyards

Boasting the most incredible 360-degree views throughout Johnson County, this Tuscan-inspired venue is not to be missed. Wine enthusiasts are welcome to enjoy a tasting of wines made from grapes grown at the vineyard, listen to live music on Sunday afternoons during peak season, and indulge in their culinary specialties featuring seasonal items from their menu. While you’re there, make sure you check out the Watauga Lake Winery – located in the old haunted 1940’s schoolhouse – and the Watauga Lake Mercantile located in Butler.

ACCESS Interactive Tennessee Fall Foliage Map

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You'll quickly come to love our way of life as you enjoy our spirit of adventure . . . rich musical heritage . . . and some of the most incredible  scenery anywhere in the US. 

Located in the Northeast tip of Tennessee, we have become a popular vacation destination offering exciting outdoor adventures, fun on the beautiful Watauga Lake, fine dining experiences and welcoming trademark festivals. 


Situated at the highest valley in the area, you will want to make Mountain City in Johnson County an annual trip!

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