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Leaf peeping in WV and Eastern TN: Timing and crowds questions

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After spending much time in New England, I'm of the opinion that pre-planned leaf-peeping trips are basically a losing proposition, because it's too hard to try to predict in advance when and where the foliage will be peaking, and one usually ends up just paying premium prices to fight crowds and see nothing particularly special. Nevertheless, I need to head down South in a few weeks anyway, and I'm thinking of stopping in West Virginia and Eastern Tennessee to take in some scenery.

From past threads here and various websites, I've identified two regions in WV, the Monongahela National Forest and the New River Gorge, as well as Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. So here are my questions:

(1) What are my chances of seeing peak or near-peak foliage in any of these locations if I visit during the weekend of October 22-23, as well some extra weekdays after that to give me a better chance of avoiding crowds? My sense is that I'd be much too late for Monongahela, and that I'd probably be past-peak at the New River, but the foliage might well be peaking at low elevations in the Smokies. Am I right? I'm thinking of giving up on Monongahela entirely, but maybe I should try to build in some flexibility so that I could visit either the New River and/or the Smokies?

(2) Just how bad will the crowds be? Someone else posted a question about this recently, but I don't think there were any responses. I'm prepared to deal with some crowded highways, expend some energy researching less-traveled roads, and do some moderate hiking to get to less-crowded locations. But if I'm going to be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams on mountain roads for hours and not even see any scenery, then I'd want to skip those areas.

Here's some information that might be helpful to others considering similar trips:

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