Smoky Mountains

When is the Best Time to Visit the Smoky Mountains?

The best time to visit the Smoky Mountains is spring, summer, fall, and winter!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country. The 14 million friends that visited our area in 2022 came here for many reasons. The Smoky Mountains are conveniently within a day’s drive for nearly 75% of the U.S. population, and once they arrive, there are endless things to do! The landscape is unlike any other in North America, and the people are downright friendly! There’s no better place to vacation if you ask us. 

While Florida is generally warm all year and the Northern states endure longer periods of cold weather, Tennessee falls right in the middle, making it the perfect destination during any season! This area flaunts four spectacular seasons; each one is a treat. Here’s a look at what to expect in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) during spring, summer, winter, and fall.


spring in the Smokies

Wildflowers draw many visitors to the Smoky Mountains in spring. The Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is a learning opportunity for those interested in wildflowers, ferns, trees, other native plants, and also native animal species. 

The climate also attracts visitors in spring. When much of the nation is still battling winter, the Smoky Mountains are already emerging from the ice and snow. Some days are unseasonably warm, and in contrast, some days are unseasonably cold. The weather inside the GSMNP is difficult to forecast during spring because of the varying elevation, although it’s generally pleasant down below in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. 

Spring break in the Smoky Mountains is busy, crowded, and fun! Banish your cabin fever and plan to visit the Smoky Mountains in spring. 


Seeing bears in the Smoky Mountains

The summer months are the most popular times to visit this area. Outside the park, guests are whitewater rafting, ziplining, and visiting award-winning attractions like Rafting in the Smokies, Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country, Anakeesta, and The Island. Inside the GSMNP, hikers are racking up the miles on the park’s 150 trails! The weather is perfect and the rhododendron, flaming azalea, and mountain laurel are blooming.

Hiking is the most popular thing to do in the GSMNP during summer. Beyond hiking, there is still so much to enjoy! Cades Cove is a popular destination for its historic cabins and wildlife viewing opportunities. Everyone hopes to see a bear in Cades Cove. Similarly, the Mountain Farm Museum at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center maintains historic cabins and other structures related to the lives of the Smokies’ early settlers. If you want to see elk in the Smoky Mountains, visit this destination.


Fall in the Smoky Mountains

Once the leaves start changing, millions of visitors arrive to take in the captivating scene. Fall in the Smoky Mountains is breathtaking! Inside the national park, hikers are still enjoying the crisp fall weather while hitting the trails. On a clear day, Clingman’s Dome wows with 360 degrees of fall colors. Others are stopping at the many overlooks like Newfound Gap Overlook, which faces east, and Morton Overlook, which faces west. These two sites offer opposing views of the mountains. Catch a sunrise or sunset at each one, respectively.

Down below, fall festivals and events entertain visitors and locals too. Check for special events in the Smoky Mountain area including Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville to see what’s happening while you’re in town. 


Winter in the Smokies

Winter was once considered the off-season in the Smoky Mountains, but not anymore. If you’re lucky enough, you might see the beautiful snow-capped Smokies and icicles that form along the roadsides and at waterfalls throughout the park. Snow in the Smoky Mountains is like magic! Weather pending, many trails are open during winter. Follow the GSMNP on Twitter to stay updated on road and trail closures. 

If you prefer to avoid crowds, winter might be the best time to visit. In town, the restaurants, attractions, and other businesses see a slight decline in visitors but not as dramatically as years ago. Wilderness Wildlife Week, a special event in PIgeon Forge, happens annually in January. This event is an exciting way to experience the Smokies in winter. The Smoky Mountain area is now a year-round destination.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Year Round 

The park offers 10 campgrounds with a total of 1,000 sites and more than 100 backcountry camping sites. Read more about camping in the Great Smoky Mountains here

There are 11 picnic areas within the park’s boundaries. Our favorite is the Chimneys Picnic Area on Newfound Gap Road. This spot on the Little Pigeon River is a favorite for its large rocks and splash opportunities. While most of the picnic sites are available year-round, the park will close areas when inclement weather strikes such as snow and flooding rains. 

Surprisingly, there are 342 structures maintained in the park. This number includes 97 historic structures like those in Cades Cove and the Oconaluftee Visitors Center’s Mountain Farm Museum, and also the John Ownby cabin. Find that cabin during an easy hike from Sugarlands Visitor Center. Read more about that easy Smoky Mountain hike here.

When is your Smoky Mountain Vacation? 

There is no bad time to visit the Smoky Mountains, so when is your trip? Let’s stay in touch – sign up for our newsletter and start making plans to visit the Smokies soon!

Authored in Appalachia || Amy Morton


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