When is the Best Time to Visit Smoky Mountains?

By Alice Ross | NORTH AMERICA

Aug 21
best time to visit smoky mountains

Situated in Union County in North Georgia, Smoky Mountains are believed to be some of the oldest mountains in the US. And whether you’re a hardcore hiker or just a casual trekker, visiting the Smoky Mountains would away be fun. However, the question is when is the best time to visit Smoky Mountains?

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With extraordinary mountain views, spectacular waterfalls, beautiful cabins, and more than 800 miles of hiking tracks, the Smoky Mountains is undoubtedly one of the best places to go in North America. With a lot of activities to offer and fascinating attractions to see, it’s really a smart idea to find the right time to visit.

Keep in mind that every season in the national park provides its own beauty. So hopefully, this guide helps you find out the right time to go to the Smoky Mountains.

Best time to visit Smoky Mountains

High Season in the Smoky Mountains

For most visitors who visit the Smoky Mountains, the months of June, July, and October are the best months to visit the Smoky Mountains national park.

Warm, sunny days tend to be the most visited times of the year. In the high season, the spectacular forests of the Great Smoky Mountains are in its finest state. Throughout the month of October, trees drop leaves and you’ll enjoy a really beautiful scene.

smoky-mountain high season

​Low Season in the Smoky Mountains

On the other hand, the times of the year with the number of visitation is at its lowest, is during the spring and winter. Every year, more than 10 million visitors visit this national park. So even throughout sluggish months, there are still many people still go to the Smoky Mountains. 

The Weather Condition

It is important to be familiar with the area’s average temperatures for low elevation. Highly elevated regions of the national park like Clingman's Dome and Newfound Gap are usually several degrees colder.

Usually, the Smoky Mountains offers a mild, pleasant climate. Warm summer days in the areas hardly get over the 90s and the coldest temperatures during winter drop as long as 20s. Winter and spring season tend to get more inches of rainfall, while fall and summer are usually drier.

Regardless of when you decided to visit, you will surely have a lot of things to love about the Smoky Mountains. Here are things to expect in the area according to the season.

Summertime

smoky mountains

A normal summer day in the Smoky Mountains is warm, hazy, and humid with thundershowers in the afternoon. Although lower elevations normally see a high temperature in the 80s or 90s, it’s not difficult to move to cooler places is located in an elevated part of the park such as Mt. LeConte, Newfound Gap, and Clingmans Dome that hardly experience temperatures above 80°F.

Summer is the perfect time of the year.

If you want to enjoy outdoor activities such as zip lining, whitewater rafting, or even horseback riding, then summertime is the best time to visit Smoky Mountains. Wildlife such as bear, deer, and turkey are widely seen throughout the summer season, so you’re in for some wildlife photography, then try to visit during this time of the year.

newfound gap road

During warm sunny days, a lot of visitors freshen up by going to enjoy swimming holes, exploring waterfalls, or hiking to the higher part of the national park like The Chimney Tops Trail, Newfound Gap, as well as Clingman's Dome.

Because of all these aspects, a lot of visitors pick summer as the best time to go to the Smoky Mountains.

​Fall Season

As summertime turns to the fall season, the Smoky Mountains start to experience drier weather but colder temperatures. Bright fall color starts to show up throughout the second or third week of October and the first frosts take place during the late September as well as early November. As the late fall approaches, there’s even some snowfall on highly elevated parts of the park.

With this kind of weather and spectacular autumn foliage, the time of fall is definitely considered to be a great time to visit the national park if you are planning to hike. There are famous fall hikes that could be explored like Mt. LeConte, the Alum Cave Trail, as well as The Middle Prong Trail in Tremont.

smoky mountains in fall

Wildlife such as deer and bear are pretty active during this time of the year as they prepare for winter. Fall in the Smoky Mountains is extremely scenic, so make sure to carry your travel camera with you!

You must keep in mind that the fall season is a particularly busy time for the area as a lot of visitors visit the national park to witness the stunning fall foliage. There are areas of the park such as Newfound Gap and Cades Cove that can be very crowded, so, it would be smart to avoid the crowds by going to off the beaten paths such as Tremont, Greenbrier, as well as Cataloochee Valley.

Wintertime

When the winter season approaches in the Smoky Mountains, highly elevated areas of the national park normally experience below zero temperature. Areas that are lower such as Cades Cove and Gatlinburg normally have mild temperatures and do not get much snow. The months of January and February receive the heaviest snow, particularly in the higher places like Newfound Gap, Mt. Leconte, as well as Clingman's Dome.

smoky mountains in winter

The colder temperatures change the Smoky Mountains’ landscape into a beautiful winter wonderland. With spectacular frozen waterfalls and snowcapped highlands, winter is a great time to explore the Smoky Mountains.
Better yet, if you are planning to hike, you will enjoy a great visibility from hiking trails when leaves have fallen on the ground. Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower and Laurel Falls Trail are some spectacular destinations for those who are planning to hike in winter.

Keep in mind that highly elevated parts of the national park can be icy and snowy throughout the winter season. If you’re planning to hike mountain peaks such as The Jump Off or Mt. LeConte, you might have to pack winter hiking gear.

Except for weekends of the holiday, Smoky Mountains’ winter is typically less crowded. The neighboring towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are entirely ornamented in Christmas decors and there are a lot of ways to celebrate the spirit of Christmas.

smoky mountains in winter

However, you need to take note that there are roads in the national park that are closed throughout winter including the Clingman's Dome and Roaring Fork Motor Trail road. Furthermore, winter weather events could sometimes shut at high elevation roads such as the Newfound Gap Road. On rare occasion, winter brings heavy snowstorms and the local government decides to shut down the whole park.

Overall, exploring the national park during the winter season shouldn’t be too hard, in fact, this could also be a great time to visit.

Springtime

As temperatures start to go up, spring carries more rainfall. The weather in spring could be pretty unpredictable with a big difference in temperatures. There are times when the mountains get heavy snowfalls in the early part of March. There are also chilly, sunny days that are perfect if you’re going on a hike for wildflowers.

Springtime is known to be the least crowded time to experience the Smoky Mountains, so if you would like to enjoy having some privacy on your trip, you may want to visit in a month of March or April. It is a perfect time to enjoy places like Alum Cave Trail, Cades Cove, and Clingman's Dome without having to experience a heavy flow of tourists.

Clingman's Dome

Furthermore, spring in the Smoky Mountains is a great time to see waterfalls because of a strong flow of water. Ramsey Cascades, Abrams Falls, Rainbow Falls, and The Place of 1000 Drips are particularly remarkable during this time of year.

In order to entirely enjoy the magnificence of spring in the Smoky Mountains, go on a hiking trip in low elevation parts of the park like Cades Cove and Greenbrier. Anyway, the Smoky Mountains national park is known for not only for its biological diversity but also for its spectacular number of wildflowers. There are popular trails to see wildflowers like The Little River Trail, Porter's Creek Trail, as well as the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.

Cades Cove

All in all, no matter what time of the year you visit the Smoky Mountains, offers a great experience, so, prepare yourself for an amazing trip! When going to the Smoky Mountains, it is surely going to be a very good memory. Make sure to have a camera with you to document all the memories you want to keep. 

Hopefully, this article has helped you decide on the best time to visit Smoky Mountains. If you have other questions about this topic, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comment below. If you think that this article has been helpful, then make sure to share it with your family and friends!

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    About the Author

    Hi, I’m Alice Ross, a long-term traveler who left the corporate world to travel the world. I chose to live life on my own phase and live day by day while immersing myself in new experiences, new knowledge, and new people in a different walk of life I met along the way.

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