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Best Time To Visit The Smoky Mountains | The Ultimate Guide

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With impressive mountain views, stunning waterfalls, historic cabins, and over 800 miles of hiking trails, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best outdoor destinations in the South Eastern United States. With so much to do and see in America's most visited national park, you definitely want to pick the perfect time for your visit to the Smokies.

Mountain View in the Smokies

So you may be wondering: when is the best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Each season in the national park offers its own charms, so we made this guide to help you find the perfect time for your visit to the Smoky Mountains.

When is the Most Popular Time To Visit The Smoky Mountains?

According to when most visitors come to the Smoky Mountains, the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains national park is during the months of June, July, and October.

The months with the lowest visitation tend to be in the winter and spring. Every year, over 10 million visitors come to this national park, so even during slower months, there are lots of people experiencing the Smoky Mountains. This graph is based on visitation statistics from the national park service.

Graph of National Park Visitors in 2016

The most popular times of year tend to feature warm, sunny days. In the peak summer season, the beautiful forests of the Smokies are on full display. During the month of October, the fall leaf change is at its peak, so this time of year brings a lot of visitors.

What is the Weather Like?

Here are the average temperatures for low elevation areas of the national park. High elevation regions like Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome are typically several degrees cooler.

Avg. High
Avg. Low

Typically, the Smoky Mountains National Park enjoys a mild climate. Hot summer days in the mountains rarely get above the 90s and the coldest winter temperatures are typically in the low 20s. Spring and winter tend to receive more inches of rainfall, while summer and fall tend to be drier.

No matter what time of year you visit, there's a lot to love about visiting the Smokies. Here are the best things about visiting the Smokies in each season!

Visiting in Summer

Summer Waterfall Hike in the Smokies

A typical summer day in the Smokies is warm, humid and hazy with afternoon thundershowers. Though lower elevations usually see high temps in the 80s or 90s, it is easy to go to cooler places in high elevation regions of the park like Newfound Gap, Mt. LeConte, and Clingmans Dome, which rarely see temps above 80°F.

Summer is the perfect time of year to enjoy outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, zip lining, or horseback riding. Wildlife like deer, bear, and turkey are very active during the summer season, so it's a prime time to see wildlife.

On warm sunny days, many visitors cool off by going to swimming holes in the national park, exploring waterfalls, or by visiting high elevation parts of the Smokies like Newfound Gap, The Chimney Tops Trail, and Clingman's Dome.

Thanks to all these factors, many visitors choose summer as the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains.

Visiting in Fall

Fall Hiking Trail in the Smoky Mountains

As summer changes to fall, the Smokies begin to see drier weather and cooler temperatures. Peak fall color begins to show during the 2nd or 3rd week of October and the first frosts occur in late September and early November. By late fall, there is even some snowfall in high elevation areas of the park.

With dry, cool weather and stunning autumn foliage, the fall season is one of the best times to go hiking in the national park. Some popular fall hikes to explore are the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LeConte and The Middle Prong Trail in Tremont.

Wildlife like bear and deer are quite active during the fall season as they make preparations for winter. Fall in the Smokies is incredibly picturesque, so be sure to bring your camera!

Do be aware that the Fall season is an especially busy time for the Smokies since many visitors flock to the national park to experience the beautiful fall foliage. Some areas of the park like Cades Cove and Newfound Gap can become overly crowded, so it may be a good idea to avoid the crowds by visiting hidden gems in the national park like Greenbrier, Tremont, and Cataloochee Valley.

Visiting in Winter

Laurel Falls in Winter

Once winter arrives in the Smokies, high elevation areas of the national park routinely see temperatures below freezing. Lower elevation areas like Gatlinburg and Cades Cove usually have mild temperatures and don't receive much snowfall. January and February are the biggest months to see snow, especially in the higher elevation areas like Mt. Leconte, Newfound Gap, and Clingman's Dome.

The colder temperatures transform the landscape of the Smokies into a lovely winter wonderland. With stunning frozen waterfalls and snow-capped mountains, winter is an incredible time to explore the Smokies.

Better yet, hikers will enjoy better visibility from hiking trails after the leaves have fallen. Laurel Falls Trail and the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower are some excellent destinations for winter hikes.

Be aware that high elevations areas of the national park can become snowy and icy during the winter months. If you plan to hike to mountaintop destinations like Mt. LeConte or The Jump Off, you may need to bring winter hiking gear.

With the exception of holiday weekends, winter in the Smokies is typically less crowded. The nearby towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are fully decorated in Christmas lights and there are plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit.

Visitors should note that some roads in the national park are closed during winter including the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and Clingman's Dome road. Additionally, winter weather events can sometimes close high elevation roads like the Newfound Gap Road. After a large snowfall, the entire national park can close, but this is quite rare.

Overall, most of the national park is easy to explore during the winter months.

Visiting in Spring

View From Mt Cammerer in Spring

As temperatures begin to warm from the cool winter season, spring brings more rainfall. Spring weather can be quite unpredictable with large variances temperatures. Occasionally, the mountains can receive large snowfalls in early March. There are some cool, sunny days that are ideal for going on wildflower hikes.

Spring is the least crowded time to explore the Smoky Mountains, so if you'd like to enjoy some privacy during your trip simply plan a visit in March or April. It's an ideal time to enjoy destinations like Cades Cove, Alum Cave Trail, and Clingman's Dome without the crowds.

Additionally, spring in the Smoky Mountains is an excellent time to see waterfalls due to elevated flow volume. Abrams Falls, Ramsey Cascades, The Place of 1000 Drips, and Rainbow Falls are especially impressive this time of year.

To fully enjoy the beauty of spring in the Smokies, go for hikes in low elevation regions of the park like Greenbrier and Cades Cove. After all, the Smoky Mountains national park is famous for its biological diversity and a stunning number of wildflowers. Some popular trails to see wildflowers are the Porter's Creek Trail, The Little River Trail, and the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.

Final Thoughts

Each season of the Smokies offers unique experiences, so no matter when you decide to visit, you're bound to have an excellent trip! In planning your visit, you may want to consider when is the best time to visit Pigeon Forge, since different attractions like Dollywood are closed at different times in the season.

We'd love to know, when is your favorite time to visit the Smoky Mountains?

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