Stretching across Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains offer many exciting towns and villages, as well as two resort cities. In Pigeon Forge, kids can enjoy fun and thrilling rides at the Dollywood Theme Park. The city of Gatlinburg lets snow sports enthusiasts hit the slopes. The best time of year to visit the Great Smoky Mountains area depends on your favorites activities and interests.
Summer months bring ideal weather for hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, shopping at The Island in Pigeon Forge, and ice skating at the indoor rink in Ober Gatlinburg. From the patio of your Smoky Mountains vacation rental, you can admire wildflowers in bloom in the spring or colorful foliage in the fall. Venture to the slopes for skiing in the winter months, and look forward to exploring the holiday events and celebrations in nearby small towns. Take a look at the popular seasonal activities at the Great Smoky Mountains.
1. Visit the Smoky Mountains in the Summer
Soak up the sunshine and warm weather in the summer months with highs in the low 90s during the day and dropping into the low 60s in the evenings. During the summer months, rain showers are common in the afternoon but don’t last long. Make sure to add an umbrella to your what-to-pack list right below swimsuits, shorts, light cotton tops, a light jacket for the evenings, and sandals.
Families flock to Dollywoood during the summer months to ride on the train that winds its way around the park or enjoy the waterslides at the attached water park. In Gatlinburg, enjoy free trolley rides around town and out to the ski area. You can stop by the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and ride on the Glass Bottom Boat Adventure or watch the Mermaid Dives. Dine at one of the many dinner theaters, including Comedy Barn Theater and Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show, for a fun evening and good eats!
2. Visit the Smoky Mountains in the Fall
Crowds lessen and temperatures cool down as summer turns to fall in the Smoky Mountains. In the early fall months, find highs in the low 80s, but these fall to the low 70s by mid-October. Nights cool off quickly during this time of year and hover around freezing by early November. When packing, remember that layers are best in this type of weather, so include jeans, short-sleeve tops, long-sleeve tops, and sweaters. Fortunately, this is the driest time of year, so nix the umbrella.
Take advantage of the moderate daily temperatures and stop by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park visitor center for a map before heading out on one of the hiking trails to see the stunning fall foliage. As the end of October approaches, Gatlinburg hosts the Ripley’s Fright Nights, which includes an evening parade and the Ripley’s Haunted Adventure for the bravest in your group. Celebrate Octoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg with German beer, sausage, and large pretzels.
3. Visit the Smoky Mountains in the Winter
In the low-lying areas of the Smoky Mountains, you find temperatures in the low 50s during the day while higher elevations see snow on the ground. The evenings find temperatures below freezing, and during storms, the temperature can fall below zero. When packing, include a good winter coat for the evenings along with skiwear to hit the slopes.
Ober Gatlinburg offers a variety of skiing trails to meet the needs of all skill levels, equipment rentals, ski classes, and a dedicated area for snow tubing. Take the tram to the top of the mountain for shopping, dining, and indoor ice skating, followed by hot chocolate at the cafe. Pigeon Forge and Dollywood come alive with holiday lights and special Christmas-themed shows. Throw your Nordic skis in the car for a day of cross-country skiing on the Clingmans Dome Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Then spend quiet evenings enjoying a roaring fire in your vacation rental.
4. Visit the Smoky Mountains in the Spring
When it comes to spring weather in the Smoky Mountains, the key is to expect almost anything from snow flurries in the morning to warm sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s by afternoon. In the afternoons, you can expect temperatures to average between the high 70s and low 80s while the air cools off rapidly as night falls. Expect to see a few rainy afternoons during this time of year, but the beautifully blooming flowers make up for the need for an umbrella. It’s best to pack clothes for layering with a heavy sweater, light cotton T-shirts, and jeans topping the list.
Shake off the winter blues with some hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to see all the wildflowers in bloom and critters soaking up the sunshine, including deer, raccoons, and the occasional black bear. End a day of hiking with a visit to Clingmans Dome, an observation area that stretches out over the trees at the peak of the mountain. Experience the beauty of the area from a hot air balloon with What’s Up Ballooning. During spring break, Dollywood opens its doors with all your favorite rides and new Appalachian-themed shows for the new season.
5. The Best Time of Year to Visit the Smoky Mountains
Let’s face it, there isn’t a bad time of year to visit the gorgeous Smoky Mountains, and a lot of determining the best time of year comes down to personal preference. However, fall seems to edge out the other seasons. With cooler temperatures and less crowds, fall offers a time to explore the local shopping scene, enjoy meals at the locally owned restaurants without a wait, and wander through museums and other attractions without the press of the crowd. There are a variety of Halloween celebrations at Dollywood and Uber Gatlinburg, and after the Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas lights go up as the fall season draws to a close.
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