Lush and verdant in the spring and summer, colorful in the fall, austerely beautiful in the winter — no matter which season we’re in, the Great Smoky Mountains remain one of the most stunning natural wonders in the country.

Thanks to a relatively mild climate, there’s something new to see and do all year round here — especially the star of the region, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Countless activities abound, from hiking to waterfall hunting to scenic drives and even cross-country skiing. You just have to know when you want to visit to plan the trip of a lifetime.

Not sure where to start? We’ve put together a handy guide on the Smoky Mountains in all four seasons so you can decide the absolute best time of year to visit. Just don’t forget to book your getaway with Prestige Vacation Rentals, and make sure to reserve your Smoky Mountains parking permit ahead of time.

Discover the Smoky Mountains with this guide to the seasons!

The Smoky Mountains in the Spring

Photo Credit: KLiK Photography

Spring in the Smoky Mountains is a time of colorful renewal. With mild temperatures keeping you comfortable, foliage just beginning to appear on trees, and fewer tourists, this season makes for a sweet spot in timing your next Smoky Mountains getaway.

You’ll have a great chance of seeing wildlife and gorgeous wildflowers before the summer crowds roll in. Plus, you may get some viewpoints and hiking trails all to yourself if you time your visit right.


As the Smokies emerge from the chill of winter, temperatures will start to climb quickly, with highs averaging in the 50s in March, the 60s in April, and the low 70s in May. Nights will remain chilly for some time, so remember to bring a coat in case of any unexpected cold snaps.

There’s also the rain to consider — March and May come with plenty of unexpected spring showers, so you’ll have to pack accordingly. But on the bright side, you won’t have to deal with many of the extremely hot and humid days brought on by summer, and pesky bugs like mosquitos and ticks won’t be quite as active during this time.

What to Do

Head to scenic overlooks and hike to viewpoints like Charlies Bunion to take in vistas of the spreading greenery, or hunt for wildflowers during the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. If you want to learn more about the unique flora and fauna of the Smoky Mountains, Wilderness Wildlife Week also takes place in May in the neighboring town of Pigeon Forge.

Hikers love the backcountry trails with big pay offs in this area. All that rainfall means that the streams and rivers will be flowing strongly, so spring is an excellent time to hunt for waterfalls. The most iconic cascades in the Smokies include Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls, though there are dozens more within the park boundaries.

The Smoky Mountains in the Summer

Photo Credit: Photosbyjam

The longer, warmer days of summer provide all the time you need to explore the Smoky Mountains. Just be aware that many other visitors think so, too — June, July, and August rank as some of the busiest months of the year for the country’s most-visited national park.

Peak season means you may need to arrive early to score parking at some especially popular attractions. If you’re not daunted by the crowds, you can enjoy some sunny mountain weather and those quintessential, rolling Smoky Mountains views.


Though the Smokies remain less hot and humid than much of the Southeast due to their high elevation, there’s no denying that the Smoky Mountains can get very warm during the summer. Temperatures generally range from the high 70s and 80s during the day, down to the 50s at night. At lower elevations, though, temps can get up into the 90s on hot days.

In general, you can expect to see plenty of sunshine at this time of year. But you might also run into some afternoon thunderstorms or unexpected showers (it is a temperate rainforest, after all). Take a look at the weather forecast before heading out for the day, and have a backup plan ready in case of a sudden downpour.

What to Do

Photo Credit: Georgia Evans

While the temperatures are at their hottest, cool down on the waterways of the Smoky Mountains. You can fly fish in the streams, float down Deep Creek on inner tubes, and boat and swim in Fontana Lake, located on the park’s southern border. Ziplining outside the park, meanwhile, will provide ample mountain breezes and views with a little dose of adrenaline.

Summer also brings a myriad of fun, exciting events to and near the Smokies. Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge hosts the Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration, while Gatlinburg puts on an award-winning Independence Day Parade on the 4th of July. Make sure to check event calendars before you go, since there’s always something happening here during summer.

The Smoky Mountains in the Fall

Photo Credit: Margaret.Wiktor

As the leaves change colors and draw self-described “leaf peepers” from around the world, fall also marks a hugely popular time to visit the Smokies. The changing leaves have to be seen in person to be fully appreciated, though it also means that many crowds will descend on the park during the month of October when the leaves are at their peak of color. Many fall festivals and other events take place to celebrate the season.

If you don’t mind a few extra cars on the roads and you’re curious to see one of the country’s most iconic natural phenomena, plan to visit the Smokies during the fall.


Though temperatures will start to drop in mid-September, the weather will remain fairly balmy for some time as fall comes slowly to this region. Highs can range into the 70s, while nighttime lows rarely fall below freezing temperatures until later in November.

This is also the driest season for the Smokies, so you’ll most likely get lots of sunny days during your fall visit. You won’t see much snow or rain at this time of the year, though footpaths and trails may be a bit frosty (and thus slippery) early in the morning.

What to Do

Photo Credit: Jeffrey M. Frank

You can see the fall colors on a hike or a scenic drive — many leaf peepers head to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome to take in the autumnal display. Another unique way to experience the colors is aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which starts in the town of Bryson City and runs along several different routes near the park. You could also take a guided horseback riding trip, so you don’t have to worry about parking or traffic.

Several festivals also come to the Smokies region during fall, most notably the 12-week Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival that spans downtown Gatlinburg and Ober Mountain’s month-long Fall Festival. If you’re in love with all things spooky, this is also a great time to experience Halloween-themed events like Ripley’s Fright Nights in Gatlinburg.

The Smoky Mountains in the Winter

Photo Credit: Robert Bohrer

When the weather outside is frightful, you’ll have the unparalleled opportunity to experience the Smokies with much, much fewer people on the trails and the roads. This is the least busy season for the park, so you can enjoy all the tranquility of the mountains without needing to share space with too many other tourists.

One caveat: this winter wonderland comes with sometimes unpredictable road conditions so check ahead before you embark on your trip. Certain roads within the park close during winter due to snowfall, while others can become icy, so double-checking is a must.


The winter months bring fairly chilly weather to the region, though this means you might also get a chance to see the Smokies under a dazzling mantle of snow and frost. Higher elevations receive between 2 to 6 feet of snow every winter, but be aware that the snow can just as easily turn into rain or sleet, as the winter weather is very unpredictable here.

Temperatures typically fall between the 40s and 20s, meaning that plenty of warm clothing is essential for anybody visiting during winter. If you plan to spend some time playing in the snow, pack sleds and snow gear.

What to Do

Photo Credit: Vera Petrunina

If and when you see some snow during your visit, break out the cross-country skis or snowshoes and go for a cruise along the park’s paths — just stick to the main trails and beware of road closures.

Since there will be fewer crowds during this season, this is an excellent time to get in a peaceful hike (road conditions permitting, of course). You may even have the Clingmans Dome viewpoint all to yourself if you don’t mind a walk since the road and parking lot are closed from mid-November through March.

Outside the park, families can sled and snow tube in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Or, buy a lift ticket for downhill skiing at Ober Mountain Resort and check out the many holiday happenings in town.

Stay and Play Year Round in the Smoky Mountains

There are countless ways to experience the Smoky Mountains throughout the year, so we hope you’re now more informed to decide the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains. Whether you want to go for a dip in crystal-clear mountain streams or experience the beauty of a snowy hiking trail, there’s a perfect season for every kind of visitor.

Book your stay with Prestige Vacation Rentals and pack your bags for the spectacular year round show put on by the Smoky Mountains!