When is the Best Time to Visit the Smoky Mountains?

Smoky Mountain View nears Wears Valley

One of the biggest questions that every traveler to the area asks is, “when is the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains?” Like other big questions, people may ask themselves, the answer to this depends heavily on the person asking the question.

If you are someone who loved to go white water rafting in Gatlinburg, then you are probably better off planning your trip during the spring or the summer. If you are someone who loves hiking in the Smoky Mountains in the snow, then winter is definitely the season for you.

However, there is one time of year that is often overlooked by families who love traveling to the Smokies. Commonly referred to in the area as the ‘off-season,’

Less Crowds

We could not be more thankful to be located next door to the most popular national park in the country, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, with the popularity, this also means that visitors here are also accustomed to the high amount of traffic that is associated with it.

Wears Valley entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkHowever, you and your family can avoid the headache caused by the high number of visitors by choosing to plan your vacation in either January or February. Not only are there fewer crowds on the streets, but there is also not as many guests waiting in line at the many popular attractions, shops and shows in the area.

Warmer Weather

Believe it or not, winter in the Smoky Mountains does not always mean that guests will experience uncomfortable freezing temperatures. Yes, the weather is a lot chillier than what you would find in the summer and spring, but it is not so cold that you won’t be able to go out and enjoy anything while you are here.

In fact, the average highs for the months of December, January and February are normally around the mid to low-50’s. That being said, it is not uncommon for us to see a day where the temperatures rise to the mid to upper 60’s.

If you love the cold, all hope is not lost. The average lows for these months are known to dip below freezing for a couple of days. If you want to know what kind of weather your group should expect  to see during your winter vacation in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to follow Visit My Smokies’ weatherman, Paul Poteet and his bi-weekly updates. You can find his weather videos under the Travel Tips section of our website.

fall leaves on the ground in the Smoky MountainsBetter Views

When you think about winter in the Smoky Mountains, it is easy to imagine a rather dreary scene. The leaves have mostly all fallen from the trees and there isn’t much lush foliage. However, what you may not realize is that this is actually the best time to see the Smoky Mountains.

Because there is not as many leaves and trees to obstruct your view, you and your family are more likely to get a full panoramic view of the scenic mountains from wherever you are in the area.

Still not convinced this is the best time to see the Smokies? Check out our blog post on Fox News naming winter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park one of the most picturesque times of the year.

Exciting Smoky Mountain Events

The phrase ‘off-season’ may be a little misleading. There is always something fun and exciting for families to enjoy going on in the Smoky Mountains. In the winter, guests will enjoy all the thrilling events with the Smoky Mountain Winterfest going on now.

Upcoming Smoky Mountain Winterfest events include:

  • 27th Annual New Year’s Eve and Ball Drop in Gatlinburg
    • December 31 in at the Gatlinburg Space Needle
  • 25th Annual Wilderness Wildlife Week
    • Dedicated to both educating and entertaining guests about all the playful wildlife that call the Smoky Mountains home, the 2014 Wilderness Wildlife Week is scheduled for January 24-31, 2015.
    • Click here for details on last year’s Pigeon Forge event.
  • 15th Annual Saddle Up
    • If you ever wanted to be a cowboy or girl when you were growing up, or if you still do, then you should consider planning a visit for the 15th annual Saddle Up event in Pigeon Forge. Running February 12-22, 2015, this unique event showcases a ton of music, storytelling, and recipes from the wild west.
    • For more information, read about last year’s Saddle Up event in Pigeon Forge.

Lower Fuel Cost

no traffic in the Smoky Mountains winterIt’s no secret that gas companies have a tendency to raise the price of gas when they expect to see the highest number of travelers on the road. This includes peak travel seasons like summer and the holidays.

Don’t forget, grocery companies like Kroger and Food City are helping families save even more money on their travel fuel by offering discounts based on how much money you spend with them. For example, Kroger offers 10 cents off of each gallon of gas purchased for every 100 points accumulated for shopping with them. If you don’t already do so, consider taking advantage of this program by stopping in one of these stores to do your family’s grocery shopping before your vacation begins.

Cheap Smoky Mountain Cabin Rentals

Last, but not least, one of the biggest perks for families and guests traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the off-season is the abundance of cheap Smoky Mountain cabin rentals. Because the demand for these rentals isn’t as high in January and February, the price per night stay is significantly lower than say around the holidays or in the middle of the summer.

family enjoying Christmas in a Pigeon Forge cabinTo find out the current rental rates for your family’s favorite place to stay in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to check out the lodging page on our website. There you will find tons of relaxing vacation rentals, including cabins, condos, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds.

When does your family love visiting the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Lucas C

    Things to do in winter jan – fev ? dollywod , smoky mountain etc? I have a daughter 5 years old and she wanna see snow but if doesn’t have we want to do a lot things.