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The most frequently asked question we get from people planning their vacation in the Smoky Mountains is, “When is the best time to visit Gatlinburg TN?” Although this sounds like a simple enough question, the answer really depends on what you want to do when you come to the Smokies.
To help you figure out when to book your retreat, we’ve put together a convenient guide to Gatlinburg’s seasonal weather, scenery, and events. This way, you can jump right to the information that’s important to you! We have compiled all the resources you need to decide when is the best time to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
For many people, the weather is the most important factor in choosing when to take their vacation. Fortunately, the weather in the Smokies is very agreeable all year long. Blessed with a temperate mountain climate, Gatlinburg isn’t oppressively hot in the summer or bone-chillingly cold during the winter.
(Remember, you can always get the latest Gatlinburg weather forecast from our Smoky Mountain meteorologist Paul Poteet!)
Let’s take a look a look at some of the best types of weather in Gatlinburg:
Best Summer Weather in Gatlinburg
If plenty of fun in the sun is what you’re after, June, July, and August all have very similar monthly average temperatures. Highs are usually in the upper 80s or low 90s, with July being the warmest month. The summer’s hot afternoons are ideal for wet and wild fun, like going for a swim, taking a white water rafting trip, or paying a visit to Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark. With temperatures in the 60s and 70s, the evenings are perfect for strolling around downtown Gatlinburg or eating outside at a restaurant.
Best Hiking Weather in Gatlinburg
The Gatlinburg area offers great hiking year round, but if you want to avoid the heat and the cold, we recommend late spring and early fall. Both May and October have comfortable average highs in the 70s, which is excellent for getting some exercise in the great outdoors. The spring and autumn also boast some of the year’s most spectacular scenery – the beautiful spring wildflowers and the amazing fall foliage!
Some visitors to Gatlinburg absolutely love it when it snows because the Smokies are transformed into a picturesque winter wonderland. However, other people want to avoid any snowfall at all costs. Whether you’re pro-snow or anti-snow, you should know when to expect it!
Your best chance of seeing snow in Gatlinburg is during February, which has an average monthly snowfall of 2.9″. January is not far behind, with 2.3″ of snow on average. The Smokies may also get a dusting in late November or December as well, but there typically isn’t any significant accumulation.
If you have come to the area to do some skiing or snowboarding, you don’t have to worry too much about snowfall, because the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort has first-rate snow machines to make sure their trails are covered. Ober usually opens around mid-December and closes in early March.
Least Amount of Rain in Gatlinburg
It’s no secret that Gatlinburg gets its fair share of rain during the spring and summer, especially in the afternoons. If you are looking for a dryer time to visit, we suggest September or October. The weather is still warm, with highs in the 70s and low 80s, but the average monthly precipitation is the lowest it will be all year.
Average Monthly Temperatures in Gatlinburg
|Month||High °F||Low °F|
The radiant fall foliage in the Smokies makes autumn a strong contender for the best time to visit Gatlinburg TN. The magnificent display of reds, yellows, and oranges are absolutely breathtaking.
Pinpointing the perfect time to go leaf peeping can be difficult, but if you follow these guidelines, you’re likely to see some amazing fall colors:
- Upper Elevations – The highest elevations in the Smokies start changing color in late September and the beginning of October. This is a great time to head to Clingmans Dome for panoramic views of the national park.
- Lower Elevations – In the lower elevations, the autumn leaves really come into their own during the last two weeks of October and the first week of November. Put a scenic drive through Cades Cove on your agenda if you will be in Gatlinburg during this period of time!
For more advice about autumn, check out Your Ultimate Guide to the Smoky Mountains Fall Colors.
The Gatlinburg area is home to an exceptional collection of wildflowers, with different varieties blooming throughout the year. With over 1,500 types of flowers, it’s no surprise that the Smokies received the nickname “Wildflower National Park”!
Although wildflowers can even be seen in the winter and fall, the most vibrant species bloom in the spring. Here is a quick look at some of the best times to go for a wildflower hike:
- April – This is peak season for Gatlinburg’s wildflowers! Visitors in April can expect to see violets, wild ginger, yellow mandarin, white trillium, and a host of other colorful flowers. If you come towards the end of April you will have the chance to participate in the Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a five-day program filled with field trips and workshops in the national park.
- May – Spring is on full display in Gatlinburg during this month! Lady slipper orchids, umbrella leaf, purple phacelia, and blue cohosh are just a few of the flowers you will see in May.
- June – Offering more summery weather, June is another wonderful time to see the wildflowers in Gatlinburg. Be on the lookout for sundrops, speckled wood lily, goat’s beard, and squawroot.
For an in depth guide to everything blooming in Gatlinburg, read our blog about the Smoky Mountain wildflowers.
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing the best time to visit Gatlinburg TN is which events are going on during the week you’ll be vacationing here. To help you plan your trip, we’ve put out together a timeline for Gatlinburg’s annual events. Please keep in mind that the dates are approximate and are likely to change a little each year:
|Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament||April 4 – 5|
|Mountain Man Memorial March||April 10 – 11|
|Smoky Mountain WineFest||April 10 – 11|
|Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage||April 19 – 23|
|Earth Day Festival||April 23|
|Earth Day 5K||April 24|
|Gatlinburg’s Beans and Cornbread Blast||May 14|
|Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales||June 12 – August 1|
|4th of July Midnight Parade||July 3/4|
|River Raft Regatta||July 4|
|Independence Day Fireworks||July 4|
|Summer Craftsmen’s Fair||July 17 – 26|
|Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival||August 19 – 23|
|Taste of Autumn||September 17|
|Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg||September 25 – November 2|
|Fall Craftsmen’s Fair||October 8 – 25|
|Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cook Off||November 11|
|Veterans Day Celebration||November 11|
|Trolley Ride of Lights||November 12 – January 31|
|Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade||December 4|
|New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Display||December 31|
As you can probably tell by now, every season offers something special to see in Gatlinburg. Our best advice is to visit us a few different times a year so you can have the complete Smoky Mountain experience!
For more information about everything going on in the area, check out our Gatlinburg Calendar of Events.