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The Overall Best & Worst Times to Visit Gatlinburg in 2024

The Overall Best & Worst Times to Visit Gatlinburg in 2024

What's the best time to visit Gatlinburg?

The best time to visit Gatlinburg is from September to October when the Great Smoky Mountains burst into vibrant fall colors. It’s perfect for hiking with comfortable weather and clear skies, especially in October, the driest month. The town is lively with festivals like the Dollywood Harvest Festival and the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, although it’s also the busiest season.

For visitors who want to see the majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains, the town of Gatlinburg in Tennessee is a must-visit destination. From there, it’s just a short distance away from the best of the Smoky Mountains, from rafting tours to hiking spots to ski trails.

The town itself has plenty to keep visitors busy. Visit the Chondola (combination chair lift and gondola) for great views or enjoy the rustic charms of downtown such as the Historic Arts & Crafts Trail.

Since so many activities in Gatlinburg happen outside, you want to visit when the weather is at its best for outdoor activities. But don’t worry — we’ll show you this and more below; let us be your guide!

Overall Best Time to Visit Gatlinburg

Couple relaxing on the top of a mountain during the best time to visit Gatlinburg Tennessee


The best time to visit Gatlinburg is during the early autumn (September-October), when you can see the glorious fall foliage displays that cover the Great Smoky Mountains.

The fall colors are one of the biggest reasons people come to visit the Smoky Mountains. The beautiful landscapes are even prettier when covered in vibrant red, yellow, and orange colors.

According to the National Park Service, peak season depends on elevation in the mountains, but you can find the best colors from mid-September to mid-October. The early fall also has some of the best weather for hiking.

Average daily high temperatures in September are 80 degrees Fahrenheit but drop to 71 degrees in October. It’s still warm enough to hike in a T-shirt (although it gets chilly at night), but not so hot that you’ll be sweating buckets when you’re outdoors.

The sun usually cooperates with outdoor plans in the early fall. October is actually the driest month of the year in Gatlinburg, so you have the highest chance of enjoying sunny days.

The views in the Smoky Mountains are going to be at their best during this season thanks to the clear skies. Fall is the peak season, which means crowds, but also means that the atmosphere in the town is downright festive.

Expect to see plenty of outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, and other pop-up events throughout town. All tourist-related businesses are operating in full swing, so you won’t have to worry about not being able to do any of your preferred activities.

Fall also brings plenty of festivals, such as:

This is definitely the busiest season in Gatlinburg, but it’s worth it since you can’t see the beautiful foliage at any other time.

Cheapest Time to Visit Gatlinburg

Waterfall by a bridge and a stream pictured during the cheapest time to visit Gatlinburg

Weldman Photography/Shutterstock

The cheapest time to visit Gatlinburg is during the winter off-season (November-March), when there is the least demand. Not all of winter is uniformly affordable.

Prices rise in Gatlinburg during major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and during the month of December. However, outside of that time, you’ll find lower hotel room rates and other savings.

Most hotels offer discounts during the winter off-season. In January, you can save 20-40% on most hotel rooms. Some places offer discounts as much as 75% compared to peak season prices.

You can also find discounts on other types of accommodation, such as cabins in the woods. Most visitors to Gatlinburg drive to the town. If you’re driving your own car, the cost will be the same no matter the time of year you visit.

The cost of renting a car usually goes down when you visit during the winter off-season. If you need to fly, the closest significant airport is Asheville Regional Airport, which usually has the least expensive flights in January or February.

Winter in Gatlinburg is actually a great time to visit. It is chilly, with average temperatures in the low 50s or high 40s in town, and colder in the mountains, but it’s not too cold.

Nearby Ober Mountain is Tennessee’s only ski resort, perfect for some winter adventures. Late November and December also bring holiday-themed events to town, such as the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade.

Least Busy Time to Visit Gatlinburg

Downtown Gatlinburg pictured during the least busy time to visit

Gatlinburg, TN; April 16, 2017: A shot of a main street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee/Dawid S Swierczek/Shutterstock

The least busy time to visit Gatlinburg is during the spring. From March to May, you avoid peak summer season crowds, while even the skiers have gone home.

Spring is one of the least busy seasons in Gatlinburg since it’s a bit of a transitional period. It’s not so warm that you can jump in a swimming hole, but ski season at Ober Mountain is also over.

There also aren’t as many major holidays where people have time off to travel. The weather in Gatlinburg in the spring is a bit unpredictable.

The beginning of the season is still chilly, with average daily temperatures in March at around 61 degrees Fahrenheit, while nighttime temperatures are near freezing. It warms up in April and May, but the rain doesn’t let up—spring is one of the rainiest seasons.

If you bring the right rainy weather gear, this is still a good time to get outdoors around Gatlinburg, and you might even get lucky with some sunshine.

In April and May, the slopes of the Smoky Mountains are covered with wildflowers, making it one of the most beautiful times to go hiking in the area. Spring has its fair share of events in Gatlinburg as well, mostly events celebrating nature and fishing tournaments.

The biggest holiday around this time is MayFest, a celebration of the area’s German immigrant community, with Bavarian costumes, flower displays, and festivities.

Worst Time to Visit Gatlinburg

Anakeesta gondola lift pictured with people getting in at the base during the best time to visit Gatlinburg

Isaiah N Lilly/Shutterstock

We think the worst time to visit Gatlinburg is in the summer due to the high humidity and relatively large crowds. Gatlinburg summer temperatures can get very hot.

Average high temperatures in July get up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and many days are much hotter. Since the climate is also very humid, it can feel even hotter than it says on the thermometer. Summer in the Smoky Mountains is also rainy and muggy.

May, June, and July are the rainiest months of the year. On the one hand, that means you’ll get to see the famous “smoke” that gave the mountains their name, on the other hand, it makes for pretty miserable hiking conditions!

Summer is the most popular time to visit Gatlinburg as people head up into the mountains to try and cool off. Expect full hotel rooms and miles-long traffic jams, because the town isn’t built for this many visitors.

However, nature really is beautiful in the summer in Gatlinburg. The mountains are lush, green, and free from snow, making it perfect for hiking.

The streams and watering holes are at full power, meaning you can quickly jump in anywhere to cool off. The wildlife is also at its best during this time. In June, you can see the synchronous fireflies display. Summer also brings lots of fun, family-friendly events to Gatlinburg.

The Fourth of July is particularly festive, with the famous Midnight Parade—making it the first city in the country to celebrate its independence each year. The quaint Americana spirit of the town is at its peak during this time.

Gatlinburg by Month: Climate & Activities

Wooden suspension bridge with people walking on it during the best time to go to Gatlinburg

Chansak Joe/Shutterstock

Still unsure about the best time to visit Gatlinburg? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:


January in Gatlinburg is cold, with temperatures ranging from 28 to 51°F (-2 to 11°C). This month is ideal for enjoying winter sports at Ober Gatlinburg, exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in its winter beauty, and experiencing the cozy atmosphere of the town’s restaurants and shops.


February continues with cool weather, perfect for romantic getaways around Valentine’s Day, visiting indoor attractions like the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and enjoying the serene winter trails in the national park.


As spring approaches, temperatures in Gatlinburg range from 35 to 60°F (2 to 16°C). March is great for hiking to see early spring wildflowers, exploring the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community, and attending the Smoky Mountain Wine Fest.


Spring temperatures in April range from 42 to 68°F (6 to 20°C). It’s an ideal time for visiting the Dollywood theme park in nearby Pigeon Forge, experiencing the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, and enjoying outdoor dining in downtown Gatlinburg.


May sees warmer temperatures from 49 to 75°F (9 to 24°C). Explore the many hiking trails in the Smokies, take a scenic drive through Cades Cove, and participate in the Gatlinburg Beans and Cornbread Festival.


Summer arrives with temperatures between 57 to 83°F (14 to 28°C). June offers opportunities for whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River, enjoying family fun at Gatlinburg’s SkyLift Park, and attending the Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales street performances.


July maintains warm temperatures from 62 to 86°F (17 to 30°C). Celebrate Independence Day with parades and fireworks, take a dip in the mountain streams, and visit the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair.


Temperatures in August range from 61 to 85°F (16 to 29°C). Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on guided nature walks, enjoy the outdoor attractions at Anakeesta theme park, and experience the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival.


As fall begins, temperatures range from 55 to 80°F (13 to 27°C). September is perfect for viewing the early fall colors, exploring the Gatlinburg Farmers Market, and attending the Gatlinburg River Raft Regatta.


October sees cooler temperatures from 43 to 70°F (6 to 21°C). Enjoy the vibrant fall foliage in the Smokies and explore the Halloween celebrations and decorations in town.


Fall temperatures in November range from 33 to 60°F (1 to 16°C). This month is ideal for cozy cabin stays, experiencing the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Lights, and enjoying Thanksgiving festivities.


Winter brings cooler temperatures ranging from 28 to 49°F (-2 to 9°C). December is festive with Christmas celebrations, shopping for handmade gifts in the arts and crafts community, and enjoying the holiday atmosphere in downtown Gatlinburg.

Frequently Asked Questions

Entrance to the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains pictured during the best overall time to visit Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA – October 24, 2016: Entrance sign to the Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park/ehrlif/Shutterstock

Here are a few other popular questions people have asked about visiting Gatlinburg:

What is the best month to go to Gatlinburg?

The best month to go to Gatlinburg is October. This is peak foliage season in the nearby Smoky Mountains, and when the weather is best for hiking.

When is the off-season in Gatlinburg?

Winter (November-early March) is the off-season in Gatlinburg. It’s still a great season to enjoy the cozy small-town feeling or hit the ski slopes, but there are fewer visitors than throughout the year.

What is the best month to visit the Smoky Mountains?

The best month to visit the Smoky Mountains is October for the fall foliage. July is also a great month to visit since the weather is warm enough to go swimming in mountain swimming holes.

What time of year is Gatlinburg the least expensive?

Gatlinburg is the least expensive from late winter to early spring (January-March). Since visitor demand is lower, you can get good deals on hotel rooms.

How many days is enough for Gatlinburg?

You should spend at least three days in Gatlinburg. You want to have enough time to visit the nearby mountains and explore the charms of the town itself.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Gatlinburg?

Gatlinburg has four distinct seasons, all of which have their own charms. Fall is the most popular time to visit with good reason, as the fall foliage displays are spectacular.

Winter brings snowy slopes and great deals, while spring has wildflowers and fewer crowds. Summer is hot and humid but has swimming opportunities and lots of festivals.

So, with so much to see and do and no bad time to visit, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Gatlinburg has to offer. Happy travels!