Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains is a magical experience for all who get to witness their spectacular beauty.
From the natural beauty of the mountain range to the variety of area attractions and dining, the Great Smoky Mountains are a must on your vacation bucket list.
Whether you prefer to enjoy the mountains from a distance or like to get up close and personal with nature, the Smoky Mountains are the perfect playground.
Enjoy a day up in the mountains taking in the stunning views, or enjoy a cocktail on a rooftop balcony as you watch the sunset over the mountain range. No matter your vacation style, the Great Smoky Mountains provide visitors with plenty of things to do to create lasting memories.
Why You Should Visit the Great Smoky Mountains
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the mountains are the perfect playground. During your visit, you’ll likely enjoy wildlife encounters with Moose, Black Bears, and elk, along with multiple other wildlife varieties.
The wildflowers that scatter throughout the national park add a pop of color to the surrounding lush forest. Hiking trails are prominent throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest as hikers have the option to traverse trails ranging from easy to difficult.
These trials will take you to waterfalls, through the expansive forest, and offer stunning mountain top views. Lodging in and around the Great Smoky Mountains ranges from luxury hotels like The Inn at Christmas Place to rustic camping on the national park grounds.
This means that if you enjoy the outdoors but don’t necessarily like to rough it, there are options for you along with those that want to become one with nature.
When you’re not on the hiking trails or relaxing at your lodging destination, you will find plenty to do in the towns nestled in the Smoky Mountains. One of the more popular destinations in the mountains is Pigeon Forge.
Pigeon Forge has everything you need for a fun-filled vacation like amusement parks, dining, and zipline adventure tours. Gatlinburg is another Smoky Mountain destination that visitors flock to for entertainment and spectacular lodging and dining.
The best part about these mountain towns is that while you’re enjoying a day in the town, you get to witness one of the most stunning backdrops known to man as the mountain range sets the perfect scene.
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Overall Best Time to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains
The best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains is in early or late summer and the fall. Summertime proves the perfect time for families to take vacations to the mountains, while autumn offers stunning scenery with the fall foliage taking full bloom.
If you’re planning a summer vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, we recommend visiting either in June or August. Summer is peak season at the national park, meaning you’re bound to experience large crowds, which can put a damper on your trip.
Visiting in early or late summer gives you the freedom to accomplish more on your trip as you don’t have to fight the intense crowds that visit in the middle of summer.
To get the most out of your visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, we also recommend planning a trip in the fall. The autumn months provide visitors with breathtaking views as the smoky air lays a blanket over the vibrant red and orange hues of the trees.
A truly magical experience is waiting for vacationers who plan a trip in the fall. If visiting in the fall, try to avoid October as it is the height of the autumn season in the national park.
Cheapest Time to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains
A budget-friendly time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains is in the early spring. The weather in early spring can be iffy due to the potential rainfall, but if you miss the rain and muddy hiking trails, you’re in for a spectacular treat.
Because of the unpredictability of the cloudy skies in early spring, vacationers tend to shy away from planning a vacation during that date range.
However, the spring clouds offer stunning views of the mountain range as the misty air grants a greater smoky feel to the mountains. Not only will you enjoy mystical views of the mountains in the spring, but also less expensive lodging and travel options.
Due to the fewer vacationers that visit the Great Smoky Mountains in the spring, hotels, motels, and resorts offer special deals on lodging in an attempt to fill their rooms to bring in revenue.
You will also notice this is true for flights and car rental companies. It can be tough to reach vacationers during the slow or off-seasons, but that means you have the opportunity to snag an impressive deal for the perfect budget vacation.
Least Busy Time to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains
As previously mentioned, the early spring is one of the least busy times to visit the Great Smoky Mountains. This is due to kids still being in school and families waiting to take their vacations until the entire family can join.
The weather also tends to steer vacationers away from springtime road trips. When you take a vacation, you want to make the most of your time.
If there are extensive crowds, you run the risk of not completing everything on your bucket list because the time to complete a hike or visit an attraction takes longer. That is why visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in the early spring proves fruitful.
When hiking the mountainous terrain, you are less likely to run into another group of hikers or get stuck behind a family with small children moving at a slow pace.
Likewise, you are less likely to run into long wait times at surrounding area attractions and restaurants. This gives you more time to shop around and enjoy the peaceful tranquility of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Worst Time to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains
If your goal is to avoid large crowds, the worst time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains is in July and October.
While the fall foliage in October is stunning and July offers the perfect weather for hiking and exploring the mountains, it also attracts visitors from all over the world, creating less than favorable crowds.
Hot, sticky weather and large groups of people don’t necessarily create a desirable atmosphere. When you’re out enjoying the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, you want to take in the fresh air and stunning views of the mountain.
If you visit during peak season, your views may become littered with the backs of other visitors, and the air may not seem as fresh. In addition to the large groups of people you will encounter during a visit in peak season, you will also face a spike in lodging and transportation prices.
Because the Great Smoky Mountains are a highly sought-after vacation destination, local accommodations will take advantage of the large influx of visitors and adjust their pricing accordingly.
If you decide to visit the Great Smoky Mountains in July or October, ensure to book your lodging well in advance to ensure you have a place to stay. You may also want to take on less popular hiking trails to experience some peace away from the larger crowds.
Things to Consider
Before you plan your grand adventure to the Great Smoky Mountains, consider what attire you may need, any extra items you may need, the seasonal weather and hours, what to look for in regards to wildlife, and where you will spend time dining.
Having a plan in place before you visit will help you get the most out of your trip and ensure you’re not spending extra time and money on things you could have planned for.
Hiking boots or other sturdy hiking/walking shoes are a must-pack item when you visit the Smoky Mountains. If you’re planning on getting the most out of your mountain vacation, plan on bringing some hiking boots so you can explore everything the trails offer.
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Bugs can get annoying while you’re out exploring the mountains. When you take a break from hiking, or you’re hiking near water, you may experience bug bites as the bugs are thicker in the forest. Be sure and pack your favorite bug spray and use it to help prevent this from happening.
Mountainous weather can be unpredictable. With the altitude changes you face when climbing or descending a mountain comes changing weather. Ensure to plan for various types of weather when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains.
Consider what attractions you would like to visit while on your trip. With options of shopping, amusement parks, and aerial adventures, there are multiple attractions to keep you and your family entertained.
As previously noted, the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Sunny skies can quickly turn cloudy, and temperatures at the bottom of the mountain vary vastly from those at the top.
This means it is vital to pack clothing to accommodate various temperatures as you may experience changing weather during your stay.
Understanding operating hours and how they differ from season to season helps ensure you can visit every attraction you have planned. Check in advance at what times various attractions and restaurants are open, so you’re not left on the street pulling on a locked door.
One of the draws to the Smoky Mountains is the opportunity to experience wildlife up close and personal. One of the main species you will find in the mountains is black bears.
Before embarking on your vacation, do your due diligence and research how to react if you come in close contact with bears. It may save your life.
Dining in the mountains can be an exciting and unusual experience. If you make many boxed dinners, you may notice that on the back of the box, high-altitude instructions are listed because the way food cooks changes.
This means that the food you get in the mountains, you can’t get elsewhere, making it a special treat.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve never gone to the mountains, you may be wondering what to expect during your vacation. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Great Smoky Mountains.
How many days do you need to see the Smoky Mountains?
If your trip is centered around visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we recommend planning a 4-day trip. This allows you to experience several hiking trails and other adventures like river tubing or horseback riding.
You should also make a day to visit the surrounding area and go shopping. The Great Smoky Mountains are vast, and you will find several small and average-sized towns nestled at the foothills.
If you’re planning on visiting the national park and exploring a surrounding town such as Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, we recommend taking a few extra days to explore.
What time of the day is best to see the Smoky Mountains?
The most popular times at Great Smoky Mountain National Park are from 10 am to 6 pm. Therefore, if you plan on hiking all day, we recommend arriving at the park around 9 am to avoid traffic and still have time to get all your hiking completed before the end of the day.
We also recommend finding a spot in the park to watch the sunset. The vast mountain range is the perfect backdrop for a breathtaking sunset experience.
What is the rainiest month in the Smoky Mountains?
The month of May provides the Great Smoky Mountains with the most rainfall throughout the year. On average, the mountain range will receive 5.9 inches of precipitation throughout May.
You will also experience rainfall in other months throughout the year, but May tends to be the rainiest month.
Where is the prettiest part of the Smoky Mountains?
You won’t find an ugly spot in the Great Smoky Mountains. However, some of the most sought-after destinations in the mountain range are Newfound Gap, Laurel Falls, Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, Rainbow Falls, and Chimney Tops. These areas boast spectacular views and are a treat for those that experience them.
What town is closest to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park?
There are several towns scattered throughout the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The closest to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Gatlinburg, which is under 8 miles away.
Other close towns include Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Townsend in Tennessee, and Cherokee and Bryson City in North Carolina.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains?
The best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains is in early or late summer and September. During this timeframe, you will have the opportunity to experience the Great Smoky Mountains in their full splendor without having to fight extensive crowds.
If you plan a trip to the famous mountain range during the peak summer months, book lodging well in advance to ensure a reservation.
Visiting in the spring provides vacationers with the option to find deals for lodging and travel while also avoiding large crowds. The Great Smoky Mountains are a magical experience for those fortunate enough to witness the breathtaking views.
Before embarking on your journey to the mountain range, ensure you know what weather to expect, what to pack, and the operating hours of the attractions you wish to visit.