Great Smoky Mountains National Park Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Fall Vacations
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Best Times to Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The best times to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the summer (June, July and August) and the fall. July is the busiest month of the summer season while October weekends draw those in search of autumn foliage. Since the park has a diverse topography with elevations ranging from 875 feet to more than 6,000 feet, temperatures can vary by up to 20 degrees from the base to the mountaintop so pack layers and a rain jacket no matter what time of year you visit. Summer is hot with temperatures in the 80s, while winters see temperatures into the mid-30s, as well as road closures due to snow. Fall foliage displays usually begin in mid-September, when the summer crowds are gone and the lodging rates are low, making it a great time to visit. However, you'll see higher rates for crisp fall October weekends. Most of the annual snowfall occurs from January to March. Early spring (March to May) also sees fewer crowds and lower lodging rates. Although the park is open daily year-round, some visitor centers, campgrounds and historic attractions close during the winter months.

Weather in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Average Temperature (°F)
51
28
54
29
61
34
71
42
79
50
86
58
88
59
87
60
83
55
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43
61
33
52
28
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Feb
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Average Precipitation (in)
0.19
0.19
0.21
0.18
0.18
0.2
0.22
0.21
0.12
0.12
0.13
0.18
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

September-mid-November

Fall is one of the most popular seasons for visitors. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy warm days in the 70s and 80s in September and cool nights dipping into the 50s, perfect for hiking and biking. Other visitors enjoy taking scenic drives through the park to enjoy the fall foliage, which begins in mid-September when lodging rates are at offseason lows. In October, however, as the days get cooler and the foliage reaches peak color, throngs of visitors flock to the park on weekends, meaning crowds and peak pricing return. By November, temperatures drop to near freezing and snow is a possibility in the higher elevations, which may result in some road closures.

Mid-November-February

Although winter is fairly moderate in terms of temperature, it's not unusual to experience extreme weather in the higher elevations. Daytime temperatures generally hover in the 50s, with lows at or below freezing and January and February are the months with the most snowfall. Lodging rates are the lowest during this season, except for holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep in mind, some attractions, visitor centers and campgrounds close during the winter.

March-May

Although March weather can still be chilly and unpredictable, April and May bring warmer temperatures and an explosion of wildflowers in the meadows and redbud and dogwood trees in the mountain forests. At lower elevations, temperatures hover in the 60s by day, dropping the 40s at night, but the weather can change rapidly from sunny skies to snow flurries early in the season. In this shoulder seasons, travelers can score lower rates on accommodations on weekdays, but rates are higher for spring weekends, which attract quite a few in-state visitors. April is characterized by frequent afternoon showers, while May temperatures soar into the 70s and 80s during the day. However, May also sees more than 4 inches of rain, similar to April precipitation totals. 

Key Events:

June-August

Expect peak lodging rates and heavy traffic on popular routes like the Cades Cove Loop, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Newfound Gap Road in the summer. Temperatures soar into the high 80s and low 90s in lower elevations, although evenings stay comfortably cool in the 60s and 70s.  Although the humidity is not as severe as in other parts of the two states, visitors will see some haze and afternoon thunderstorms are fairly common. Reserve hotels and cabins up to a year in advance during this peak season.

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