great smoky mountains national park sign covered in snow

A Guide to Winter in the Smoky Mountains

While winter is considered the slow season in the Smokies, it’s still a popular place to be! People want to possibly see snow and enjoy less crowds in the area. If you’ve never been here before during this time, you may be wondering what you can expect. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect during winter in the Smoky Mountains.

The Weather

little river road in winter in the smoky mountainsWinter in the Smoky Mountains takes place from mid November until the end of February. The weather during this period is considered moderate, but extremes do occur every once in a while. Sometimes it’s unseasonably warm, or we can experience a cold snap. On average, the temperature is around 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit as the high, while the low is around 25 to 30 degrees. These temperatures are in the lower elevations, while the higher elevations definitely experience colder weather, ranging from the upper teens to mid thirties.

Everyone wants to see snow on the mountains at least once in their life. In lower elevations, it is possible to experience 1 inch or more between 1 to 5 times per year. It is more likely for snow to occur in January and February.

Winter Safety

If you are in town when inclement weather is predicted, you should be prepared and know what to do. Roads could be closed in the national park, and even outside the park. Driving on snow isn’t easy, and on ice, it’s nearly impossible. You should avoid getting out on the road when these conditions are present, but if it’s an emergency, take it slow, be aware of others on the road, and allow for extra time.

What’s Open and Closed

clingmans dome in the smoky mountainsOne thing you may not know about winter in the Smoky Mountains is that certain roads close and popular attractions are more difficult to get to. For example, Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the park, but the road to get there (Clingmans Dome Road) closes every year from November to March. While you are able to hike there, it would be an almost 14 mile round trip! Other roads that are closed seasonally include Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Forge Creek Road, and Rich Mountain Loop.

Best Activities in the National Park

Although there are certain areas that close during winter in the Smoky Mountains, there are still plenty of fun things to do! A tourist favorite that is still open, depending on the weather, is Cades Cove. There’s nothing quite like seeing the historic buildings covered in frost or snow, and the mountains surrounding the valley are still incredible to see. Foothills Parkway and Newfound Gap are other scenic drives you’ll want to explore, if you’re able, while you’re in town.

Hiking is always a favorite pastime of visitors to the national park. All of the trails are open, but some are easier to get to than others. Here are some of the most popular winter hikes in the Smokies:

  • Alum Cave Trail
  • Porters Creek Trail
  • Laurel Falls Trail
  • Middle Prong Trail
  • Andrews Bald

We hope our guide helps you to be more prepared when it comes to visiting during winter in the Smoky Mountains. You’ll love exploring the national park without the summer and fall crowds, as well as seeing it in a new light. Have you started planning your winter getaway? Start with booking one of our Gatlinburg hotel rooms so you’re near the national park entrance!