downtown gatlinburg covered in snow from the gatlinburg overlook
January 1, 2023

The Smoky Mountains are a favorite destination in Tennessee. A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, they are commonly referred to as the Smokies by locals. During the warm months this beautiful nature park is a little crowded, so the winter season can give a new charm to the place with fewer people and more silence. There is snowfall in the higher elevations of the mountain, so visitors can experience the contrast of the snowy mountain to the warmer town below. Winter in the Smoky Mountains offers a quiet getaway, crisp air, and beautiful scenery.

1. Winter Hiking

Hiking during winter in the Smoky Mountains has its own magic to it. The mountain trails are almost empty, so you can enjoy all the benefits of going deep into nature. Some of the most popular winter hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains are Alum Cave, Porters Creek, and Alum Cave. Each offers gorgeous views of winter scenery! For a winter hike, it is a good idea to start out early in the morning as the days are short. Checking out weather conditions and snowfall in the mountains beforehand will help you decide on how far you are willing to go and what kind of equipment to take with you. If you are starting the trip from the bottom of the mountain, dress up in layers so that your dressing can be accommodated along the way to the fast-changing weather conditions along the way. Don’t forget your thermos filled with a hot beverage to enjoy while resting on the trail!

2. The Waterfalls

great smoky mountains national park sign covered in snow

There are more than 100 stunning waterfalls in the Smoky Mountain territory. During the winter, most of these waterfalls, especially the ones in higher elevations, freeze to become crystal formations that are incredible to look at. Popular winter waterfall hikes include Rainbow Falls and Laurel Falls!

3. Ober Mountain

Ober Mountain is one of the places to visit during the winter in the Smoky Mountains. It is an amusement park that in the winter provides ski areas in the mountains over the town of Gatlinburg. There is a large mall with indoor fun as well, like ice skating. Outside there are skiing trails, a terrain park, snow tubing slopes, and chairlifts. The chairlifts offer a scenic view that lasts for 30 minutes. Visitors love testing their skills out on the slopes — even beginners will have fun skiing and snowboarding at Ober Mountain!

4. Cades Cove

Cades Cove on a winter day with snow

Cades Cove is a big valley surrounded by the Smoky Mountains. It is a favorite destination in the region. The valley is one of the places where wildlife observing is very common. For those that love wild animals, there are coyotes, raccoons, skunks, deer and other animals frequently seen here. The valley is also a living museum of the 19th-century settlements that were found in Cades Cove. There are historic buildings, three churches, a working grist mill, log houses, and many other historical structures. History comes alive at this place. The Visitor Center is open all year round, except on Christmas, and can guide you through the landmarks of this amazing place! Plus, it provides the perfect opportunity for you to explore the Smokies from the warmth of your car in the winter!

5. Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

Art exhibitions do not stop in the winter time! If you love art, you have to visit the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community! The historic 8-mile loop of Gatlinburg offers artisan products such as paint, sewing, weaved products, statues, brooms, pottery, jewelry, dolls, silversmithing, leather products, glass products, fashion accessories, photography, and ceramics. You’ll also have the chance to stop and talk with some of the artists and learn more about their craft. To keep warm during your visit, stop by one of the local restaurants or cafes!

6. Winterfest in Gatlinburg

Ripley's Aquarium Winterfest

Winter in the Smoky Mountains is magical enough by itself, but the millions of lights in the town of Gatlinburg during Winterfest add a greater glow to the holiday season. The lights shine from the beginning of November until the end of February. All the streets, the buildings, and the Christmas trees are covered in lights that can be seen during the night from afar. You can drive along the Parkway to take in the displays, or go for a stroll to see the decorations up close!

Winter in the Smoky Mountains is something that many families, couples, and happy tourists repeat after coming the first time. Not only is there a chance to see snow, but there are so many fun things to do. We want you to enjoy the best winter vacation possible, which is why we’ve created a helpful guide! Here’s everything you need to know about winter in the Smoky Mountains!

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