What Weather to Expect in Every Season at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mountain weather can be harsh and unpredictable, so always be prepared with warm layers and waterproof gear when exploring in the park. Keep in mind that elevations in the Smokies vary by almost 6,000 feet, so the weather you’ll find up on the high peaks can be very different from what’s going on in the lower valleys.
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Summer in the Great Smoky Mountains

An aerial view of Lake Fontana in North Carolina

A summer storm comes in at Lake Fontana in North Carolina

Generally, summer is hot and humid at the lower elevations and warm and pleasant up high, with frequent thunderstorms. Air quality often takes a dip in the warmer months, with hazy days more common.

Autumn Weather in the Park

The Smoky Mountains in autumn

The Smoky Mountains in autumn

Fall is an excellent time to visit the park, with its warm (60- to 80-degree) days, cooler nights, and drier weather. Haze begins to clear up this time of year. Expect freezing temps and even snow at the higher elevations by November.

Winter in the Great Smoky Mountains

Laurel Falls in the winter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Laurel Falls in the winter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In winter, the weather is usually mild in the lower valleys, with highs in the 50s fairly common. Nights are colder, and subfreezing days are also a possibility. It’s much colder on the high peaks (temps sometimes dip well below zero), with snow accumulating a few times a year.

Springtime in the Park

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower.

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower. Watch the annual migration in Cades Cove

Come spring, snow gives way to 70- and 80-degree days by April, and wildflowers explode across the park. Spring also brings rain and sometimes snow showers up high.

Related

Screenshot of YouTube video about the Great Smoky Mountains Nordic Ski Patrol

Nordic Ski Patrol of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you venture out on the closed road to Clingmans Dome in winter, you may run into volunteers on cross-country skis, ready to assist visitors in trouble.

Entrance sign to Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Gatlinburg

Park Entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The majority of visitors enter through the Sugarlands entrance on the park’s north side by driving through Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Sunset in Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Lee Coursey via Flickr

Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This popular valley is known for its abundant wildlife, idyllic scenery, and preserved historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s. Take an auto-tour.

The Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee Valley inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Oconaluftee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

At the main south entrance, tour the Mountain Farm Museum, pioneer buildings, stroll along the Oconaluftee River, and up the road see a historic gristmill.

A male elk called a "buck."

Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The park’s largest animal, elk can weigh 700 pounds and reach 5 feet at the shoulder.

Cades Cove Visitor Information Center.

Visitor Centers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are four main visitor centers in the park: Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Oconaluftee, and Sugarlands.

The Gatlinburg Trolley driving through Pigeon Forge. Photo by Ron Miguel via Flickr

Gatlinburg Trolley to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Gatlinburg Trolley Tan Line stops at Sugarlands Visitor Center, Laurel Falls parking lot, and Elkmont Campground.

Map of location of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North America

Where is Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Great Smoky is in the eastern part of the United States on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Gatlinburg, TN is the most popular gateway town.

Featured image for Great Smoky region map

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Region Map PDF

This map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park shows outlying gateways from Knoxville, Tenn. in the north to Waynesville, N.C. in the south.