Great Smoky Mountains National Park Weather | Best Time to Visit

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smoky mountains in Tennessee
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most biodiverse national park in all of America. Making it a must-visit mountain park for your bucket list. With the mass amounts of rain, and varying elevations, almost any plant or animal can thrive here. The question is, can you thrive through the wet and muggy weather of these Southern Appalachian  Mountains? Here, we will show you what Smoky Mountain’s weather looks like year-round. Plus, the best times to visit to get the most out of your trip.

Weather in the Smoky Mountains

In this national park, you’re mostly looking at either rain, humidity, or snow. Surprisingly, even though it’s not in the Pacific Northwest, the Smokies get a lot of rain. Averaging 55 inches per year at lower elevations, up to 85 on the mountains. Most days you will need to be prepared to get wet. If you’re looking for the most accurate current weather in the area, Weather U.S. is a great resource. In this article, we will show you by season the best time of the year to visit.

Springtime in the Smokies

Spring weather in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee

Springtime in any mountain range brings very unpredictable weather. With the clashing of warm and cold temperatures, you can go from sun to snow in one day. Especially at the beginning of spring into March. The early spring is still quite cold with upper elevations still below freezing at night and 40-50s during the day. The lower elevations can be more temperate but still have a risk of sudden rain storms.

Later in the spring season, you’ll still be getting quite a bit of rain in the afternoons. However, the temps will be rising and becoming more enjoyable for higher elevation hiking. I suggest late spring (around May) to visit if you’re coming this time of year. You’ll have fewer visitors to crowd your hikes and cool weather with less rain than in the winter season.

Great Smoky Mountain Summer Weather

The summer season brings warmer weather across the Great Smoky Mountains. Along with the heat, you’ll also be experiencing intense humidity. Summer is not without any rainfall either. You’ll be looking at afternoon showers and storms that frequent all elevations of the park. However, all of this varying weather brings out the beautiful wildflowers and wildlife of the park.

In the later months of July and August, you could be looking at lower elevation temperatures in the 90s. With the humidity, this can get pretty hot. The best way to combat the intense summer heat is by heading up the mountains to cooler upper elevations. You can also enjoy a swimming hole in the area which can be found on the park’s official website.

Autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains

Fall foliage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the better times to visit Smoky Mountains National Park is in the fall. The fall weather in Tenessee brings less rain and cooler, dryer days. While you will be experiencing frost temperatures by November, September and October hold great weather for the park. Most daytime temps will be around 70 degrees heading down into the 50s later in the season.

However, the best part about fall in the Appalachian Mountains is seeing the trees change color. The best time to see the leaves change in the Smoky Mountains are around mid to late October for peak leaf colors. This is a great time to take a high-elevation hike to see up close views of this seasonal treat. If you want to visit some other US National Parks on the east coast, check out our post “Best East Coast National Parks.”

What are Winters Like in the Smoky Mountains?

Winter in Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t as fierce as in some other parks across the US. Most lowland temperatures stay around the 50s during the day and only receive about an inch or two of snow. Sometimes temperatures can get up to the 70s, but rarely. At night, the lows can be below freezing. It’s best to be prepared for cold temps once the sun goes down.

At high elevations is where you will find a wintery wonderland. With possible snowfalls of up to 2 feet, and temps well below freezing. Be sure to look up the weather and road conditions before adventuring this far into the park. Although most roads are open throughout the winter, they can close due to sudden storms.

What is the Rainiest Month in the Smoky Mountains?

Rainiest month in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Bryce Frimming on Unsplash

Surprisingly, the rainiest month in the Smoky Mountains is July. The intense afternoon rainfall is heavier in July than in any other month of the year. This means it may be best to avoid the summers because of the rain and the large amounts of visitors.

While visiting in the rain may seem bad, there are still many activities to do. If you aren’t inclined to hike out in the rain, you can try visiting downtown Gatlinburg. Here, they have tons of different indoor museums and tourist attractions that will get you out of the rain. The better option is a drive through the park on Newfound Gap Road. Even in the rain, you can still experience some great views of the park.

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Smoky Mountains?

You could probably have a good reason to visit any time of the year. However, the best time for good weather is definitely the early fall season. From September to October, you will have less rain, less humidity, and cooler weather. As fall approaches the weather becomes a dream with highs of 70-80 and lows only in the 50s.

The best part is having fewer visitors in the park. Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the US. This means it can be quite difficult to see many of the popular sites during the busy summer months. This is just another reason why fall is such a good time to visit the park. You can enjoy more parking spots and fewer crowded trails and viewpoints.

Autumn is also a perfect time for seeing the leaves change. This is a magical season that you only get to see for a few weeks in mid-October. Some of the best ways to enjoy fall are to visit the Cades Cove area. Here you can enjoy a nice waterfall hike or simply enjoy the views from the parking lot. You can also enjoy the fall colors at Newfound Gap where you will see across a valley of golden leaves. If you want to find out about other great spots to hike on your visit, you can read our post on “The Best Camping and Hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

Final Thoughts

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect mountain getaway in the east coast region of the US. Since this mountain range is located closer to the south and not far from the Atlantic Coast, the weather is wet and warm. In summer you’re looking at high humidity, with afternoon rain showers and storms. Spring is fairly temperate with a small chance of snow at higher elevations. 

Winter in the smokies is not a bad time to visit. With 50 degrees and only an inch of snow at the lowlands and classic cold snowy mountain tops. You can use whatever part of the park best suits your needs. However, the best time of the year to visit is fall for its dry and cool weather. You’re less likely to see rain or people, and the leaves start to change colors this time of year.

Want a complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as free downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

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Happy Travels! Sandy