Is a hike through the mountains on your bucket list? The Smoky Mountains are known for their stunning views, worthwhile hikes, and fantastic cabins. But you don’t want to go during a rainy season—that’s not fun hiking!
Beautiful scenery may have a lot to offer, but you have to know when the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains is, and how to plan!
If you’re looking for when to plan your mountain get-away, keep reading.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Smoky Mountains?
For hiking, everyone likes three things: a challenge, the smell of wilderness, and sunshine.
Whether you’re just out for the day, or doing an overnight hike, you don’t want a hike that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve left your home couch, and if it smells like sulfur or sewage, the experience is ruined.
But rain is a real killer. Rain makes you cold, it makes your clothes more ridged, and it can cause safety concerns.
Trouble is, some of the best times to hike are always flanked by potential storm clouds…but we’ve got some advice.
If you’re hiking the Smoky’s, here’s what to avoid:
The (Cold) Rainy Seasons
Because the Smoky Mountains are in the middle of the United States, there’s still a risk for freezing elements like snow and sleet.
We’d avoid the rainy seasons of December, January, February, and even March.
Although March can start to get pretty warm, if things turn sour fast, it can catch you off guard.
If you’re doing rainy or snowy season traveling, we recommend caution and appropriate packing. Some must-haves are things like:
- Winter hiking jacket
- Waterproof backpack
- Dry change of clothes
- Full winter accessories
- Hand warmers
- A portable flashlight with a spare change of batteries (This is a biggy. Your phone may have a light, but a wet phone can break and a cold phone runs out of battery faster.)
The Spring Seasons
This time of the year ranges from March to May, usually.
The April-May season is usually picturesque if you enjoy popping colors and blooming life.
While out for hikes during this time of the year, you can hope to spot wildflowers and buds sprouting off the dogwood trees all around.
The National Park Service says May can get around 4.5 inches of rain, which is more than you might think, so pack prepared as well. A raincoat, even stuffed in your backpack, is always a good idea.
If you’re doing an overnight hike or a multi-day hike, we strongly recommend using The National Park Service as a resource for all things weather and safety.
The Summer Seasons (Best Time To Visit)
This is one of the breadwinners.
The summer season in the Smoky Mountains is unbeatable, and there are endless things to do!
Warm weather, blue skies, bursting life all around you…it all makes for memorable hikes.
During this June-August time, you can expect weather ranging from 70-80s with your evenings nice and chill around the 60s.
It’s perfect. Long hikes during the day with flannels wrapped around your waste, and then songs by the fire at night with flannels covering your arms.
Smoky Mountain summer nights make for memories that last a lifetime, and we mark them as one of the best times to visit this beautiful mountain range.
A couple of things to keep in mind, though, are lodging prices, storms, and personal health.
Lodging Pricing: Everyone wants those perfect memories, so the prices rise like the mountains themselves. We recommend buying your lodging tickets in advance and trying to stay out of popular cities.
Storms: Although you probably won’t have to worry about the next summer blizzard, you will have to keep an eye on the skies. Mountain thunderstorms can barrel down trees and even cause landslides, so check your area before venturing out.
Personal Health: The beauty is captivating and the scenery is memorable, but if you’re dehydrated or sick, the mountains are way more than you bargained for. During these months with high heats and high elevation, staying hydrated is vital. We recommend checking how much water you should drink to make sure you’re prepared before going out.
The Fall Season (Another Best Time To Visit)
Suprise! There are two winners!
The fall season comes in as another premium time to visit this majestic mountain range. Why?
Because have you ever seen the mountains draped in the changing leaves?
From up above, out on a hike, or driving down a scenic path, the bursting reds and magnetic oranges make for great pictures at every turn.
This time of the year is cooler, too. So long hikes to mountain tops or days out waterfall hunting are more sustainable than in the summer heat.
We still strongly recommend making sure you’re hydrated, though! Don’t let the cooler weather fool you!
This weather is really great for hammocking and picnic’s too, though. The colder it gets, the fewer bugs there are to annoy your face and snatch your food. Enjoy those family moments in peace!
PRO-TIP: Watch for lodging prices. Around November, you can get some steals on cabin retreats. This time of the year is usually when most families have kids in school and the weather is a little too unpredictable for older crowds. If you’re looking for a bargain, this might be your time.
Backpacking and Biking
If you’re out trying to get some miles in or lay under the stars at night, we have just a few things to note:
Backpacking: Make sure you are prepared with the necessary gear for bear safety. This includes things like Bear Boxes and Bear Spray.
Please check in with the local resources for where you are backpacking to avoid fines and stay safe.
Biking: Getting miles in is a riot, and these mountains are perfect for it. We want to note a few quick things, though, that often get overlooked by tourists.
- Know where the nearest hospital is. An injury can ruin a trip, but a prolonged injury ruins a life.
- Know what to do if you see a bear (see above).
- Research local bike shops in case you get more than one flat…you know how annoying that could be.
- Don’t overdo it. Make sure you have enough water and gear even in the case of an emergency.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief guide on the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains!
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