Where else than the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee can your winter vacation include snow, mild temperatures, dark green evergreens, a cozy log cabin, and millions upon millions of magical holiday lights? Wintertime in the Smokies is unique with snowfall in the mountains and mild climates in the foothills and valleys, providing a variety of scenery from your Cabins for YOU cabin and comfortable temperatures to explore downtown Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. While nature goes into her yearly slumber, the Smoky Mountains come alive with some of the country’s largest holiday extravaganzas! And just because you are spending your winter vacation in the South doesn’t mean there are not plenty of ways to play in the snow! Discover the dynamic season of wintertime in the Smoky Mountains this year for Christmas your family, winter break with the kids, or a snowy romantic getaway after the holidays.
The Many Faces of Smoky Mountain Winter
From snowy mountains to sleepy green valleys, the many faces of winter in the Smoky Mountains make every turn a uniquely beautiful view from your Cabins for YOU retreat in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. Take in sweeping views of the snowcapped mountains from a cabin nestled high on the mountain ridgeline or sit back with peaceful views of dark evergreens and icy streams from a cabin tucked away in seclusion deep in the forests.
When you stay in a cabin overlooking downtown Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, quietly gaze over hypnotic holiday lights glittering in the darkness each night while sipping hot cocoa on the deck. Wherever your Cabins For YOU cabin in the Smoky Mountains is nestled, you are always within a convenient drive to all the excitement of Winterfest in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.
Temperatures and Precipitation
Wintertime in the Smoky Mountains is dynamic, with the opposing natural terrains of the high elevations of the mountain peaks and the location in relation to the equator. According to the National Park Service, the Smoky Mountain region experiences temperature highs in the 50s for at least half of the days between mid-November through February, with record highs climbing into the 70s. Gatlinburg, at a lower elevation to the surrounding mountains towering over her, still experiences a couple inches of snow, however, most often in January and February. In the high elevations of the Smoky Mountains, winter looks much different despite sharing the same latitude as the mild winters of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. While visitors can enjoy serenely beautiful winter views of the mountains, enjoying days in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg doesn’t require snow boots or heavy jackets!
Exploring and Having Fun During Winter in the Smoky Mountains
Important Winter Information: Despite the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s annual average snowfall of 69” (on Clingmans Dome), Newfound Gap Road (US 441) is such an important transit road that snowplowing is often taking place and rarely is the entire road closed. However, it’s always smart to be prepared. Simply call (865) 436-1200 ext. 631 for road closures and ext. 630 for weather updates, or check the National Park Service twitter account for the Great Smoky Mountains.
Winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains can be extremely relaxing and gratifying, as the crowds have been purged by cooler temperatures and school starting up again. January and February can be great times to visit, especially if you’re seeking a quiet escape in the mountains. In the peaceful solitude along the trails, visitors are privileged to more views through the leafless trees, lower humidity, and frozen icy streams and waterfalls.
The nightly temperatures dropping below freezing cause the waterfalls in the area, such as Laurel Falls, to thaw a little each day before adding more layers of ice each evening – creating a beautiful frozen sculpture with trickling waters. Laurel Falls is a great hike if you don’t want to stay in the cold for very long, but pack your warm hiking clothes if you are game for the 5.4-mile roundtrip trek with a gain of over 1,500 feet in elevation, because the payoff for Rainbow Falls trail is another mesmerizing frozen waterfall and serene snow-covered boulder fields.
While Clingmans Dome is closed to motor vehicles during the winter, these high elevations see plenty of snow, up to 72 inches from December to March, great for breaking out those skis or snowshoes! The trek is 15 miles roundtrip, but the entire return venture is downhill, cutting the time by more than half for skiers. This snowy adventure has an incredible payoff, with panoramic wintry views of the Smoky Mountains without the heavy crowds of the summer season, due to the popularity and easy accessibility, and panoramic mountain scenery from the highest point of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, resting 6,643 feet above sea level. On clear days, visitors can see up to 100 miles or snowy, majestic mountain peaks rolling on and on beyond the horizon.
Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snow Tubing in Ober Gatlinburg
While the mild temperatures of a Southern winter exist in the valley city of Gatlinburg nestled below the majestic mountains, simply take the Aerial Tramway to the top of Ober Gatlinburg and be transported to a winter wonderland! As the area’s only ski resort, Ober is a popular stop for those searching for good slopes to ski, snowboard, and tube without coordinating the travel plans to expensive areas in Colorado, California, and other premier western ski resorts. In between cozy nights in your budget-friendly cabin, learn to slide down the snowy slopes in style from certified instructors. Gear and outerwear are available to rent, so no need to find space in the car or pay extra baggage fees at the airport to pack your own! Snow tubing is awesome fun for the whole family and great for groups visiting the Smoky Mountains during holiday reunions, family getaways, or large group retreats. Race down the icy lanes without any snow sport experience whatsoever. If your Smoky Mountain cabin is closer to Pigeon Forge, head over to Indoor Snow Tubing to slide down some snowy lanes in a snow tube, year around!
From late November to early February, the Smoky Mountain cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg transform into an incredible holiday utopia with millions of lights, parades, and events. On any night, visitors can take a tour on the Pigeon Forge Trolley of the hundreds of Christmas light creations that embody everything Smoky Mountains and yuletide joy. This boisterous holiday extravaganza kicks off in late November with multiple parades in all 3 cities along with a mouthwatering chili cookoff to pair divinely with the cooler weather.
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas promises lively theatrical shows, hypnotic caroling, and a nightly Parade of Many Colors with appearances by the famous white-bearded man, himself, Santa Claus. Make this a holiday to remember for a lifetime with your family and friends and experience the magic of Winterfest and the most magical time of year in the Smoky Mountains.
Now you know: there is never a bad time to visit the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains! Book your cozy, amenity-packed Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg cabin and enjoy nights of cuddling by the fire and warm, bubbly hot tubs after fun-filled days exploring the Smoky Mountains during wintertime!