December 12, 2023

Don’t let a little chilly weather keep you from exploring the beauty of the Smokies! The winter season can actually be one of the best times of year to experience the magic of the national park, so simply dress up in layers and get ready to enjoy all the popular hiking trails without the crowds! Here are the top 4 reasons why winter can be the best time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. Fewer Crowds Throughout the Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park, with more than 12 visitors annually! If you have ever visited during the peak months in summer and fall, you’re probably familiar with busy hiking trails, heavy traffic and parking challenges! However, January and February sees the lowest attendance of the year with less than a third of the peak season crowds! This means that you can enjoy the most popular areas of the park without having to deal with traffic headaches or thousands of other hikers on the best trails!

2. Dramatic Winter Scenery

winter waterfall in the Smoky Mountains

Another one of the top reasons why winter can be the best time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park is because of the dramatic winter scenery! There is nothing like the breathtaking sight of the Smokies gently blanketed in snow, creating a dream for both photographers and fans of the great outdoors! You’ll also get to see beautiful and unique sights such as frozen waterfalls or icicles hanging from the trees! After just a short hike or two, don’t be surprised if winter turns out to be your favorite time to visit the park too!

3. Visitor Centers Open for Your Enjoyment

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to several excellent visitor centers that are open all year for your enjoyment! These facilities offer various exhibits, a bookstore and shop, public restrooms and the opportunity to speak with a park ranger! The Sugarlands Visitor Center makes an excellent first stop for those accessing the park from Gatlinburg TN, while the Cades Cove Visitor Center offers a convenient break along the halfway point of Cades Cove Loop Road! Finally, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee NC is an ideal stopping point for those entering the park’s South District!

4. Wide Variety of Cheap Accommodations Near the Park

camping in the winter in the woods

Since January and February is the low season in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find a wide variety of accommodations near the park at the lowest rates of the year! There are hundreds of cabin rentals throughout Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the surrounding area, many which offer amenities such as fully equipped kitchens, fireplaces and hot tubs! You’ll also find plenty of hotels and condos, ranging from your favorite hotel chains to family owned inns. There are even two campgrounds in the park that are open all winter, Cades Cove and Smokemont Campgrounds, for those who want to spend the night in a tent or RV!

Now that you know why winter can be the best time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to explore some amazing hiking trails without the crowds! Before heading out, be sure to check out these 4 clothing and gear tips for a winter hike in the Smokies!