Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide range of activities for visitors twelve months of the year. A moderate climate and plenty of elbow room make the park a favorite get-away for millions of people annually. Many visitors are now taking advantage of the reduced crowds and subtle beauty of the late fall, winter, and early spring months. Some prior planning and weather-wise clothing will help ensure an enjoyable visit during any time of the year.
When planning a trip in the park, it is helpful to keep in mind that elevations in the park range from 800 feet to 6,643 feet and that the topography can drastically affect local weather. Temperatures can easily vary 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit from mountain base to top, and clear skies lower down do not guarantee equally pleasant weather at higher elevations. Rainfall averages 55 inches per year in the lowlands to 85 inches per year at Clingmans Dome. Information on current weather conditions is available by calling (865) 436-1200.
March through May: Spring, the beginning of the long and varied blooming season, brings with it unpredictable weather. Changes occur rapidly— sunny skies can yield to snow flurries in a few hours. March is the month with the most radical changes; snow can fall at any time during the month, particularly in the higher elevations. Temperatures in the lower elevations have a mean high of 61 degrees. Low temperatures, which are often below freezing, have a mean of 42 degrees. By mid-April the weather is usually milder. Daytime temperatures often reach the 70s and occasionally the 80s. Below freezing temperatures at night are uncommon in the lower elevations but still occur higher up. April averages over four inches of rain, usually in the form of afternoon showers. May is warmer, with daytime highs in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 40s and 50s. May rainfall averages about 4 1/2 inches.
June through August: This is the time to catch the spectacular shows of flame azalea and rhododendron. Yet, summer in the Smokies means heat, haze, and humidity. Afternoon showers and thunderstorms are common. Temperatures increase through the period with July and August afternoon highs in the 90s in the lower elevations. Evening lows are usually comfortable with readings in the 60s and 70s. In the higher elevations, the weather is much more pleasant. On Mount Le Conte (6,593'), no temperature above 80 degrees has ever been recorded.
September through mid-November: Clear skies and cooler weather signal the onset of the fall color season. Warm days alternate with cool nights. Daytime highs are usually in the 70s and 80s during September, falling to the 50s and 60s in early November. The first frosts often occur in late September. By November, the lows are usually near freezing. This is the driest period of the year with only occasional rain showers. In the higher elevations, snow is a possibility by November.
Mid-November through February: Winter in the Smokies is generally moderate, but extremes in weather do occur, especially with an increase in elevation. It is not unusual to have warm temperatures in the low elevations and snow in the higher areas. About half the days in the winter have high temperatures of 50 degrees or more. Highs occasionally even reach the 70s. Most nights have lows at or below freezing. In the low elevations, snowfalls of more than one inch occur 3-5 times per year. Snow falls more frequently in the higher mountains, and up to two feet can fall during a storm. January and February are the months when one is most likely to find snow in the mountains.
Look Rock webcam
Located on the western edge of the park at mid elevation, this webcam offers views of Mount Le Conte, Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove. Click on the image to see the current view from the webcam.
Please note that the photo at left is an archived image. Click for a current view from the webcam.