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Winter in the Smoky Mountains offers a serene and picturesque escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The snow-covered landscapes and crisp mountain air create a breathtaking backdrop for a variety of activities and events that will make your winter getaway truly unforgettable. In this post, we explore the best winter adventures, accommodations, events, and essential tips to ensure an unforgettable trip to the Smokies.

Weather conditions can be very extreme. Sometimes during Christmas it is sunny and 70 degrees, whereas other years it can be in the negative temperatures with snow and ice storms. While the cold temperatures can require appropriate planning and bundling up with winter clothing, there are far fewer crowds than during the rest of the year. It is the most Christmas spirit-filled place you can find on the East Coast with the beautiful mountains covered in snow. Many businesses offer Christmas activities, and it is a great place to shop for loved ones while enjoying Christmas-themed lodging and stores. Not to mention, the shorter lines and more availability for sightseeing and tours is always a plus!

a snowy winter scene on a road in the smoky mountains

Things to do near the Smoky Mountains in the Winter

Best Winter Hikes in the Smokies

While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its exceptional hiking trails, winter adds an extra layer of charm. Snow-dusted trails create a unique experience. While some trails are closed or difficult to access, they are less crowded! Additionally, with no leaves on the tree-covered mountains, you can see a lot more than what is normally covered with foliage. A few top winter hikes include:

  • Alum Cave Trail: A moderate trail leading to Alum Cave Bluffs, providing stunning winter views.
  • Rainbow Falls Trail: Hike to Rainbow Falls for a unique frozen waterfall experience.
  • Laurel Falls Trail: Enjoy an easy walk to the famous Laurel Falls, which looks enchanting in winter.
laurel falls trail in smoky mountains national park during the winter time

Ziplining in Pigeon Forge

While many of the scenic drives and outdoor activities close during winter months, CLIMB Works stays open year-round to allow visitors to experience the fun in all seasons. Many visit during spring, summer, and fall, but few have experienced the magic of winter. The majority of guests that do zipline in the winter are returning customers. They say it feels like a whole new experience, seeing different backdrops and views compared to the green-colored forest floor. An interesting fact that few may know is that you can see a lot further down with no leaves on the trees. It feels more extreme seeing all the way to the ground that would normally be covered up by leaves 80+ feet below. Ziplining in the winter is a thrilling experience that offers a fresh perspective of the Smokies. Fly high above the snow-covered treetops and experience the Smokies like never before. Ziplining in Pigeon Forge in the winter adds an extra thrill to your adventure. With options like CLIMB Works, you can take in the stunning winter vistas while soaring through the air. 

2 photo collage of winter ziplining at climbworks gatlinburg: 1 of people walking across a snowy suspension bridge, the other of a person zipline through a snow covered trees in the smoky mountains

A Scenic Winter Drive on Cades Cove Loop

Take a leisurely drive through Cades Cove to witness the winter wonderland and possibly spot wildlife in their natural habitat.

Snow Sports near Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing for snow enthusiasts. Pigeon Forge Snow has great tubing, actual snow they make inside, and plenty other fun games. Rowdy Bear also has a very fun tubing hill open year-round.

Tours and Tasting at a Moonshine Distillery

Warm up with a visit to Ole Smoky Moonshine, where you can tour the distillery and enjoy moonshine tastings.

Cozy Accommodations

Choosing the perfect place to stay is an essential part of having a magical winter experience in the Smoky Mountains. With so many charming towns in the area, here are a few of our favorites to help you decide:

Gatlinburg: Consider staying at the charming Chalet Village with cozy cabins and beautiful mountain views.

Pigeon Forge: The Inn at Christmas Place offers a magical holiday experience with Christmas decor year-round. Across the street, there is an enormous store filled with Christmas gifts and Christmas decor. If you don’t get the chance to stay during winter, they are open year-round.

Sevierville: Wilderness at the Smokies Waterpark Resort provides family-friendly indoor water fun – perfect for a winter getaway.

Embrace the Spirit of the Season with Winter Events in the Smokies

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas: Dollywood transforms into a winter wonderland with millions of lights, festive shows, and seasonal treats. 

Wilderness Wildlife Week: Attend free seminars and workshops on wildlife, culture, and history at this informative event.

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland: Drive through a mesmerizing light show synchronized to holiday music at the Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium.

Check the local calendars and events because many businesses offer Christmas-themed parties and activities for the entire family. There is never a dull moment in the Smokies! Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville have something going on every day.

Ensure a Hassle-Free Visit with These Pro Tips for Your Winter Trip

  1. Road Closures: Check the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website for up-to-date road closures due to winter weather conditions. Some of the scenic roads close seasonally around Thanksgiving and don’t open up until late February/early March.
  2. Park Information: Be aware of visitor center hours and the availability of amenities during the winter season. Check out their website for timely information and updates.
  3. Layer Up: Dress in layers, as temperatures can vary significantly between the valley and the mountaintops.
  4. Plan Ahead: Reserve accommodations, tours, and event tickets in advance, especially during peak holiday periods. Many of the activities and tours that stay open year-round have limited availability and unique winter hours because of the amount of daylight and low temperatures.

With this comprehensive guide, your winter adventure in the Smoky Mountains promises to be a memorable experience. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a fan of winter events, or simply seeking a cozy retreat, this picturesque destination has something to offer every traveler. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try ziplining in the cold winter air! So, bundle up and get ready to make the most of the Smokies in the wintertime! There is nowhere like the Smoky Mountains in winter!

This image portrays The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Smoky Mountains in the Winter by CLIMB Works.

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