When to Visit Gatlinburg TN: The Best Time for a Vacation

DATE : June 16, 2018

A scenic photo of Gatlinburg TN and the mountains.

If you’re still deciding when to visit Gatlinburg TN, you’re not alone! People frequently call our vacation specialists to ask when the best time to travel to the Smoky Mountains is. Truth be told, there is no single “best time” for a Gatlinburg getaway; it all depends on what you want to see and do during your trip. To help you choose the perfect dates for your unique interests, the Bearskin Lodge has put together a guide to vacationing in Gatlinburg throughout the year.

Peak Season in Gatlinburg: June 15 - August 15

The famous Gatlinburg Strip.

Unsurprisingly, summer is the most popular time of the year to visit Gatlinburg. With the kids out of school, it’s much easier to find a time to gather the whole family and head to the mountains. Of course, Gatlinburg boasts spectacular summer weather, with average highs in the mid-80s and lows around 60.

July 4th is an especially great time to vacation in Gatlinburg, as our Smoky Mountain city hosts a variety of annual patriotic events including the First Independence Day Parade in the Nation, a River Raft Regatta, and a breathtaking fireworks display.

Another highlight of visiting Gatlinburg in the summer is Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales. This summerlong celebration brings talented musicians and storytellers to downtown Gatlinburg for a series of free performances every evening beginning at 6 p.m.

Fall Foliage in Gatlinburg

Beautiful fall colors in Gatlinburg TN.

If you’re planning an autumn vacation, the timing of the fall foliage is an important factor to consider as you decide when to visit Gatlinburg TN. Each year, the Smokies come alive with brilliant yellow, red, and orange leaves that cascade down the mountains. While it can be hard to predict exactly when the foliage will be at its best, the following guidelines generally hold true:

In the upper elevations of the mountains, the leaves typically start changing in late September and the beginning of October .

In the lower elevations of the Smokies, the leaves usually reach their peak during the last two weeks of October. The first week of November is often a great time to visit as well.

The month of October is actually considered a second peak season in Gatlinburg because millions of visitors come to see the gorgeous leaves each year.

Holiday Celebrations in Gatlinburg

Fun Christmas lights in Gatlinburg TN.

The holiday season is another popular time to visit Gatlinburg. In early November, the city officially kicks off the season with a Chili Cookoff, a culinary competition showcasing the area’s very best homemade chili. At the end of the event, the city flips the switch for Gatlinburg’s 3 million Winter Magic Lights, which remain on through the end of January.

Depicting classic Christmas images, Smoky Mountain wildlife, and other heartwarming scenes, Gatlinburg’s LED lights are truly a sight to behold. Visitors can even take a trolley tour of the lights for just $5 per rider!

Other highlights of the holiday season in Gatlinburg include the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, which takes place in early December, and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in downtown Gatlinburg.

Wildflowers in Gatlinburg

Stunning red wildflowers.

Springtime in Gatlinburg is all about the wildflowers! During the spring months, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is absolutely filled with beautiful blooms. With over 1,500 types of flowers in the mountains, it’s no wonder the Smokies are sometimes called “Wildflower National Park.” Here is a quick look at some of the stunning flowers you can see in the spring:

  • April (peak wildflower season): Violets, Yellow Mandarin, Wild Geranium, Dutchman’s Breeches, Purple Phacelia, White Trillium
  • May: Blue Phlox, Umbrella Leaf, Lady’s Slippers, May-apple, Painted Trillium, Foamflower
  • June: Goat’s Beard, Sundrops, Galax, Yellow Star Grass, Woodland Bluets, Wood Sorrel, Speckled Wood Lily

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg

Two Queen beds at the Bearskin Lodge in Gatlinburg TN.

Now that you know when to visit Gatlinburg TN, it’s time to start planning your vacation! Located right on River Road, the Bearskin Lodge is steps away from all of the best things to see and do in town. Offering garage parking, private balconies with beautiful views, an outdoor swimming pool, a lazy river, and the comfiest beds in town, our hotel has everything you need for an incredible vacation. To book your getaway, browse our selection of Gatlinburg hotel rooms!