Does it snow in Gatlinburg? 8 snow tips in the Smokies

Snow on the parkway in downtown gatlinburg

While snow rarely accumulates more than 2-3 inches in the lower elevations, Gatlinburg does experience significant snowfall from time to time (photo by AlejandroCarnicero/shutterstock.com)

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A white Christmas is rare in Sevier County, but it can happen.

For example, a couple of short years ago, the county had a snow storm on Christmas Day, which created serious problems for tourists and residents alike.

After the winter storm, a power outage affected tens of thousands of people, leading to car accidents and stranded motorists on icy roads.

Gatlinburg is a charming mountain town that is especially popular to visit during the holiday season. But winter weather events can complicate plans for tourists and locals alike.

So, even though you won’t be likely to see much snow when you visit the Smokies, we thought it might be helpful to talk about something that doesn’t always happen often around these parts and what to do when it does.

TheSmokies.com

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What months does it snow in Gatlinburg TN?

Generally, you have a chance of seeing snow between November and early April. But the most likely months you will see snow is January and February.

Overall, snow is not common in the Smoky Mountains, but it does happen.

In fact, the weather usually doesn’t stay cold long enough for wildlife like black bears to fully hibernate in the Smoky Mountains.

When heavy snow does fall, it can usually derail plans and create treacherous road conditions.

You see, weather can be unpredictable, especially in East Tennessee. While you can expect temperatures in higher elevations to be much cooler compared to lower elevations, a deceivingly warm December day can still turn into a very cold winter night.

Read Also: When do black bears hibernate in Tennessee? Some never do, here’s why

newfound gap road in the winter
Newfound Gap typically receives around five feet of snow per year during the winter months (photo by Gregory Simpson/shutterstock.com)

What is the coldest month in Gatlinburg?

The coldest months in Gatlinburg tend to be January and February.

The weather forecast will start to reach the 40s around October. In November, the lows will often reach the 30s. But in January and February, the average lows are in the 20s.

On average, November and December have less snowfall than January and February.

Gatlinburg, TNHighLowMonthly precipitationMonthly snowfall
November (low elevations)61°F33°F3.4 inches0.7 inches
December (low elevations)52°F28°F4.5 inches1 inch
January (low elevations)51°F28°F4.8 inches2.3 inches
February (low elevations)54°F29°F4.8 inches2.9 inches
Source: NPS

What if I want to see snow in Gatlinburg?

If you want to see a real-life winter wonderland, you have some options. First of all, you have a better chance of seeing snow if you travel to higher elevations, where temperatures are cooler.

If all else fails, you can always visit an attraction with snow, like Ober Mountain (formerly known as Ober Gatlinburg), which has slopes of man-made snow where guest can try their hand at skiing or snowboarding. Also, the lift offers a great view of the Smokies.

So what do you do if you get caught in an unexpected snow storm in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? Here are 8 tips for avoiding a bad outcome in the snow:

Read Also: Does it snow in Tennessee? What months does it snow?

Stranded hiker in the snow
A winter storm in 2020 left some tourists stranded for days in the upper elevations (photo by Dr. Bill Ramsey)

8. Have a backup light and heat source

If weather conditions do get rough in the Smoky Mountains, it’s possible that you could lose power, as many folks found out in Christmas of 2020.

It’s a good idea to pack a backup light source, such as a flashlight or battery-operated lantern.

And better yet, bring a backup heat source, just in case.

Know if your cabin has a gas or wood-burning fireplace. You may also want to consider a battery-powered portable heater, extra blankets or a portable power station.

snow covered cades cove road in the smoky mountains
Be sure to save your directions somewhere safe or print them out. Places like Cades Cove will not have any service (photo by Betty Shelton/shutterstock.com)

7. Print your directions

I know, you’re probably scoffing at this. Printing out directions feels so … 1990s.

But, GPS service, even on a good day, is spotty up in the mountains. You don’t want to be lost on a mountain with a car full of screaming kids in the backseat with an impending snowstorm in the forecast.

Get good directions before you start your journey, and have them on-hand before you start your drive.

Whether you print them out, take screenshots, or make hand-written notes, don’t rely on the internet to make it to your destination.

You can thank me later.

groceries sitting on doorstep
Depending on where your cabin is, you may be able to stock up on some supplies through a delivery service (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

6. Stock up on groceries early, before your arrival

Anytime we rent a cabin way up in the mountains, we always pack the car with non-perishables before we start the journey.

Try to hit up the grocery store on your way up the mountain (before you arrive) and consider bringing an ice chest.

Our pre-cabin shopping list usually includes:

  1. Bottled water
  2. Travel soaps, shampoos and lotions
  3. Toilet paper
  4. Dish detergent (if you plan on cooking)
  5. Laundry detergent
  6. Food and snacks

As you pack and prep for meals, consider the possibility that you could lose power.

5. Keep a list of delivery services

Delivery service is hit or miss up in the mountains. If you can’t make it down the mountain, a delivery person may not be able to either.

But that being said, sometimes delivery folks are better equipped and more familiar with the roads.

Consider making a list of places that will deliver to your location. Even if road conditions aren’t an issue, it can still come in handy.

inside a large mountain cabin with high ceilings
If you’re renting a cabin, brush up on the cancellation policy. Above: The Roosevelt Lodge cabin by Parkside Cabin Rentals (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

4. Know your cancellation policy

Whether you’re renting a cabin or getting a hotel, always be familiar with the cancellation policy when you book your trip.

If your trip is approaching and the weather seems questionable, consider postponing for another time if you will be driving during bad conditions.

But either way, knowing that you have options can make you feel better about booking your trip.

3. Keep an eye on road closures

If you see conditions worsen, keep an eye out for road closures and current conditions.

“Some motorists chose to ignore warnings from local authorities and later had to be rescued,” said Walt Cross, chief of the Grassy Fork Volunteer Fire Department to the The Citizen Tribune after the Smokies winter storm.

“We set up cones to divert motorists but they chose to believe their GPS over us, and they drove around the cones. We are having to pull them out. If you are not from around here, don’t follow your GPS. Talk to local folks and follow their directions.”

Check with The National Park Service (NPS) for live updates. A good Twitter follow is Smokies Road Info.

Also, be aware that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have seasonal closures during this time of year.

A snowfall like this may happen once or twice per year (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

2. Prepare your car with tire chains or bring a 4WD

It’s not always necessary to have four-wheel drive when you visit the Smoky Mountains, but it can help.

And if you think there’s a chance it will snow during your visit, yes, you might want to consider bringing snow chains for your tires.

I will note here that some of these roads are scary even in dry conditions. These roads have steep inclines with very little room for error (and often no guard rails).

Even if you do have chains, remember that snow chains will not make you invincible when it comes to driving on mountainous ice, which brings us to our final tip …

1. When in doubt, go without

At the end of the day, no vacation or amount of money is worth compromising your safety. Please use the utmost caution if you’re thinking about being out and about on icy roads.

Have you seen a Smoky Mountain snow? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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