January is a peaceful time to visit the Smoky Mountains and the surrounding areas of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville in Tennessee. Especially after the New Year and Christmas crowds have dissipated.
You can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Smoky Mountain Winterfest sans the traffic (at least on the weekdays).
But be warned, because January is one of our slowest months of the year, some area attractions, theaters and restaurants may revert to a limited winter schedule or close entirely in early January, like Dollywood and Shadrack’s, for the remainder of the season.
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Things to do in the Smoky Mountains in January
Below, you will find a list of local events happening throughout the area. Cities covered include Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Kodak, Sevierville and Townsend.
Some of our personal recommendations include sightseeing at Anakeesta (but be aware of Anakeesta’s limited operating hours in January), skiing and ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg and visiting with the penguins at Ripley’s Aquarium.
Suggested activities inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park include seeing some wildlife at the drivable Cades Cove Loop and hiking either Laurel Falls or Grotto Falls (by way of Trillium Gap Trail), both of which feature beautiful waterfalls.
Also, be sure to take in a bit of bluegrass at one of our many live music venues (available on select nights). You can usually find live music at the local Hard Rock Cafe, Ole Red, Puckett’s, The Listening Room and Smoky Mountain Brewery (schedules may vary).
Be sure to click on the “details” button for additional information about each event.
Weather in the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg in January
We won’t beat around the bush here – January is typically the coldest month of the year in the Smokies.
Temperatures usually range from the mid-40s to the high-20s. Ice and snow flurries are probable, especially in the higher elevations.
Average snowfall in January is usually between 2-4 inches.
If you’re planning on renting a cabin, bring a front- or all-wheel drive vehicle if possible and be sure to stash some emergency groceries, bottled water and snacks just in case you get snowed in.
And don’t forget – it tends to rain quite a bit in the Smokies. In fact, you’ll probably see more rain than snow during your trip. Pack an umbrella and warm ponchos for good measure.
What should you wear in the Smoky Mountains in January?
You’ll want to wear plenty of layers and pack warm clothes when visiting the Smokies in January. The air is cold. The wind can be harsh and rain can feel piercing.
Bring long rain-friendly winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves, thick socks and shoes with decent tread in case of ice.
How busy is Gatlinburg in January? Crowd sizes in the Smokies
The Smokies and the surrounding areas are popular tourist attractions pretty much year-round.
However, January is one of our lesser crowded months, largely due to the Dollywood being closed in January and February and the sometimes uncomfortably cold temperatures.
Even Anakeesta, another popular area theme park, switches to a limited operating schedule during the months of January and February.
In fact, weekdays in January are probably the only time you can really walk through downtown Gatlinburg mid-week without feeling claustrophobic, or drive down the Parkway at the posted speed limit.
But weekends are another story entirely. Weekends will still draw plenty of visitors and crowds. Albeit, slightly smaller crowds than you might experience during the summer.
Martin Luther King Day in Gatlinburg, the Smokies
MLK Day, aside from New Year’s Day, is one of the most popular holidays in the Smokies in January.
Each year, marchers gather in downtown Sevierville to honor the civil rights leader and his legacy. And the annual MLK Day Parade can be seen making its way down Court Avenue, Bruce and Commerce Streets in Sevierville.
Most major attractions, even those otherwise operating on weekend-only schedules, usually remain open for the long weekend.
Are you planning an upcoming trip to the Smokies in January? Let us know in the comments below.
If you’re a local attraction that would like to add an event to our calendar, please contact our editorial team.