Winter

Does it snow in Tennessee? What months does it snow?

Winter is coming.

For many, a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in the winter months means an opportunity to see snow in the mountains.

But actually finding snow can be tricky.

Does it snow in Tennessee?

At the lower elevations, snow is usually a rare treat, falling in significant amounts only a handful of times each winter.

If you’re coming to the Smokies to really see snow, you’ll just have to get lucky. And if you do arrive when it’s snowing, I suggest you bring milk, bread and toilet paper with you.

My people are hoarders and have been caught in just enough unexpected blizzards that we will NOT be caught without the essentials ever again.

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snow covered cades cove road in the smoky mountains
Snow is rare in Tennessee, but it is more likely in higher elevations. Pictured: Cades Cove during a frosty morning (photo by Betty Shelton/shutterstock.com)

Which part of Tennessee does it snow?

In short, you’re more likely to see snow in higher elevations, often up to the month of April.

According to the National Park Service, “at higher elevations, the climate is significantly cooler than in the surrounding lowlands, and the mountain peaks receive much more snow.”

At nearly a mile high, Newfound Gap (elevation 5,046 feet) receives an average of 69 inches of snowfall during the winter season.

When winter precipitation is falling, however, travel conditions can quickly become very hazardous in the park.

Newfound Gap Road (US-441) and other park roads are often temporarily closed during winter storms due to snow and ice on the roadways.

Before visiting the park in winter, you may want to call (865) 436-1200 for road closure and weather information. When you hear a voice, press 1, then press 1 for road information or 2 for a weather forecast.

snow hiking trail in the great smoky mountains with tall trees on both sides
The Big Creek hiking trail near Hartford looks picturesque when it snows (photo by Wildnerdpix/shutterstock.com)

What months does it snow in Tennessee?

January and February are the months that you will most likely see snow in the Tennessee mountains.

But of course, weather can always be unpredictable.

In 2020, a Christmas snowstorm left thousands of people in Sevier County without power for days.

Generally, winter in Tennessee falls between mid-November through February, but snow has been known to fall in October and even in the months of March and April as well. Pinpointing the most likely month to see snow is tricky.

While most of the winter is generally moderate, extremes do occur.

If you’re traveling during the winter months, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

Read Also: Does it snow in Gatlinburg? 8 tips on what to do when it snows

Where can I find snow in the Smoky Mountains?

If you’re looking for snow, there are ways to better your chances.

But here are a few quick disclaimers.

Remember not to take chances on icy, mountainous roads. Let’s be clear, seeing snow up close and personal isn’t worth risking your own life or anyone else’s.

Be aware of the conditions before you set out on your adventure.

Secondly, if you’re in higher elevations, conditions can change quickly. Keep your head on a swivel.

Without further ado, grab your sweaters and winter coats. Here are some of the fun things to do and see so you can experience snow in the Smoky Mountains.

1. Visit Hartford (Elevation: 1,263 feet)

Located right at the North Carolina border in Cocke County, Hartford is the last community in Tennessee as you ascend into the mountains on I-40.

At 1,263 feet, Hartford isn’t especially high up, but if an inhabited community in Tennessee is going to have snow, tiny Hartford – located at exit 447 – is usually the first.

Hartford isn’t necessarily the best place if you want to get out and really explore the snow, but if the goal is to just see it, maybe let the kids make a snowball or two without throwing winter chains on your tires, then Hartford is the spot.

Because of its proximity to I-40, you don’t really have to travel a lot of winding mountain roads to get there, and the Interstates are usually the best-maintained roads we have during winter weather.

Just don’t stray too far off the exit without the proper gear, such as a jacket, a hat and some gloves.

national park sign in snowy weather
The average chance of rainfall, snow, sleet or hail is about 30% each day in December (photo by JenLShoots/shutterstock.com)

2. Stop at a rest area or welcome center

Now, if you want a fairly accessible place to get out and harmlessly play in some snow, let me suggest something a little off the map: Rest areas and welcome centers.

As I said before, the best-maintained roads in the mountains during a snow event are the Interstates.

If I wanted to take my small kids up into the mountains in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see snow, I’d head for the rest areas and welcome centers on either side of the state line.

In North Carolina, a good spot is at mile marker 10 on I-40. It’s the Waterville Lake Rest Area heading west and the Welcome Center heading east.

I consider the views from the rest area to be far superior, and there’s plenty of room, a picnic area and more where you can let little ones play.

At 10 miles into North Carolina, the elevation should be significantly higher than Hartford, and the snow should be heavier.

Be smart, however. This is still an Interstate going up, up, up into the mountains.

There aren’t a lot of opportunities to turn around.

I’m pretty sure there’s a divider between east and westbound lanes, but let me stress the following: Do NOT try to turn around using the emergency access on the Interstate.

max patch field in snow with fence
Max Patch is a beautiful area, but it can be hard to access. Proceed with caution (photo by Kendall/stock.adobe.com)

3. Check out Max Patch (Elevation: 4,616 feet)

Now, we’re talking about trick accessibility. Do not attempt this without a four-wheel drive and an experienced driver.

I’m sure the people who live in the Rockies wouldn’t blanch at driving to Max Patch in the snow, but Southerners – and even flat-landed Northerners – should approach with caution.

Max Patch, a bald on the Appalachian Trail, is one of the true wonders of the mountains, just across the state lines.

It’s beautiful anytime, but with medium to light snow? It’s a winter wonderland.

But it’s a wonderland that’s hard to reach. At 4,616 feet in elevation, Max Patch is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers some of the most spectacular views.

I would not recommend going to Max Patch from the Tennessee side in the winter, I would definitely take I-40 into North Carolina and come in that way.

Read Also: How do you access Max Patch NC? Tips on hiking, wildlife, what to wear

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4. Visit Anakeesta (Elevation: 600 feet)

Gatlinburg, in general, with the European chalet feel is great in the snow. And, with its sweeping views, Anakeesta is a great place to take in the snow with a nice warm, or adult beverage, have a nice meal and play at the best parts of being a ski bum without all the physical effort of skiing.

Fair warning though, since Anakeesta is accessible right to the heart of Gatlinburg, there’s a fair chance a few thousand of your closest friends will have the same idea.

Get thee to a mountaintop rocking chair early.

Remember to check Tripster for discounts.

Snow tubing
Rowdy Bear offers snow tubing in the colder months (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

5. Go snow tubing at Pigeon Forge Snow or Rowdy Bear

Look, I spent my boyhood days in Northern Indiana, where winters are hard, cold and gray. Minus-75 degree wind chills? Oh yeah, they had ‘em.

But we also had snow and plenty of it.

Snowball fights, sledding, snowmen, snow angels, the whole thing. It was just part of life as were sledding-related injuries.

During my reckless youth, we went midnight sledding in a neighbor’s field on a moonless night. It was a great hill. We built a ramp. I crashed into the icy snow face-first. It hurt for a second, but we kept going.

When we got home, exhausted, we turned on the lights to see that the skin was shaved off my face and I looked something like a zombie. I hadn’t realized it because my face was frozen and I couldn’t feel anything.

Ideally, I want my kids to have all the fun that comes with snow but as little of the headache and hassle of it for me as possible. That’s where places like Pigeon Forge Snow and Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark come in.

I can take my kids sledding on a perfect hill with little danger, which yes, removes some of the fun for older kids, but also limits the chances of a mid-vacation trip to the hospital or shaving the skin off your face.

Pigeon Forge Snow even has a snow room where kids can romp and play and get a feel for the white stuff. Snowball fights are not permitted, but you can get every other part of your snowy fix year-round.

a woman snow tubes at Ober in Gatinburg
Snow tubing at Ober is one of the most popular winter activities in the Smokies (media photo courtesy of Ober Mountain)

6. Ski or snow tube at Ober Mountain

Here we have the same concept as Pigeon Forge Snow but with a different execution.

Whereas Pigeon Forge Snow is a quick hit, in and out, here’s-some-fake-snow-let’s-all-enjoy-it, Ober is an immersive experience and one of the few ski resorts in the Smokies.

It’s a mountain-top village with shops and restaurants and tubing and skiing when temperatures allow.

There’s also year-round ice skating which I am a fan of in concept but not necessarily in practice.

Ober is a great place to experience winter sports, though the conditions have to be right for skiing. The tubing hill is serviced by a different mechanism and is open when the skiing hills cannot be.

While snow is guaranteed year-round at Pigeon Forge Snow, Ober isn’t able to offer the white stuff in the same way. But when it can, Ober has much more diverse options.

You can also access it by the Aerial Tramway which is cool and allows dads to make jokes by triumphantly singing funicular in operatic fashion like Andrea Bocelli.

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Do you have any snow tips when visiting Tennessee in the wintertime? Let us know in the comments.

Christmas in Gatlinburg: 13 festive things to do in the Smokies

Fresh snow on mountains, moonshine with cinnamon; bright Christmas lights and warm homemade mittens … these are a few of my favorite things!

If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in the winter season, you’re in for a real treat. In my opinion, nobody does Christmas like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

November and December are some of the best months to visit, with the city’s lights shining so bright that Rudolph himself would approve.

If you’re looking for some of the best things to do for Christmas in Gatlinburg this year, here are some of my favorite things to do in city – and the surrounding areas – for the holidays.

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kids sit on santa's lap at crave golf
Santa will be visiting Crave Mini Golf in Pigeon Forge on Dec. 10 and 20 from 6-9 pm (media photo courtesy of Crave Mini Golf)

13. Enjoy some festive mini golf

Whether or not the temperatures outside are looking a bit frightful, you can always enjoy a festive round of mini golf at the indoor/outdoor Crave Golf Club.

This year, the candy-themed course will deck the halls in garland, wreaths and 30,000 Christmas lights.

Santa will also be visiting on select days in December.

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santa in patriotic outfit during parade
Enjoy the annual Gatlinburg Christmas parade if you’re in town on Dec. 2 (archive photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

12. See a Christmas parade

One of the best ways to kick off the season is by catching one of the area’s Christmas parades.

The Fantasy of Lights Parade is scheduled for Dec. 2, 2022 at 7:30, beginning at the Baskins Creek Bypass on East Parkway.

The Sevierville Christmas Parade will be on Dec. 3 at 11 am at the Historic Downtown area.

Read Also: 14 things to do for Winterfest Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg 2022

ole smoky with christmas decor at night in gatlinburg
Try some new seasonal flavors at Ole Smoky (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

11. Sample some ‘shine and wine

This time of year, I love allowing myself a jar of seasonal ‘shine.

My personal favorite is the Ole Smoky Shine Nog. It goes great with nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.

Also, be sure to try to check out Banana Pudding and Pumpkin Pie.

If you’re in downtown Gatlinburg, expect to pay about $5 for samples.

You won’t have to try too hard to find wineries or distilleries. Just walk the strip, and you’re bound to bump into one.

You can also book a tour with a professional guide if there’s room in your budget.

If you venture down to the Sevierville or Pigeon Forge area, it’s also a fun time of year to visit the Apple Barn Winery.

The Apple Barn is free to visit, but I still recommend tipping your servers.

Tanger Outlets in Sevierville
Tanger Outlets offers some of the best shopping in Sevier County (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

10. Do your holiday shopping

Whether you’re holiday shopping or trying to catch a few deals, winter is a great time to take advantage of area shopping centers.

In Gatlinburg, check out the unique shops around Baskins Square Mall and The Village Shops. There are plenty of specialty stores that are unique to the area.

Santa’s Claus-et is another great place to visit for the holiday season.

If you venture into Sevierville, you’ll find Tanger Outlets. It has several brand-name and designer outlet stores and has been one of my favorite places to shop in the area for years.

Be sure to pack your patience, though, because it can get a little crowded.

Of course, there’s also the Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, the South’s largest Christmas store, which has personalized items, trees and a wide variety of decor.

homemade wooden snowmen at a gatlinburg arts and crafts show
Shop from a selection of unique, homemade crafts in the Arts and Crafts Community (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

9. Explore the Arts and Crafts Community

The Smoky Mountains are well-known for their arts and crafts.

The Arts and Crafts Community showcases the talent of local artisans featuring weaving, candle making, silversmithing, pottery, leather making and more.

Shop where you see The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community logo to explore local talent and homemade goods or explore their 8-mile loop of artists and craftsmen.

Watch as they work their holiday magic or create your own masterpiece.

During the Christmas season, you can catch the Great Smoky Thanksgiving and Christmas Crafts Show from Nov. 22-Dec. 4, 2022. The show is free to attend.

Get your Christmas shopping done in one stop by shopping for unique jewelry, baskets, ornaments and more.

The area’s shows also become festive during the holiday season. Pictured: Christmas at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge (media photo courtesy of Lumberjack Feud)

8. See a Christmas-themed show

If you’re in Pigeon Forge, catch one of the area’s many themed shows.

Shows in the Smokies offer a variety of entertainment options featuring comedians, live animals, singers, comedy, dancers and more. 

Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirate’s Voyage, The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, Country Tonight and Lumberjack Feud offer Christmas-themed shows this time of year.

Note that the Stampede, Pirates and Hatfield and McCoy are dinner shows. Come prepared with either an empty or full tummy, as situations apply.

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A penguin at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
See what the penguins are up to at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium)

7. Visit a museum attraction

Another way to stay warm is by visiting an indoor museum attraction.

Specifically, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is beautiful to visit this time of year since they get all decked out (pun intended) for the holidays.

I also enjoy visiting Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg this time of year. And, if you buy combo tickets, you can make your vacation dollars go even further and visit multiple attractions.

Lift at Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Mountain offers the only skiing and snowboarding opportunities in Tennessee (photo by Jaclyn Torrente/shutterstock.com)

6. Go snow tubing, ice skating or skiing

While the mountains can be quite cold in the winter, snow can be hit or miss. However, for those hoping to see some of the fluffy white stuff, you still have a few options.

Ober Mountain (formerly Ober Gatlinburg) is also a popular place to visit in the winter months. Ober has traditional snow tubing, year-round indoor ice skating, and most notably, Tennessee’s only ski and snowboard slopes.

If you hope to go snow tubing at Ober, be sure to book online in advance. Slots fill up quickly.

Don’t forget to take a scenic ride on the Aerial Tramway while you’re there.

Venturing further down into Pigeon Forge and Sevierville will also offer some more options.

Pigeon Forge Snow is an indoor snow park where you are guaranteed to see snow each and every day. The snow is 100% pure snow, made fresh every day of the year.

Also, Wilderness at the Smokies is offering ice skating from their converted outdoor wave pool for both resort guests and the general public.

Rowdy Bear Ridge is also offering snow tubing this year at its Pigeon Forge location.

gatlinburg skybridge with christmas lights
The SkyBridge is stunning this time of year at SkyLift Park (media photo courtesy of SkyLift Park)

5. Visit the SkyBridge at SkyLift Park

The Lights Over Gatlinburg event at SkyLift Park is one of the most breathtaking sights to see in the Smokies.

The event runs through Jan. 31 and features decorated Christmas trees and a 300-ft tunnel of lights.

It’s a truly magical experience. Learn more on the website.

santa and mrs claus review the nice list at anakeesta
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be visiting Anakeesta this season on select dates (media photo courtesy of Anakeesta)

4. Enjoy Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas

Anakeesta is one of the top attractions in downtown Gatlinburg.

It is stunningly beautiful this time of year with its Christmas decorations and offers brilliant views of the city below from high elevations.

Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter celebration features a village of twinkling arctic lights around Firefly Village, Vista Gardens and throughout the 70-acre outdoor mountain-top park.

Santa’s sleigh will also be landing on Anakeesta Mountain on select dates throughout November and December. 

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a lighted photo op christmas wreath at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas event provides several photo ops for the family (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

3. Visit Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

Dollywood pulls out all the stops when decorating for the holidays, with the park completely covered in lights.

Glacier Ridge, one of Dollywood’s newer expansions, returns with its Northern Lights display, a 50-ft Christmas tree and a symphony of lights in the plaza.

Throughout the park, you’ll find special crafts, holiday favorites (I recommend the cinnamon bread) and a variety of holiday shows.

The Dollywood Express is also a fun way to enjoy the sights in the park. (Be sure to bundle up — it does get cold in East Tennessee.)

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a christmas fountain with a lit tree
Christmas lights and holiday decor will be featured throughout the city of Gatlinburg (photo by MoneyTy/shutterstock.com)

2. See the Christmas lights in Gatlinburg

The Great Smoky Mountains become a true winter wonderland during the Winterfest Celebration, a Smoky Mountain tradition featuring more than 6 million holiday lights throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Take a driving tour or walking tour around the city of Gatlinburg.

For even more lights, be sure to check out Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland further down in Sevierville.

christmas tree inside cabin in gatlinburg
One of the best ways to celebrate the season is cozying up in a warm cabin with the family (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. Rent a Smoky Mountain cabin

Renting a large cabin in the Smokies has become a Christmas tradition in my family.

We invite our friends and family and all go in together on a huge cabin, where we enjoy board games, drinks, each other’s company and amazing sights as we sip hot cocoa.

With the breathtaking tree-top views, cozy fireplaces and hot tubs contrasted with the crisp mountain air, it’s enough to keep you from wanting to venture anywhere else.

Enjoy amenities the whole family will enjoy. For example, play “It’s a Wonderful Life” in your theater room.

Are you celebrating Christmas in Gatlinburg or the surrounding areas this year? What are your plans this holiday season in TN?

Let us know in the comments!