The Smoky Mountains are a great destination year round, from the heat of July to the cold and snow of December. If you’re not sure what to bring at what time of year, don’t worry. Below, we’ve outlined the main things you’ll want or need depending on when you go.


There’s almost no end to the outdoor options in the Smoky Mountains. No matter what time of year you go, you can be prepared for maximum fun with these outdoor essentials:

•  A refillable water bottle to keep yourself hydrated whenever you’re outdoors and to cut down on plastic waste
•  Trail snacks, especially protein-rich ones such as nuts or trail mix
•  Appropriate footwear: hiking boots or shoes, sandals for stream crossings, and casual shoes for shopping and dining
•  Bug spray to keep the bugs away, especially if you’re sitting outside at night or spending long periods in the woods
•  A bathing suit for waterparks and rafting in the summer, and for indoor pools or cabin hot tubs in the cooler months
•  Sunscreen to protect from UV rays, even on cloudy days and in winter
•  Sunglasses
•  Binoculars for wildlife viewing
•  A camera, especially for the spring wildflowers and fall foliage changes
•  A flashlight, even if you’re not camping, for those longer hikes
•  A first-aid kit with disinfectant and bandages for cuts


Spring in the Smokies brings warmer weather in the daytime, but nights are still fairly cold, particularly in February and March. Layered clothing is key. You’ll want a t-shirt base with a sweater, as well as a jacket for nighttime or high elevations. In February and March, a winter coat and thick socks will still be necessary. Weather can change quickly in spring, so bring rain boots and a poncho or raincoat in case of sudden showers. Spring also sees more rainy days, and while there are lots of good indoor activities around, a board game or a deck of cards is a good idea too.


Summer nights might still be cool, but midday temperatures often reach the 90s in July and August. Shorts and t-shirts are a must. Wear long pants made from light-fabric to protect your legs if you go hiking. For going out at night, pack one sweatshirt or hoodie just in case it’s colder than usual. These also make it harder for nighttime bugs like mosquitoes to get to your skin. Lastly, the hot weather is a perfect time to cool off at a waterpark or go whitewater rafting. If you’re doing any water-related activities, bring clothes that will dry out quickly.


A Smoky Mountain fall is a lot like a Smoky Mountain summer, at least in the daytime. The trouble is, it’s more like winter at night. You’ll want to be ready for a wide range of temperatures. Warmer layers are better. Just like in spring, a t-shirt base with a sweater and light jacket is usually best. If you’re going later in the fall, you’ll want to bring a winter coat.


Winters in the Smokies involve moderate cold, wind, and snow. Layering is always good in the Smokies, but make the layers a bit warmer. A long-sleeve t-shirt, long johns, and wool socks make a good base for your winter outfits. For an outer layer, a winter coat is best, along with a warm hat and a scarf. Normal hiking footwear is fine for other seasons, but in winter you may want snow boots or even microspikes for good traction.

Packed and Ready to Go?

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Among the many ways to experience nature in the Smokies, wildflower blooms are one of the best. Every year in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the spectacular annual display starts off in late February with spring ephemerals and runs through the summer months into fall. Below are a few places a wildflower lover must see when it’s springtime in the Smokies.

The Sugarlands

The Sugarlands is a popular place for park visitors and the perfect beginning for a tour of Smoky Mountain wildflowers. The Old Sugarlands Trail and the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail are both easy to access, located not far from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Along these trails, you’ll find fringed phacelia and mayflower blanketing the forest floor in spring and early summer, with white trillium peeking through. Also in the area are bloodroot, spring beauty, and heal-all, to name a few.

Cove Hardwood Nature Trail

Cove Hardwood Self-Guided Nature Trail is one of the most highly recommended places for viewing gorgeous Smoky Mountain wildflowers. The trail loop begins just a little farther up Newfound Gap Road from the Sugarlands, at Chimneys Picnic Area. At the trailhead you’ll find brochures to guide you. The hike is not very strenuous, and the payoff is huge. March and April see large blooms of bloodroot and hepatica, while dwarf iris and several varieties of trillium come out in May and early summer.

Little River Trail

None of Smoky Mountain National Park’s 312 trails will have everything, but the Little River Trail is a solid introduction. From the trailhead in Elkmont Campground, the trail takes an easy upward slope along the Little River. Views of wildflowers along the trail are some of the best in the park. From mid-March through April, you’ll find violets, mayflower, rue anemone, dwarf cinquefoil, and stonecrop. Excellent opportunities for wildflower photography await you as well, with common sightings of exquisite beauties such as pink lady’s slipper.

Deep Creek

Another wildflower spot that won’t disappoint is Deep Creek. The whole area has appeal for the outdoor enthusiast, but for the wildflower viewer it is a paradise. Easy hikes along the Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails will take you past a diverse sampling of the Smokies’ 1,500 wildflower species. In spring, you can expect to see jack-in-the-pulpit, various bluets, wild geranium, and Solomon’s seal, to name a few.

These are just some handpicked favorites from Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s hundreds of amazing wildflower spots. There is also the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a late-April festival that celebrates the Smokies’ stunning array of wildflower blooms, during which you can check out these locations and countless others.

Plan Your Spring Getaway

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