Craving a picturesque escape surrounded by colorful nature? Look no further than the Smoky Mountains in the spring!
A popular year-round destination in East Tennessee, the Great Smokies reveal a special charm as they shake off winter’s coat and come alive with vibrant spring blooms. Imagine lush hills covered in greenery, blossoming flowers in every color imaginable, roaring waterfalls, and wildlife galore.
As if all that weren’t enough to convince you, spring also ushers in several festivals in the Smokies! Needless to say, the Smoky Mountains in the spring set the scene for an unforgettable getaway.
In this guide, we’re sharing what to expect in this area in the springtime, where to stay, and of course, what to do. You’ll find seasonal activities for all kinds of travelers, whether you’re seeking relaxation, thrilling adventures, or family-friendly fun (a bit of everything!).
So, as winter transitions to spring, let’s start planning your trip to the Smokies!
Complete Guide to Visiting The Smoky Mountains in the Spring
We can’t rave enough about the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in the spring. BUT, having said that, there are some things to be aware of to make the most of your visit during this season.
Important Information About Spring in the Smoky Mountains
By far the most important factor is the weather. To put it very mildly, spring weather in the Smokies is wildly unpredictable.
With varying elevations and countless valleys, conditions can (& DO) change rapidly. Picture this: rain in Gatlinburg, sunshine in Sevierville, snowflakes falling in between, and high winds that close roads within the park. All at the same time. Within an hour, temperatures might also shift by 20 degrees.
March is the most unpredictable, with regular snow in the mountains. At lower elevations, expect average daytime temperatures in the 50s and near freezing overnight.
Moving into April and then May, temperatures steadily climb. Expect 70s and even low 80s during the day, and 40s and 50s overnight.
With the rising temperatures comes increased rain. April and May are quite rainy, but mostly in the afternoons.
To best prepare for the spring weather roller coaster, bring a variety of clothing. Keep a light rain jacket with you for unexpected showers, pack a heavier coat for cool mornings and nights, and bring layers you can easily add or remove.
Unlike the perpetually busy seasons of summer and fall, spring sees lighter crowds. Early on, anyway. As summer approaches, the crowds steadily increase.
It’s worth noting that mid- to late March is quite busy in the Smokies for spring break. If you’re hoping for some mountain tranquility, stick to very early March and early April.
Have a Plan B
With the unpredictable weather, be aware that roads and trails may temporarily close due to inclement weather or high winds. This is especially true in the national park.
As you plan your trip, consider some backup trails and activities, as well as alternate routes. Especially because cell service is spotty in many places throughout the Smokies, this proactive approach will spare you last-minute stress and scrambling.
Best Things to Do in The Smoky Mountains in the Spring
1. Chase Thundering Waterfalls
For many people, locals and visitors alike, one of the best things about the Smoky Mountains in the spring is all the activities that involve water. Thanks to snow melting in the mountains, rivers, creeks, and especially waterfalls are usually overflowing this time of year.
Amazingly, you don’t necessarily have to go on a big hike to see them. You can, of course, but there are plenty of accessible waterfalls in the Smokies.
Check out Meigs Falls, Cane Creek Twin Falls, and The Sinks, all of which you can see without even getting out of your car. Cliff Branch Falls is another great one, although it’s on the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains.
If you’re up for more of a hike, Fern Branch Falls, Laurel Falls, and Abrams Falls are especially impressive in the spring.
2. Bike Cades Cove
Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas in the national park. Filled with gorgeous scenery, wildlife, and historic sites, accessible all year long.
It really shines in the spring, and the best way to experience it is to get out and explore. There are plenty of Cades Cove hikes, but we recommend renting a bicycle.
Get one from Cades Cove Trading Company starting March 1st, then pedal your way around the 11-mile loop (you don’t have to do the whole thing). The shop rents adult and children’s bicycles for as little as one hour, up to 24 hours.
You can always bike the Cades Cove Loop, but most of the time there are also vehicles driving on it. However, on Wednesdays starting every May, the park closes the road to vehicle traffic. These are the busiest days for bike rentals!
Bike rentals are typically first come, first served, but the shop does take phone reservations for Wednesday rentals. Payment must be made in full, and bikes must be picked up by 7:00 am.
We recommend bringing your own bike and avoiding the line altogether! You can also start biking the loop earlier (6:00 am) and get an early start on the day (& the crowds). We visited Cades Cove on a Saturday and had a good hour to bike before the park started filling up with cars.
3. Attend Spring Festivals at Dollywood
Dollywood is famous for hosting over-the-top seasonal festivals. Spring in the Smoky Mountains is no different, with two huge ones running for multiple weeks.
- I Will Always Love You Music Festival (March 9 – April 14, 2024): Celebrates the art of songwriting and dives into the stories behind many of Dolly Parton’s biggest hit songs
- Flower & Food Festival (April 19 – June 9, 2024): Explore larger-than-life sculptures made from over one MILLION blooms, stroll under the iconic umbrella sky, and enjoy vibrant live music and spring-themed goodies
4. Fly Fishing
Spring is widely considered the best time for fly fishing in the Smokies.
Not only because of the scenery and weather but because the water is beginning to warm up. As it does, fish are more active and therefore, need to feed more frequently. In other words, they’re hungry.
For the very best fishing, you’ll want to get slightly off the beaten path. Streams and rivers in the “main” part of the national park get a ton of pressure from so many visitors. But there’s good news: there are plenty of lesser-known spots with excellent fishing.
Abrams Creek is the only limestone stream in the area, producing healthy trout. Small tributaries off the Little Pigeon River are also great.
If you’re really serious about getting on some fish, head to the Oconaluftee entrance, on the North Carolina side. Here, you’ll have access to the Oconaluftee River and Deep Creek. Aside from great fishing, you’ll also see a beautiful new side of the Smoky Mountains in the spring.
5. Go on Wildflower Hikes
Much like waterfalls, one of the highlights of the Smoky Mountains in the spring is wildflowers. Lots and lots of them!
In fact, its nickname is the “Wildflower National Park.” GSMNP has more flowering plants (over 1,500) than any other park in North America!
You’ll see wildflowers just driving through the park, but you’ll want to get out and explore on two feet to see the most. Some of our top recommendations are Schoolhouse Gap, Little River Trail, and Andrew’s Bald.
Peak wildflower season in the Smokies is mid- to late April, but keep in mind that it’s a bit later at higher elevations.
6. Attend the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg
Speaking of wildflowers, consider planning your trip in early May, for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. This annual festival, held in Gatlinburg, is a week-long celebration of the park’s wildflower diversity.
The week includes several exhibits, guided walks, hikes, and learning opportunities. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to about not just wildflowers, but also trees, fungi, insects, and more.
7. Music in the Mountains Spring Parade
Celebrate the arrival of spring—and modern ‘mountain music’—at the Music in the Mountains Spring Parade.
Formerly known as Dolly Parton’s Homecoming or the ‘Dolly Parade,’ this lively event is all about community and music. You’ll hear Appalachian folk music, bluegrass, and country from established singers and high schoolers alike.
The parade itself is free, and the route moves up the Parkway in Pigeon Forge toward Sevierville. Also, look out for pop-up concerts and other events during the parade weekend.
If you ask us, soaring above a canopy of trees in the mountains always sounds like a good time. But it’s especially awesome during spring in the Smoky Mountains.
The exhilarating experience is even better when the landscape you’re flying over is a dense forest of lush green, with some colorful pops of flowers sprinkled in.
There are several highly-rated places to go on a zipline adventure in the Smokies.
9. Go Kayaking
For a different type of adventure in the Smoky Mountains in the spring, take to the water.
Between the rivers and lakes, there are endless possibilities, including kayaking, tubing, and whitewater rafting.
For calm, flatwater paddling, head up to Fontana Lake on the North Carolina side of the Smokies. You can also go for a fairly calm paddle on the Little River near Townsend. And for more adventurous whitewater kayaking, you want the Nantahala River.
You’ll find outfitters offering rentals and guided tours throughout the Smokies and in many small towns along the water.
The main thing to be aware of kayaking in the spring is the fluctuating water levels. Especially early in the season, water may be quite high and change quickly, posing a danger to paddlers. Along the same lines, be especially cautious after a big rain.
10. Watch for Wildlife
A huge part of the Smoky Mountains coming back to life after winter is all the wildlife activity. Not only are animals more active in the springtime, but this is also when they have their babies.
You can truthfully see wild animals just about anywhere in the area, but there are some hot spots to look out for.
Cades Cove is a great place to look for black bears, deer, and wild turkeys. And if you head to the Oconoluftee Visitor Center, there’s a great chance you’ll spot some elk with their babies.
Indoor Things to Do in The Smokies for Spring
If the weather prevents you from exploring outside, it’s a good idea to have several indoor activities on the back burner.
Luckily, there are TONS throughout the Great Smoky Mountains! Between Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville, the abundance of indoor attractions guarantees you won’t get bored.
- Sample moonshine and other spirits at local distilleries
- Go ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg (year-round!)
- Shop ’til you drop at the Tanger Outlets in Sevierville
- Wander around Smoky Mountain Knife Works, the “world’s largest knife showplace”
- Catch a dinner show (we especially love Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud, and Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show)
- Explore Ripley’s, the “weirdest attraction in Gatlinburg,” with an aquarium, the Believe It or Not! Odditorium, mini-golf, 5D moving theater, and more
Where to Stay for a Spring Visit to the Smokies
1. Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park — Gatlinburg
One of our favorite hotels in Gatlinburg that is also a great option for families.
It’s especially great when the weather is unpredictable, because of the huge indoor waterpark. Parents can also indulge in spa treatments, and there are multiple onsite restaurants.
2. Rustic Charm Cabin — Gatlinburg
Prefer the comforts of home? There are plenty of awesome Gatlinburg cabin rentals, too.
We love this one because it feels like you’re far from civilization, but it’s conveniently located and loaded with amenities.
Relax in the hot tub, cozy up by the multiple fireplaces, and enjoy access to the community amenities, including two seasonal pools. It’s also pet-friendly!
3. Dawn Treader Cabin — Pigeon Forge
Cabin rentals are sort of ‘the thing’ in Pigeon Forge, and this is one of the best options. It was just built in spring 2022 and sleeps up to 10.
There’s a ton of deck space on multiple levels for soaking up the views, plus a game room and theater for movie nights in.
What to Pack & Wear in the Smoky Mountains in the Spring
As we mentioned earlier, spring weather in the Smokies can be unpredictable. So, it’s smart to be prepared with versatile clothing options.
- Layers, layers, and more layers (seriously, we can’t emphasize this enough—with huge temperature swings and sudden storms, you’ll be putting on and taking off your jacket a LOT)
- Waterproof boots
- Wool socks, a warm hat, and gloves
- Hiking gear like a day pack and closed-toe shoes, if you plan to explore some trails