Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall?
Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountain area is a great year-round destination. The area changes with each season and each season offers something special and unique experiences. On this web page, we’re going to explore what makes each season unique and special.
Weather Throughout the Year
What we think of as “winter” in Pigeon Forge may be a bit different than what the calendar shows and it starts much earlier. Although the temperatures are still quite mild, winter in the Smokies begins in early November; that’s when Winterfest starts in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville. That’s why we think of our winter season as early November through the end of February.
Snow is possible in the area and is most likely in the months of January and February. The higher the elevation, the more likely there will be snow. Our cabins are not at a very high elevation so while we might get snow, it is generally a small amount and often won’t stay long before melting. If it’s snow you want, though, you can generally drive up higher into the mountains to see snow. If Mother Nature hasn’t provided snow, they make artificial snow for the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg!
Tip: Vacation Cancellation Insurance is a very good idea when traveling to the area in the winter. Although in our four years of renting our cabins, we’ve yet to have a cabin that wasn’t accessible in the winter, many of our guests have had weather conditions near their homes or along their travel path that made travel impossible for them. You can purchase travel insurance from Travel Guard.
Thanksgiving / Christmas / New Years
The holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are the most desired times to rent our cabins all year. To correlate with Winterfest, and because many people are meeting their families in Pigeon Forge to have early Christmas celebrations at our cabins, we decorate with Christmas decor in early November.
From the beginning of Winterfest until the New Year, the majority of the shows and dinner shows in the area change over to a Christmas themed show. We’ve heard they are all wonderful but Smoky Mountain Opry is known to have the best Christmas show in the area.
Dollywood also has special parades and shows during this time.
New Years Eve is also special! Gatlinburg has a midnight ball drop and fireworks. The Island of Pigeon Forge offers a free concert, countdown to midnight and fireworks.
Winterfest kicks off generally the second Wednesday of November. In 2018, it should start on November 14th and run through the end of February. During Winterfest, the cities of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville will transform into a winter wonderland full of beautiful light displays and Christmas decorations.
Gatlinburg will block off the main strip from traffic and hold a chili cook off to kick off their Winterfest celebration (we went to this and it was really fun)!
You can take a trolley tour to see all the lights and decor or explore them on your own. You will find the lights all the way down the Parkway through all three cities. A few spots we recommend visiting that you wouldn’t notice from the Parkway are the Island of Pigeon Forge and Patriot Park (located behind Old Mill in Pigeon Forge).
More Reasons to Visit in Winter
Once the holidays are over, guests can come in January and February and enjoy the lowest rates of the year. During these months we host many guests who are coming to conventions at LeConte Center, which we are very close to.
We also host many guests from states south of us who are hoping to see some snow! If we don’t have snow in our cabins, driving up into the mountains will likely bring you to snow in January and February. Head to Ober Gatlinburg for skiing, snow tubing or indoor ice skating. They have a machine for making snow, if it didn’t come naturally.
All the museums, shows, dinner shows (with the exception of the Smoky Mountain Opry) and factory outlet shopping centers are operational all year long, making winter an ideal time for seniors to visit when both prices and crowds are down.
Spring starts to bring high temperatures back to the 60’s and 70’s in the Smoky Mountain area. Businesses that close for winter, such as Dollywood, reopen their doors. Families come during March and April to enjoy their Spring Break away from school. During the Spring you can enjoy all the area has to offer, with the exception of outdoor water activities and activities that require snow. Moderate temperatures are a perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities such as horseback riding and hiking.
Tip: If you have young children who do not need to schedule their vacations around a school schedule or if you’re traveling without children, May is one of the best times of the year to visit. The weather is wonderful and since it’s between Spring and Summer school breaks, it isn’t nearly as busy.
Spring Events in the Smokies
People come from far and wide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Spring, particularly for two events. One is the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which will be a week in mid-late April each year.
The second popular event of the season is the Synchronous Fireflies event, which happens at the end of May / early June. During this time, Synchronous Fireflies are mating and this causes them to light up in a synchronous pattern. The YouTube video explains it best!
Spring Rod Run
There are two Rod Runs in Pigeon Forge, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Because our cabins are located so conveniently to the Pigeon Forge Parkway, they are ideal locations to stay at while enjoying the Rod Runs. If you are planning a trip to Pigeon Forge it is very important to plan with the Rod Runs in mind. If you love classic cars and hot rods, you will absolutely love being in Pigeon Forge during this time. The cars will be lining the Parkway and you can cruise and enjoy seeing them all. If you are not visiting specifically for the Rod Run, however, you will want to plan your vacation to avoid coming during this time as the people cruising The Parkway severely impact traffic and travel times to get around. The Pigeon Forge Spring Rod Run will be held April 19 – 22, 2018.
It’s the time of year that every school kid has been counting down to. Summer is our busiest season. Historically, our summer dates are mostly booked by mid-February and people often book summer weeks a year in advance. If you’re thinking of coming in the summer, don’t delay on making your reservation!
June, July and the first week of August are the busiest times, since those are the periods when the greatest number of kids are out of school. The area does get busy so it’s wise to plan ahead. It will get busier on weekends (starting Thursday evening) so it’s wise to make plans to visit places with lines, like Dollywood, on a weekday. Make reservations for dinner shows in advance.
Tip: If you are lucky enough to live in an area where the kids start school later (many northern states do), mid-late August is the best time in summer to visit. Kids who live in southern states have gone back to school so there is less traffic and shorter lines at attractions. We go mid-late August every year ourselves!
Summer in the Smokies
If you’ve been researching a trip to Pigeon Forge, you’ve probably figured out there are a great many things to do there. The unique thing about visiting in summer is that it is the one season that you can do everything the area has to offer, with the exception of skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing at Ober Gatlinburg.
Unique to summer is the water activities. The community pools are available for use for our cabin guests. Even better, you can go swimming in the local swimming holes such as, our favorite, the Townsend Wye. If you want to step up the thrill level a bit, you could also go to Splash Country, Dollywood’s water park, go tubing down the river or even try white water rafting.
We also like to take a drive to Douglas Lake and rent a pontoon boat for the day. Warning, though, you’ll love this beautiful lake and want to come back again and again!
Tip: If it rains on a day you were looking forward to outdoor activities, check out the Forbidden Caverns and explore the caves! Want to escape the heat? Head up to Clingmans Dome, where the temperatures at the high elevations will be 10 to 20 degrees cooler!
What we consider to be Fall in our area begins after Labor Day then goes until Winterfest starts after the first week of November.
September still has fantastic weather. It can be a great time to visit with careful planning, taking the Fall car shows and cruises into consideration (more on that below). If you visit outside of the car shows, it’s a very quiet time in Pigeon Forge with low traffic volumes and shorter lines at attractions.
October is a prime time for visiting the area because the Smoky Mountains are spectacularly beautiful when the leaves change. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the most visitors in July and second most visitors in October.
Tip: the national park can become very busy on weekends in October. Our advice is to stay for a longer period; visit the national park on week days and enjoy the area attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg on the weekend days.
Shades of the Past & Fall Rod Run
Every year Pigeon Forge has rod runs in the Spring and the Fall, with the Fall one being the larger of the two. First comes Shades of the Past, dedicated to the cars of yesteryear. The weekend after Shades of the Past is the Fall Rod Run. Those who truly love cars come out and spend enough time to be there for both weekends and the week in-between.
For 2018, Shades of the Past is scheduled for September 6th through 9th. The Fall Rod Run is scheduled for September 13 – 15th, 2018. If you are not visiting specifically for the car shows, we recommend not visiting between September 6th and 15th because the cars will be lined up along the Parkway and cruisers impact traffic to where it is difficult to navigate around the area to non-cruise related activities.
If you are coming for the car shows, however, please know that our cabins are located very close to the Parkway and are therefore ideal places to stay while enjoying the Rod Run!