VISITING THE SMOKIES IN THE SPRING
Learn what to expect when visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Spring season.
Spring is one of the best times of the year to visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park! The park comes to life as the deciduous trees grow their leaves back, the wildflowers begin their beautiful bloom, and the wildlife gives birth to their young. It is a time of rejuvenation and rebirth making it an incredible time to visit the park. There are plenty of benefits to visiting the Smokies in spring, as well as some drawbacks. Below, we will go into detail about what to expect in the spring, and how to best plan for your trip. No matter what you decide to do during your trip, you will surely experience the spectacular joy of spring in the Smokies.
BENEFITS OF VISITING IN SPRING
One of the biggest benefits of visiting the park in the spring is the wildflowers! While wildflowers are abundant year-round, they are absolutely captivating in the spring. There are over 1,500 flowering plants in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and many of them reach their peak March through June. The non-profit partner, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains, holds an annual “Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage” with seminars, guided hikes, and wildflower programs.
DRAWBACKS OF VISITING IN SPRING
The only drawback of visiting the Smokies in the spring is the unpredictable weather. The weather can change drastically year-round, but especially in early spring—when it can be warm and sunny, then suddenly become cold and snowy. Even as the season progresses, afternoon rainstorms are very common—so, always be prepared with rain gear. April’s average rainfall is 4 inches, and there are typically 10 days of precipitation each month of the season.
THINGS TO DO IN SPRING
There is truly something for everyone in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, especially in the springtime. Whether you want to strap on your boots and hit the trail, meander through a meadow covered with wildflowers, saddle up on the back of a horse, or paddle on clear blue water under the shadows of the Smokies; you will have an incredible and epic experience in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Hiking: Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains is absolutely ideal in the spring. Getting up high to vistas, you are rewarded with expansive views of forested mountains, and sometimes, able to watch an afternoon storm roll through the distant ridgelines. Even if you don’t hike high in elevation, the views of the Smokies in the spring are unbeatable. Many trails take you through meadows of wildflowers or are famous for a certain wildflower growing along the path. For a list of the best wildflower hikes, click here, or read our trail descriptions below.
Backpacking: One of the most unforgettable experiences in the Smokies is a backpacking trip. By getting off popular trails and exploring the heart of this world-renowned wilderness, you are giving yourself a chance for solitude and tranquility, and stunning views abound. The park hosts more than 100 backcountry campsites, giving visitors plenty of opportunity to string them together for a multi-night adventure. Spring is an ideal time to backpack in the park because the summer crowds have yet to arrive, and the wildflowers are blooming in abundance along the trails.
Kayaking: Whether you wish to paddle on Fontana Lake, or ride the rapids on one of the many rivers, kayaking is a great activity in the spring. Fontana Lake offers clear blue water and is surrounded by mountains, giving you a perfect oasis for paddling; and the rivers that run through the park offer sections of peaceful floating mixed with heart-racing rapids. Kayak rentals are available in Bryson City, NC, and Paddle and Hike trips are available for those who want to experience the best of both worlds within the park.
Fishing: As the weather warms during the spring, trout become much more active. The park has 730 miles of fishable streams, giving you many opportunities to catch a big one. Spring is one of the best times of year to fish because the scenery surrounding the stream is vibrant with new life. For more information about fishing in the Smokies in spring, click here.
Bicycling: Not all roads are created for bicycling in the park, however, Cades Cove is perfect. The 11-mile, one-way loop road has ideal terrain for biking while providing extraordinary views of the lush forest and historic homesteads, and is fantastic for spotting wildlife. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, from early May to late September, the road is closed to vehicle traffic until 10 am, giving bicyclists freedom to explore the area. Bikes are available for rental at the Cades Cove Campground.
Horseback Riding: A great way to see the park in the spring is on the back of a horse. With the blue sky above you and the blooming flowers below you, horseback riding is an epic way to explore the mountains in the style of park pioneers.
Sightseeing: Whether you want to view the Smoky Mountains from an overlook on Newfound Gap Road, try to identify as many wildflowers as possible, or watch wildlife through a pair of binoculars, there are so many ways to sightsee in the Smokies, and spring is the perfect season for it! Also, keep your eye out for the Synchronous Firefly; they put on a synchronized light show during their mating season that could take place between the third week in May and the third week in June.
HIKING IN SPRING
Hiking is ideal in spring—the mountains are bursting with wildflowers, and everything is lush with life. Strapping on your hiking boots is the best way to see the park. Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains range from easy to strenuous, and little elevation gain to the highest peak in Tennessee. Because of their range in distance and difficulty, they also range in popularity; even though the Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited park in the country, there are many trails that are less traveled, and give you a sense of solitude and freedom. Hiking in the Smokies is one thing that you don’t want to miss out on!
Most trails are well-suited for each season, but in the spring, you most likely want a trail that showcases the beauty of the wildflowers and wildlife. We’ve rounded up the best trails below.
- Chimney Tops: Start at the Chimney Tops trailhead, on Newfound Gap Road. The trail follows Road Prong Creek for the first mile and passes rhododendron and mountain laurels in the springtime. Steep terrain takes you to the top of the mountain, gaining 730 feet in just two-thirds of a mile. Once you reach the top, after 1.7 miles, however, the panoramic views are incredible—rewarding you with views of Mount LeConte and the Chimney Top pinnacles. This trail is strenuous with an elevation gain of 1487 feet.
- Porters Creek Trail: Start at the Porters Creek trailhead at Greenbrier; the trail begins on an old, gravel road, meandering through a lush forest. Soon, the gravel road turns into a dirt path, and wildflowers are abundant along the trail. Porters Creek flows heavily after a mid-day rain, and after 2 miles, you will reach Fern Branch Falls. This trail is easy to moderate with an elevation gain of 700 feet.
- Charlies Bunion: Start at the Charlies Bunion trailhead, at Newfound Gap. The trail will reward you with epic views of the North Carolina Smokies, as well as beautiful wildflower displays in spring. After 4 miles, you will reach a fork in the path—take a left until you reach Charlies Bunion, a large rock outcropping. From here, you have fantastic views of Mount Kephart, the Jump Off, and Mount Guyot. This trail is strenuous with an elevation gain of 1640 feet.
- Chestnut Top: Start at the Chestnut Top trailhead in Townsend, and begin your hike through the yellow trillium, bloodroot, and violets that bloom along the trail. After a steep uphill for the first mile, the trail flattens through an old-growth forest that is green and lush in the spring. This trail is moderate to strenuous with an elevation gain of 1486 feet.
- Middle Prong Trail: Start at the Middle Prong trailhead in Tremont. This trail is most noted for its access to three amazing waterfalls. Along the way, you will pass an abundance of wildflowers that line the trail, as well as historical artifacts including a rusted Cadillac, a chimney, and a railroad beam. At just under half a mile, you will reach Lower Lynn Camp Falls, and further down the trail, Lynn Camp Falls. The trail climbs upward, and at 4 miles, you will reach Flats Falls. This trail is moderate to strenuous with an elevation gain of 1140 feet.
BACKPACKING IN SPRING
Backpacking in the Smokies is an extraordinary experience, and one you won’t forget any time soon! By immersing yourself in the trees and among the wildflowers, you are allowing yourself to fully appreciate the wonders of this world-class landscape. There are over 100 backcountry campsites, so you are able to plan the itinerary that best fits your interests. Whether you want to be tucked under the hemlocks, next to a trickling stream or roaring river, or near the summit of a mountain where you can look out to the ridgelines in the distance, you will fall in love with the Great Smoky Mountains when backpacking through them. Backpacking in the spring is especially beautiful, as many trails and backcountry campsites are in the midst of a wildflower extravaganza. Read about how to obtain backcountry permits, and have a backup plan, in case the sites you want are unavailable.
WEATHER AND TEMPERATURE IN SPRING
The weather in early spring is unpredictable. It can be warm and sunny one minute, and cold and snowy the next. Because there is such variability in the weather and temperature, always be prepared with rain gear, you don’t want to be caught out in a rainstorm without a rain jacket and warm layers. It is important to stay up-to-date on the weather while visiting the park. You can check the weather at Sugarlands Visitor Center (1,462 feet elevation), as well as Clingmans Dome (6,644 feet elevation).
Below is a chart of the typical weather patterns for Sugarlands Visitor Center and Clingman’s Dome for the months of March, April, and May:
|Month||Sugarlands Visitor Center||Clingmans Dome||Days of Precip|
|Avg Hi||Avg Lo||Avg Hi||Avg Lo|
|March||62°F (16°C)||35°F (1°C)||39°F (3°C)||24°F (-4°C)||10-12 Days|
|April||71°F (21°C)||42°F (5°C)||49°F (3°C)||34°F (-4°C)||8-10 Days|
|May||77°F (25°C)||51°F (10°C)||57°F (13°C)||43°F (6°C)||10-11 Days|
JOIN A GUIDED HIKING ADVENTURE
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a rich, pristine wilderness with abundant wildlife, amazing views, and unforgettable opportunities for hiking vacations. Wildland Trekking offers a variety of ways to enjoy the Smoky Mountains, including backpacking trips, portered treks, inn-based tours, and day hikes.
Guided Smoky Mountain treks are all-inclusive meaning the following is included: local round-trip transportation from Asheville; wonderful meals; top-of-the-line equipment; risk management systems; professional hiking/wilderness guides and more.
SMOKIES ADVENTURE TOURS
- GUIDED BACKPACKING TRIPS: these adventures are opportunities to explore the deep wilderness and extraordinary beauty of the Smokies.
- PORTERED HIKES: hike and camp far in the backcountry of the Appalachian Mountains with the convenience of light day packs and expert guides.
- INN-BASED HIKING TOURS: discover the magic of the Smoky Mountains on amazing daily hikes and enjoy wonderful Appalachian accommodations at night.
- DAY HIKE TOURS: make the most of your time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with our expert guides and all-inclusive tours!
- ASHEVILLE AREA HIKING ADVENTURES: explore the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville on backpacking, portered, and inn-based tours!