Now that the Winter Holidays are done for another 10 months or so, we enter a quieter season of the other half of Winterfest in the Smokies. Don’t think that there isn’t anything worth coming to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Wears Valley, though, with the special events no longer the big focus of the season, there are different things that these Winter months provide visitors and locals alike.
And the biggest one of them is snow.
Although we do often see some snowfall before January, and 2019 into 2020 showed us a little more snow than usual, our real season for snow doesn’t begin until after the near year begins. We see our biggest snowfalls in January, February and sometimes in March as well. We usually get at least one really good snowfall of several inches at once, good enough to close local schools for a week, but we don’t always know when we can expect that snowfall to come in. Therefore many people come to the Smokies wondering where they can see the snow, because it is possible for snow to come in with short notice while they are vacation, and there are major elevation differences where it is possible to see snow high in the mountains even when it’s reasonably mild on the parkway in Pigeon Forge.
Here are our recommendations of how to enjoy snow in the Smokies and where to find them:
Ober Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Snow
The first recommendations are sort of a cheat, but if you want to be as close to guaranteed snow-styled fun in the Smokies, Ober Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Snow are the best places for them. The reason for this is they CREATE their own snow at their attraction establishments daily – Ober Gatlinburg from early-mid December to around the start of the March (give or take a week) and Pigeon Forge Snow all-year-round. Ober Gatlinburg creates snow so winter sports enthusiasts can get their snowboarding, skiing, snow tubing, ice skating and fill of more while Pigeon Forge Snow offers indoor snow tubing and a snow play area for the little’uns. And don’t forget the views you can see from the Ober Gatlinburg attraction and its gondola cars.
Newfound Gap is also somewhat tricky as it comes with the caveat that, often, when there is snow, the National Park Service will close sections of the road for safety. That being said, because Newfound Gap is the road that goes straight into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, connecting Gatlinburg to Cherokee, even if the road is closed at the Sugarlands Visitors Center, you will still get quite a lot of gorgeous views of the snow covering the dense and lush surrounding forest – and the Visitors Center itself and the outdoor trails to it are usually open during snowfall as well. This author himself has hiked the nearby trail when 2 or more inches of snow had fallen and shut down much of the rest of the town. It was an extremely memorable experience.
See the Sugarlands Visitors Center at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm.
Gatlinburg SkyLift and SkyBridge
The Gatlinburg SkyLift is one of the oldest attractions in town and has consistently provided decades of views and atmospheric wonder for Gatlinburg visitors. They have a much newer attraction and one that got national attention with the SkyBridge that was completed in 2019. The SkyBridge is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge on the continent and both the Lift and the Bridge will give you incredible views of snow-covered Smoky Mountains – some that were previously unable to obtain without a drone.
See more on the Gatlinburg SkyLift and SkyBridge at https://www.gatlinburgskylift.com.
Short of turning yourself into a bird, there is no better way to see the sights of Gatlinburg from the center of the city than the impossible-to-miss Space Needle. The Space Needle takes visitors over 400 feet above the ground of the downtown strip and allows for full 360 degree views of the city, the woods, the mountains and the peaks of the mountains as well as coin-operated super binocular stations that let you see incredibly close up on the city and those distant, white-covered peaks. Practically no visit to Gatlinburg is complete without going to the Gatlinburg Space Needle.
See more on the Gatlinburg Space Needle at https://www.gatlinburgspaceneedle.com/.