4 Tips for Your Great Smoky Mountains National Park Vacation

If you’ve ever visited the Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg area, you’ve already witnessed the sheer splendor of the scenery provided by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Spring visitors will have the opportunity to witness everything from wildflowers to wildlife as temperatures warm.

Here are a few things to make the most of your time in the great outdoors:

1. Get Familiar with the Weather in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Get familiar with the weatherGreat Smoky Mountains National Park spring weather is a funny thing, and it can vary widely from one area of the park to another even on the same day. While the valley might be warm and humid, higher elevations, especially some of the most popular peaks, can cool off quickly as you climb (10-20 degree differences are normal). You’ll want to be prepared.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park System considers the spring season to be March – May. You can expect anything from flurries in early spring at high elevations (mainly in March), to high temperatures in the 70s – 80s by May. Average rainfall in the spring months is around 4 – 5 inches. So it’s a good idea to be prepared with rain gear, such as waterproof shoes or boots, rain jackets and umbrellas. If you’re planning farther out than 10 days, the National Park Service offers a great resource with average seasonal weather expectations.

2. Gather Maps

gather maps for trip to the SmokiesWhile the park is a wonderful place for adventure, it’s unlikely that you’d want to tackle all it has to offer without good maps. With 522,427 acres of land divided between Tennessee and North Carolina, it’s important to know where you are and where you’re going at all times. GPS units in cars and cellphones are often inaccurate once you’re off the main roads, so don’t plan to rely on them for directions. You can download free Great Smoky Mountains National Park maps, or pick them up at one of the park’s four visitor centers.

3. Plan for Picnics at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Pack your meals because food within the park is limited. Various visitor centers offer beverages via vending machine. The Cades Cove Campground Store offers a small selection of food/snack items. But it’s best to plan on packing a lunch. You can enjoy it at one of the many picnic sites throughout the Smokies. Also, remember to bring snacks and water. You’ll want to help replenish your energy supply while you take on hiking trails and more!

4. Know the Rules for Pets in the National Park

Rules for Pets in the National ParkAre you planning to bring your pets along for the ride? Be sure to check out the park rules regarding pets, especially dogs. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times while on national park grounds. Leashed dogs are welcome at all campgrounds, picnic areas and along roads. Please remember to always clean up after your pet! Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails. But they are welcome on two short walking paths like the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.

Be sure to check out all of the resources available on our Explore The Smokies guide pages, and come find out why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country!

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