Christmas in Gatlinburg

10 Reasons to Visit the Smoky Mountains in December

When you think of December, you probably think of cold temperatures, snow, and staying inside among other things. Cold temperatures or not, the Smoky Mountains in December are a wondrous sight to behold.

If you’re a fan of being outside and a fan of snow, there’s no better place to experience both of those things than in the Smokies. In fact, if you really, really love snow, the Smokies can be your own personal winter wonderland!

Snow and cold aside, the Great Smoky Mountains in December are so fun to visit because there is much to do, both inside and outside.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Clingmans Dome

Let It Snow. Let It Snow.

A perfect part of any winter day is seeing the white stuff fall from the sky, and thankfully, the Smokies get plenty cold in December for snow to fall.

Because of changing elevation, different parts of the Great Smoky Mountains get varying amounts of snowfall each winter. Newfound Gap, for example, gets an average of more than 5 feet of snow. In fact, most of the accumulation you’ll find here is high in the mountains.

If you’re visiting the Smokies around Christmas, you’ll likely find moderate amounts of snowfall. If you’re not a big fan of seeing snow up close, rent a cabin, sit on the porch, and gaze off into the distance. The views you’ll see of snow-capped mountains are sure to take your breath away.

Laurel Falls - Sevierville, Tennessee
Laurel Falls | photo via @debiase_adventures

Chase Some Frozen Waterfalls

Waterfalls are beautiful sights to behold in the spring, summer, and fall. But, did you know that they are perfect for viewing and exploring in the winter months too?

In the Smokies, you have a chance to see icy waterfalls. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with hundreds of waterfalls to visit and explore.

When December hits and temperatures cool, these majestic waters turn into majestic spectacles of ice and frost. The icicles you’ll find may even be bigger than your head!

The Christmas Place - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee - Smoky Mountains in December
The Christmas Place | photo via @timothy_osullivan

Visit an Incredible Christmas Store

Since 1986, The Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge has been one of the best places in the Smokies to get into the holiday spirit. If you need ornaments, trees, inflatables, or even last-minute gifts, this is the spot to go.

Whether you’re visiting on the way back home or you’re spending Christmas in the Smokies, this wonderland has anything and everything that you need for the perfect holiday celebration. Deck out your rental cabin in Christmas decorations!

Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg, Tennessee | photo via

See the Majesty of Christmas Lights

What’s a Smoky Mountain December without looking at some colorful Christmas lights? No matter how old you are, everyone has a soft spot for bright lights.

The good news is that Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge go all out during the winter months, creating incredible displays of millions of lights that attract thousands of people every year.

These two cities put on a Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights on Pigeon Forge Parkway from November to February, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the lights throughout December. Take it nice and easy to really enjoy the colorful displays.

Don’t feel like driving? No problem!

  • Take a Pink Jeep Tour where you can sit cozy with a cup of hot chocolate as a friendly tour guide takes you past colorful displays.
  • If you’re looking for some laughs, hop on the Redneck Comedy Bus Tour. Wear your favorite ugly Christmas sweater and get into the holiday spirit with some redneck-style Christmas caroling as you enjoy light displays around Pigeon Forge.
  • Pigeon Forge also offers winter trolley tours to see Christmas lights, so hop aboard one and let your eyes enjoy the incredible show in front of you.
Gatlinburg Festival of Trees - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg Festival of Trees | photo via @santaoncallknox

Enjoy an Exciting Gatlinburg Christmas Parade

There’s no faster way to get into the holiday spirit when you’re in the Great Smoky Mountains than to attend a Christmas parade, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg’s annual Festival of Lights Parade ushers in the holiday season and even features an appearance by the big man in red — Santa Claus.

The parade includes dancers, marching bands, musicians, and so much more. Bundle up, get yourself a warm beverage, and find a spot along East Parkway to watch the festivities.

John Oliver Cabin - Cades Cove, Tennessee
John Oliver Cabin | photo via @drewmaniac

Take a Scenic Winter Hike

If you’re all about being outside, there’s no better activity to do in the Smoky Mountains in December than go hiking. There’s just something about hearing the snow crunch under your feet, feeling a nip in the air, and catching a glimpse of the wildlife that makes a winter hike special.

If you’re a hiker, there are more than a dozen great winter hiking trails in the Smokies that you can explore. Some of our favorites include:

  • Deep Creek Waterfalls: This group of loop treks ranges from as short as a half-mile to as long as 4.5 miles. Along the way, you’ll get a chance to see three different waterfalls.
  • Schoolhouse Gap: This short and easy hike near Cades Cove doesn’t require a lot of strenuous climbing and is great for seeing wildlife.
  • Metcalf Bottoms: This short, scenic route is just 1.5 miles long, and you can hike to a ghost town along the trail.
  • Andrews Bald: You’ll have to take the Forney Ridge Trail near Clingmans Dome to get to this trail. Snow tends to fall heavier here, so make sure that you have proper footwear.
  • Cades Cove Loop Road: In December, this is a wonderful place to visit because you’ll see beautiful landscapes blanketed in snow.

Before you head out, make sure to dress warm, let someone know where you’ll be, and take note of the day’s weather conditions. Weather permitting, you’ll have fun exploring some truly spectacular nature trails in the Smokies during the winter season.

Ober Gatlinburg - Skiing - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Ober Gatlinburg – Skiing | photo via @therealdjred

Have Endless Fun at Ober Gatlinburg

The Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Resort is one of the most popular year-round tourist attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains, and it’s really not hard to see why.

You can experience four seasons of fun at Ober Gatlinburg, but December really is the perfect time to visit. The park rents out winter gear, so you’ll get everything that you need for a good time.

What makes it so fun? For starters, this park is the place to have winter fun in the Smokies. Whether you want to go skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, or sledding, you can do it all here and a whole lot more.


If you’re looking to hit the slopes, you won’t want to miss the best ski lift in Gatlinburg. The lift takes you to the top of Ober Mountain where you can enjoy two advanced slopes, intermediate slopes, and beginner runs. The ski season usually starts in early December, so your visit will come at the perfect time.

Snow Tubing

Snow tubing is absolutely amazing and an unforgettable experience. Picture yourself roaring down a 350-foot-long snow hill with a 50-foot drop in the comfort of an inner tube. You won’t be able to take the smile off your face as you’re going down.

Ice Skating

If you want a less extreme activity, grab a pair of skates and take a lap around Ober Gatlinburg’s year-round ice rink. It doesn’t matter your skill level. There’s something so peaceful about gliding around an ice rink.

Scenic Chairlift & Alpine Slide

If you really want a thrill, take the scenic chairlift halfway up Ober Mountain. Then, ride down the Alpine slide on a sled. You can control your speed, so you can go nice and easy or fly down the mountain as fast as you can.

Christmas at Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Christmas at Dollywood | photo via @bryankhalid

Attend a Smoky Mountain Christmas Event

Did we mention that a Smoky Mountain December is something very special? One of the reasons is all of the fun events taking place. So, if you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains in December, consider checking out these awesome events:

  • Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas is an award-winning festival that runs from November to early January and features lights, shows, stage productions, and more.
  • The Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge is always fun to visit, and the Titanic Christmas & Winter Celebration decks out the museum in lights and colorful decorations. It lasts from early November to early January.
  • The Polar Express Train Ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad takes visitors on a magical ride to the North Pole, complete with a visit from Santa Claus. Along the way, you’ll enjoy warm cocoa and a reading of the namesake Christmas classic.
  • Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at Smokies Stadium invites visitors to enjoy an incredible drive-thru light show from mid-November to early January. There’s also a petting zoo, food vendors, pony rides, and a chance to get your photo with Santa.
Winter Mountain Cabin

Rent a Cabin in the Smokies

There’s a lot to see and do to keep you busy if you’re planning a Smoky Mountains winter trip. But one of the most relaxing things to do, especially if you’re looking to unwind, is rent a Smoky Mountains cabin.

A cabin rental in the Smokies is well worth it and offers so much for anyone wishing to relax. If you’re not sitting on the back porch with a cup of coffee gazing out at the mountains, you can go inside.

The chances are good that your cabin will have a pool table, a big fireplace, a theater room, a full kitchen, and so much more. You’ll have everything that you need for a perfect December stay!

Anakeesta Enchanted Winter of Lights - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Smoky Mountains in December
Anakeesta Enchanted Winter of Lights | photo via Anakeesta

Have Dinner With a View

After you’ve spent a day seeing wonderful Smoky Mountain sites, hiking, or just relaxing, it’s time to enjoy a delicious meal. When the weather turns snowy and cold in December, a delicious meal paired with a glass of wine tastes so much better when you have a scenic view to share with your loved one.

Why not reserve a table at a romantic Smoky Mountain restaurant? You’ll have a memorable meal, a fireplace nearby to keep you warm, and breathtaking mountain views as you eat. It truly doesn’t get any better than that!

Christmas in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Christmas in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Plan Your Trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in December Now

The Smoky Mountains are one of the most beautiful places in the country and the perfect winter getaway.

No matter if you want to kick back and relax in a rented cabin, brave the cold weather on a winter hike, explore frozen waterfalls, see holiday lights, or catch a fun show, you can do all that and more when you visit the Smokies in the winter.

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