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Springtime in the Smokies

Brian Patterson , Nov 08, 1999; 04:29 p.m.

Hi there ! I'm thinking of going to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area the last week of March 2000. What can I expect in the way of temperature & also the crowds ? Alternatively, I could go the second week of June. Which would you recommend ? Also, any advice on where to shoot scenery & wildlife in Smoky Mountain National Park would be appreciated. Thanks.

Responses

Kenny Dunn , Nov 08, 1999; 09:09 p.m.

March is a bit early. Nothing much will be bloomed or green yet. June is one of my favorite times. THe rodods and mtn laurel will be in bloom in mid June at the mod high elevations (3000-4000'). The best area IMO this time of year is the Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville and the Smokies. IF you decide for sure when you are going let me know and I will point out the best spots for that time of year. The crowds will be bad in June, but you can work around them with a bit of help.

Steve Hinch , Nov 09, 1999; 11:59 a.m.

Late March in the lower elevations can have a few things going on, but it really depends on when the weather starts to warm up. Mid April is the best time. In late March, I have found some fringed phacelia, trout lillies, and other early bloomers, if the weather is not still cold. I have also experienced a couple inches of snow on the ground. Very few, if any of the trees will have started to leaf out.

Everything Kenny Dunn wrote about June is accurate. You can find some rhodedendron and mountain laurel in bloom at the low to mid elevations, the first of the summer flowers will be in bloom in the park, and the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee to Asheville can be nice. At the higher elevations on the BRP and along the AT in the park, you can find some of the flowers that bloom in March in the lower elevations. Crowds become an issue in June, especially later in the month. But if you hike a trail, you can escape most of the crowds. Unless you hike to Laurel Falls, Chimney Tops, Alum Cave Bluff, or many of the trails in the Roaring Fork area. If you hiked any of these trails, do it first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive. Another benefit of June over March is that in Cades Cove the white tails have their fawns.

I enjoy both months in the park, but if I had only the one trip, I guess I would also choose June.

Stephen Schoof , Nov 09, 1999; 01:30 p.m.

My vote is also for June, especially if you want the classic lush look. I will mention that Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg is one of the nastier places as far as crowds go, as are all the trails Steve warned you about. The quieter park entrances like Cosby, Big Creek, Elkmont, etc. are better, and hiking does leave much of the crowd behind.

I think Cades Cove is probably the best for wildlife (also very busy); also, I almost always see deer in the remoter Cataloochee Valley. The above-mentioned entrances are good for creeks/woods/waterfalls. If you want views without hiking very far you'll probably have to drive 441.

Incidentally, I've avoided the Smokies in recent years just because of their popularity. Their amount and variety of scenery are hard to top, but there are plenty of lesser-known (though still busy) places you may want to try, like Roan Mountain in Pisgah National Forest (lots of rhododendron on RM and on open balds along the Appalachian Trail), the Parkway north of Asheville (Craggy Gardens [more rhodos], Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains, Crabtree Falls, Grandfather Mountain [privately-owned mountain park with exhibits of captive injured animals]), and Linville Gorge Wilderness in Pisgah NF (some old-growth, waterfalls, and fantastic rock outcrops with open sunrise/sunset views on Table Rock and Hawksbill Mtns.). Closer to the Smokies, the Parkway section Kenny mentioned is also spectacular.

High temperatures are typically in the 70s to low 80s, lows in 40s to 60s in June at mid-elevations. High mountains can be much chillier (down to 30s and windy), so prepare. Rain gear is a must.

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