We're just a couple of weeks away from the official arrival of spring in the Great Smoky Mountains. It's starting to gradually warm up around here, and we're seeing the first peeks of spring color and budding vegetation. Spring also means that things start to heat up in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville in anticipation of the arrival of visitors from all over the world.
A few weeks ago, we mentioned Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort as an option for having wintertime fun in the Smokies. This week, we thought we'd go into a little more detail about what that Gatlinburg attraction has to offer visitors in search of cold-weather recreation. January and February are peak season for the resort, so if you've never been there, or if you have but not actually been on the slopes, we can tell you a little more about what's in store on top of Mt. Harrison.
Just because we're in the dead of winter doesn't mean you can't have a great time visiting the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It's true that summer and fall are the traditional peak-season times for visitors, but if you look in the right places, you'll discover that there's a whole lot going on here in winter too. In fact, there are several things to do that are actually best enjoyed in winter or are specifically intended for winter. Read on to learn just a few:
For most families, Christmas is a time for traditions, whether it's waking up with the kids at the crack of dawn to open Santa's bounty of presents or driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for a family meal. From watching specific TV programs to Elf on the Shelf, most of us probably have our rituals that we go through year in and year out.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a year-round destination, offering 800 square miles of unspoiled mountain and valley terrain, more than 800 miles of hiking trails and dozens of historic sites that tell the story of our region's history. And while the park is a sight to behold when it's in full spring and summer bloom, fall and winter paint the area with their own striking colors, from the brilliant hues of autumn to the stark, bare beauty of winter.
It seems like we just got through with the last remnants of summer, and here we are already, about to usher in another Winterfest celebration in the Great Smoky Mountains. For those who may not be familiar with this annual festival, it's the four months each year that the communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville celebrate winter and everything that's great about that season – especially all things Christmas.
The weather around these parts has been strange this year, for sure. It had been unseasonably warm for fall, and a lot of our visitors were wearing shorts and sandals well into October. As a result, the transformation of our area foliage has been a little behind schedule. Normally, this would be the time of year that the colors would be peaking, but right now, we're just now starting to see those first patched of red, orange and yellow in the lower elevations.
This is typically the time of year when the summer heat really starts getting cranked up. This year, Mother Nature is right on time, as we're seeing highs creep up into the 90s, with heat indexes reaching up into the 100s.
Each year, some 10 million people visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and an even higher number spend some amount of time in the neighboring communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. That's because in addition to the beauty and unspoiled nature of the national park, the outlying areas offer travelers so many options for having a little bit of vacation fun – from theaters and attractions to shops and restaurants.
October is known as the second peak season in the Smokies, because after summer, it's the time of year with the highest area visitation. Why? Because that's when the leaves change colors, morphing from the greens of summer to the fiery reds, yellows and oranges of autumn. It's no coincidence that tourism reaches a peak about the same time that the leaves do.