20+ Things To Do in the Smoky Mountains in the Summer (And Monthly Events)

20+ Things To Do in the Smoky Mountains in the Summer (And Monthly Events)

With the kids out of school, and longer days filled with sunshine, summer is one of the best times to visit the Smoky Mountains — when the weather is warm, the mountains are lush, and the surrounding towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are booming with exciting activity. We’ll cover summer events in Gatlinburg by month and ideas of things to do throughout summer in the Smoky Mountains.

Weather to Expect in Summer

Summertime in the Smokies means humid, sunny days with temperatures in the 80s, and occasional quick thunderstorms. The trees are full and green this time of year, and you can explore why these mountains are called “smoky.”

MonthAverage High
(Low elevation)
Average Low
(Low elevation)
Average High
(High elevation)
Average Low
(High elevation)
May79°F50°F57°F43°F
June86°F58°F63°F49°F
July88°F59°F65°F53°F
August87°F60°F64°F52°F

Things to Do in Summer in the Smoky Mountains

To help you make the most of your stay, we’ve curated over 20 things to do in the Smoky Mountains in the summer. Plus, we’ll address common questions and offer insight to help make your trip nothing short of spectacular.

So, lace up your hiking boots and get ready for an unforgettable summer escape in the heart of Appalachia.

1. Hike in Smoky Mountain National Park

The Smoky Mountains are great for hiking in the summer. With lush foliage providing plenty of shade and numerous waterfalls and creeks for cooling off, it’s the perfect season to hit the trails. Whether you’re an avid hiker or more of a brisk walk type of person, Smoky Mountain National Park offers hiking trails for all levels.

Top hikes in the Smokies:

  • Laurel Falls Trail
  • Abrams Falls
  • Alum Cave Trail
  • Charlies Bunion
  • Mount LeConte

Woman sitting at the base of a Smoky Mountain waterfall in summer

2. Explore Downtown Gatlinburg

Downtown Gatlinburg has an abundance of energy and charm, making it a must-visit destination for travelers exploring the Smoky Mountains. The bustling hub is brimming with eclectic shops, delicious eateries, and vibrant attractions and offers something for everyone.

Downtown Gatlinburg recommendations:

3. Visit Pigeon Forge Parkway

The Pigeon Forge Parkway is an exciting stretch of road bursting with entertainment, dining, and shopping options. From thrilling amusement parks and live entertainment venues to quirky museums and family-friendly activities, there’s no shortage of excitement along this busy strip.

Pigeon Forge recommendations:

  • The Island at Pigeon Forge
  • Dolly Parton’s Stampede
  • The Titanic Museum
  • Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud

Photograph of a mill on a river at the Island at Pigeon Forge

4. Go To Dollywood and Splash Country

Dollywood and Splash Country represent summer fun in the Smoky Mountains, offering a blend of thrills and relaxation for all ages. In Dollywood, enjoy country-inspired rides, delicious southern food, and live shows that capture the essence of the region’s charm.

Dollywood’s sister park, Splash Country, provides a refreshing escape with various water attractions, perfect for cooling off on hot summer days. With a perfect mix of adrenaline-pumping rides and laid-back fun, these attractions promise an unforgettable summer getaway in the heart of Pigeon Forge.

5. Take a Scenic Drive

A summer in the Smokies presents a great opportunity to go on a scenic drive. Whether you’re seeking panoramic vistas, cascading waterfalls, or tranquil forests, the Smoky Mountains have scenic routes that showcase nature’s beauty in all its glory. If you’re looking for a way to get around while visiting the Smokies, rent a jeep for a fun off-roading experience.

Best scenic drives in the Smokies:

  • Blue Ridge Mountains Overlooks
  • Newfound Gap Road
  • Clingmans Dome Road
  • Little River Road

Blue Ridge overlook view of the scenic Smoky Mountains

6. Enjoy Fishing

There’s nothing like the Smoky Mountains in June: The trout streams are at their prime, so don’t miss out on the fishing when you visit. With abundant streams, rivers, and lakes brimming with trout and other freshwater fish, the region offers a perfect setting for anglers of all levels.

Whether you prefer fly fishing in mountain streams or casting your line into a calm lake, the Smokies provide plenty of opportunities for a memorable fishing experience surrounded by nature’s beauty.

Best fishing spots in the Smokies:

  • Little River
  • Abrams Creek
  • Cosby Creek
  • Oconaluftee River
  • Deep Creek

7. Visit Anakeesta

When visiting the Smoky Mountains, a trip to Anakeesta is a must. Anakeesta is a mountaintop adventure park offering breathtaking views and fun activities for all ages.

You can get to the park through a scenic ride on the Chondola or Ridge Rambler and enjoy everything from shopping and dining to unique activities. From riding the mountain coaster to strolling along the Treetop Skywalk, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at this mountain oasis.

Activities at Anakeesta:

  • AnaVista Tower
  • Treetop Skywalk
  • Vista Gardens
  • Dueling zipline racing

Photo of a tree bridge lit by twinkle lights

8. Go Whitewater Rafting

For an unforgettable vacation experience, why not try whitewater rafting in the Smokies? Most excursions in this area traverse the scenic French Broad River, offering thrills and stunning views. As you navigate through the deep gorge near the North Carolina-Tennessee border, you’ll be captivated by the river’s beauty and excitement.

Best whitewater rafting excursions in the Smoky Mountains:

  • Nantahala Outdoor Center
  • Rapid Expeditions
  • Rip Roaring Adventures
  • Big Creek Expeditions
  • Smoky Mountain Outdoors

9. Ride Horses

Experience the Smoky Mountains from a new angle—on horseback! Guided tours cater to all skill levels, allowing anyone to explore scenic trails and lush forests. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, it’s a memorable way to connect with nature and create lasting memories.

Top horseback riding excursions in the Smokies:

  • Five Oaks Riding Stables
  • Cades Cove Riding Stables

Five people riding horses with the Smoky Mountains in the background

10. Zip-Line Through the Smokies

Experience the thrill of zip-lining amidst the stunning scenery of the Smoky Mountains. With various courses available, there’s excitement for all—from high-speed adventures to family-friendly options. Soar through the treetops and across valleys, taking in panoramic views for an unforgettable adventure in the Smokies.

Top zip-lining spots in the Smoky Mountains:

  • Foxfire Mountain Ziplines
  • Smoky Mountain Ziplines and Canopy Tours
  • Legacy Mountain Ziplines
  • Adventure Park Zip Lines
  • Gatlinburg Ziplines
  • Wahoo Ziplines

11. Kayak on Fontana Lake

Enjoy a peaceful kayaking experience on Fontana Lake amidst the Smoky Mountains. With clear waters and stunning scenery, it’s perfect for paddlers of all levels. Glide along the shoreline, explore hidden coves, and soak in the mountain views for a serene adventure in nature.

Photo of a man kayaking with their dog in the Smoky Mountains

12. Tube Down the River

Escape the summer heat with a leisurely tube ride down the river—a favorite pastime for cooling off in the Smoky Mountains. Tubing offers an easy and relaxing way to enjoy the water, making it an ideal choice for families and groups of all ages. Tubing requires no special skills, so you can simply sit back, relax, and let the gentle current carry you.

Top river tube rentals in the Smokies:

  • Smoky Mountain River Rat
  • River Romp
  • Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center

13. Have a Picnic

The Smoky Mountains in May have the perfect weather for a nice picnic before the full heat of summer sets in. Whether you prefer a secluded spot by a babbling creek or a scenic overlook with panoramic mountain views, the Smokies boast an array of picturesque picnic spots.

Picnic spots in the Smoky Mountains:

  • Cades Cove
  • Greenbrier Picnic Area
  • Chimneys Picnic Area
  • Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area
  • Cosby Picnic Area

Summer picnic photo with a couple on a red and black plaid blanket overlooking the Smoky Mountains

14. Book a Zorbing Excursion

Indulge in a unique adventure that will flip your world upside down—literally. Zorbing with ZORB Smoky Mountains promises a one-of-a-kind experience that will get your adrenaline pumping like never before.

With nine different ride variations and four-track options available, there’s something for every thrill-seeker. Whether you opt for the high-speed excitement of the fast track or the slippery twists and turns of the Hydro Zorb, Zorbing offers a thrilling experience that you won’t soon forget.

15. Bicycle Cades Cove Loop

Experience the beauty of Cades Cove in a unique way by cycling along the scenic Cades Cove Loop Road. This leisurely 11-mile loop offers stunning views of lush meadows, historic homesteads, and majestic mountains. As you pedal through this picturesque valley, watch for wildlife such as deer, black bears, and wild turkeys that frequent the area.

With designated bike lanes and minimal vehicle traffic in the early morning or late afternoon, cycling the Cades Cove Loop allows you to enjoy one of the Smoky Mountains’ most beloved destinations at your own pace.

Picture of a bike with a dog in a basket leaned up against a fence with the Smoky Mountains in the background

16. Visit Parrot Mountain and Gardens

Explore the captivating world of Parrot Mountain and Gardens, nestled in the scenic Smoky Mountains. Home to hundreds of tropical birds, including colorful parrots and macaws, this sanctuary offers a unique experience.

You can wander through lush gardens and interact with friendly feathered residents up close. With its serene ambiance and captivating aviaries, Parrot Mountain and Gardens is a must-visit destination in the Smoky Mountains.

17. Go To Tuckaleechee Caverns

If you’re visiting the Mountains in July when the heat is at its peak, delve into the depths of Tuckaleechee Caverns, just a short drive from Gatlinburg. These captivating caverns offer a natural wonderland, with winding passages adorned with stunning formations like stalactites and stalagmites.

Guided tours provide fascinating insights into the caverns’ history and formation, making it an enriching experience for visitors. Plus, it’s a great option for indoor exploration on a rainy day.

Photo of the Tuckaleechee caverns

18. Go Backpacking

Embark on an adventure through the scenic trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by backpacking. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker seeking a multi-day trek or a novice looking for a day hike, Gatlinburg’s trails provide endless possibilities for exploration and discovery. So pack your gear, lace up your boots, and prepare for an unforgettable outdoor adventure in the heart of the Smokies.

19. Enjoy Golfing

Tee off amidst the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains and indulge in a leisurely round of golf during your summer stay. With scenic landscapes and challenging courses, golfing in the Smokies is a treat for players of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a casual player, each course offers its own charm and challenges.

Best golf courses in the Smoky Mountains:

    • Gatlinburg Golf Course
    • Bent Creek Golf Course
    • Sevierville Golf Club
    • River Islands Golf Club

Birds eye view of a golf course near Gatlinburg

20. Kick Back in a Cabin

Renting a cabin is the most authentic way to immerse yourself in the beauty of the mountains and provides a perfect retreat between adventures. Cabins offer amenities you won’t find at a standard hotel, including:

  • Private hot tub
  • Indoor pool
  • Theater room
  • Pool table
  • Creekside locations
  • Stunning mountain views

Cabins For Your Summer Trip To the Smoky Mountains

Elk Springs offers premium cabins for large groups, allowing everyone to stay together—pet-friendly cabin options are also very popular in the summer months so your furry friends can join in on the fun.

While there are plenty of things to do in the Smoky Mountains in summertime, topping off your experience with a cabin rental is a must. Explore some of our favorite vacation rentals that will be the perfect getaway.

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FAQ

How Many Days Should You Spend in the Smoky Mountains?

Many visitors find that spending at least three to five days allows for enough time to explore the diverse attractions, scenic trails, and charming towns in the area. However, the ideal amount of time for a visit to the Smoky Mountains depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to enjoy.

What Is the Best Time To Visit the Smoky Mountains?

With longer days and warmer weather, summer is prime time for outdoor fun like whitewater rafting and tubing down the river. While the summer is the most popular time to visit the Smoky Mountains, the best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you wish to enjoy.

What Is the Most-Visited Place in the Smoky Mountains?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds the title of the most visited place in the Smoky Mountains and is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and extensive network of hiking trails, the park attracts millions of visitors each year. Iconic attractions within the park include Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, Laurel Falls, and Newfound Gap Road.

How Hot Are the Smoky Mountains in Summer?

During the summer months, temperatures in the Smoky Mountains typically range from mild to warm, with average highs ranging from the mid-70s to low 80s Fahrenheit. However, temperatures can vary depending on elevation and time of day, so it’s essential to prepare for fluctuations in weather conditions.

Summer Events in Gatlinburg

There are plenty of ways to beat the heat, and local swimming holes such as Midnight Hole, a popular and beautiful space approximately 70 feet wide and 10 feet deep, await. If your family is looking to spend a day in the water, also consider Splash Mountain, the water park at Dollywood.

Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

June Events

June is a great month to explore the mountains. The weather is warm, but not hot, and many of the summer’s favored events kick off for the season.

Free Parkway Trolley

MID JUNE  – MID AUGUST

 

Explore the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway for free all summer long! From 10am – 10:30pm, the trolley will drop you off at one of 40 stops along the parkway so you can hike, swim and explore the splendor.

Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales

JUNE 10 – JULY 30, 2016

The streets of Gatlinburg come alive all summer long as musicians and storytellers gather to entertain. You’ll hear stories and songs dating back to the 1800’s as you stroll down Gatlinburg’s parkway. It’s a fantastic way to experience Appalachian culture while enjoying everything else downtown Gatlinburg has to offer.

Dollywood’s Great American Summer

JUNE 11 – AUGUST 7, 2016

Every day begins with the Star Spangled Banner, and every night ends with fireworks. What to do in between? Enjoy all of the attractions, rides, games and thrills to be found at the Dollywood Theme Park!

Enter the Rising Star Talent Competition to win a scholarship. There are multiple categories, including dance, vocal, acrobatics and more. Whether you want to compete or merely watch there’s plenty of fun to be had for the whole family.

July Events

July in the Smokies maybe hot, but there is lots to do for Fourth of July, and exploring the region under the shade of the trees is a great way to enjoy your stay.

Gather on the streets of Gatlinburg at the stroke of midnight on July 3rd and get Independence day off to a great start. This parade has everything: floats, balloons, and marching bands galore. Your kids will love staying late, too! This was a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event, and you won’t want to miss it.

River Raft Regatta

JULY 4, NOON

One of Gatlinburg’s most popular events. Just head to the banks of the Little Pigeon River in Downtown Gatlinburg to enter an unmanned raft race. Bring your rafts and inner tubes at 12:00 PM to take a leisurely float down the river. This casual and fun float is a great way to spend time with your family while enjoying the beautiful natural sights that make Gatlinburg a spectacular place to vacation. There are multiple entry categories and plenty of prizes.

Head to Patriot Park at noon for a day of patriotism, live entertainment, a spectacular fireworks display, and plenty of kid friendly and family fun in Pigeon Forge. All Patriot Festival activities are totally free. Live entertainment starts at 1:30 PM.

Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair

JULY 14 – 17, 2016

Stroll between 150 booths featuring some of the finest works from the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts community. Chat with the artisans who have put heart and soul into these pieces. They’ll demonstrate their technique for you, too! Finally, enjoy live entertainment…let country and bluegrass music enhance your shopping experience. The fair is held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. and is just $7 per person (children 12 and under are free).

It’s time for baseball! Local SEAA girl’s teams will be competing for the 2016 World Series title at Wear Farm City Park. Come and catch a game!

August Events

Slip in one last adventure before the kids get back to school. From end-of-summer sales to festivals and events, the Smokies are still going strong by the time August rolls around.

Join locals and visitors alike at The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge and enjoy this annual bluegrass event, and cornhole tournament! Food, fun and family in the Smokies is a great way to spend a Saturday. Learn more here.

Stringtime in the Smokies

AUGUST 8, 2016

A free, one-day only music event. You’ll hear some of the best musicians in Appalachia as their tunes fill the air at the Old Mill Square. Many of these professionals will be happy to demonstrate their skills and share their knowledge as well.

Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival

AUGUST 24 – 28, 2016

Come celebrate “Appalachian Musical Roots” (gospel, bluegrass and country) by seeing free performances, a songwriting competition, band playoffs, stage spots and workshops. All songwriters share the story behind their songs as they perform. Plan which events and bands you want to partake in by visiting their website.