There are many reasons why Pigeon Forge is such a popular destination for vacations, honeymoons, reunions, retreats, and weddings. The Smoky Mountain town is home to a large variety of restaurants, fun family-friendly attractions, fantastic mountain scenery, quaint little chapels, 5K races, food festivals, live music, holiday events, and so much more. And with attractions and activities that can cater to large groups, couples, outdoor enthusiasts, kids, and wine and art lovers, there truly is something for everyone.
Gone are the days of stressing through an entire vacation to find something that everyone will love. The Parkway is lined with fun things to do, making it easy to entertain anyone. It’s a great place to visit no matter what time of year it is, but winter is an especially popular time to head to Pigeon Forge. That’s because you’ll often have some beautiful snow, you have budget-friendly skiing at Ober Gatlinburg, cozy cabins are incredibly inviting in cold weather, and there are endless opportunities for fun within a short drive of most cabins.
12 Winter Activities You Don’t Want to Miss
If you’re heading to Pigeon Forge this winter, you’ll have lots of options for staying entertained. Here are just 12 of our top ideas for fun winter weather activities in Pigeon Forge!
- Go skiing at Ober Gatlinburg. Just down the road from Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg offers even more fun during your stay in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s also home to a favorite attraction – Ober Gatlinburg. Along with indoor ice skating, an alpine slide, restaurants, and an arcade, it also offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing! Kids can learn at the ski school, and there is even a terrain park for the more adventurous boarders!
- Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island. The all-glass gondolas on this 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel are the perfect place to enjoy winter views spanning the city. There are also dozens of shops and some great celebrity-owned restaurants at The Island, so you’ll have plenty more to do there on a winter day.
- Take a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Home to more than 800 miles of trails, this popular (the most visited in the U.S., in fact) national park provides many opportunities for outdoor winter fun. Hiking is just one of the ways you can take advantage of the beautiful snow-capped mountains and frozen waterfalls – just be safe!
- Drive at the Blake Jones Racing Center. If it’s too cold outside for go karts, head over to Blake Jones Racing Center. Their indoor electric go karts are tons of fun no matter the weather! They also have bumper cars and an arcade.
- Use your wits to escape...at The Escape Game in Pigeon Forge, that is. Located at The Island, this real-life escape game requires guests to work together to try to escape a locked room. Find clues, solve puzzles, and get out in under 60 minutes!
- Warm up with whiskey…and moonshine…and wine. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are now home to several wineries and distilleries. If you’re 21 and over, you can get free samples and pick up some wine, whiskey, and moonshine to take back to the cabin. Some Pigeon Forge favorites are the Old Forge Distillery and Ole Smoky Moonshine at The Island.
- Race down a hill in a giant orb. At the Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge, the Fishpipe and the OGO are favorite summer activities. But this winter, try the DRYGO – the giant ball minus the water!
- Spend a day at Dollywood. Even when it’s cold outside, Dollywood has plenty of fun things to do! And just like all her celebrations, Dolly Parton knows how to throw a holiday event! Come celebrate Christmas at Dollywood and warm up with some hot cocoa and a great show.
- Stay inside. Personally, one of my favorite winter weather activities in the Smokies is staying inside a warm cabin! I love curling up in front of the fireplace, having some hot chocolate, and watching some movies while bundled up in bed. Of course, I always take a dip in a bubbling hot tub before calling it a night!
- Take a scenic drive. A wonderful way to experience the beauty of the Smokies is with a scenic drive. There are some great options in the area (including the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail), all with beautiful overlooks along the way. Pack some snacks, drinks, and a jacket and camera for when you want to hop out for a bit.
- Get in some exercise. The Pigeon Forge Community Center offers basketball courts, pools, exercise equipment, and much more. Check it out for some indoor fun this winter.
- Shop ’til you drop. What better way to pass a busy day than hours of shopping? Head over to the Tanger Outlets in neighboring Sevierville to get great deals on clothes, accessories, electronics, home goods, specialty foods, toys, tools, and more!
GEAR UP FOR THE BEST WINTER HIKES IN THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS!
With the right gear, clothing, and plan, winter is one of the most excitng times to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains! Icicles drip from trees, snow gently falls over the mountaintops, waterfalls freeze, and the forest is still. You’ll always have that cozy cabin to sip cocoa in, but why not start your day with a winter hike? We have some great options below, along with tips on what to wear and bring.
Alum Cave Trail
Honestly, this is one of the best moderately-difficult day hikes in the Smoky Mountain region year-round. In the first mile of the trek to Arch Rock, hikers get a peaceful rise in elevation alongside Alum Cave Creek, surrounded by forestry and large rock formations. As you keep walking past Arch Rock, still your beating heart as you come upon views of Anakeesta Ridge.
Many hikers who are looking for a shorter, easier day will choose to stop at Alum Cave Bluffs, 2.3 miles from the trailhead, rather than hiking the 5 miles to the summit of Mount Le Conte as the trail steepens in certain points as you rise in elevation. There are plenty of breathtaking, expansive views along the trail, and during the cooler months, you will be treated with a truly beautiful winter spectacle as parts of the creek freeze over and the mountain peaks are laden with snow.
Another crowd favorite year-round, Laurel Falls is pretty easy hike because the trail is paved. In the winter, you will still need to be wary of damp conditions in snow and rain, but the sight of the half-frozen 80-foot waterfall is a truly magical sight. It’s an easier hike for those who don’t want to invest the majority of a day or get a lot of hiking gear.
As one of the most photogenic spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s also a spot you don’t want to have a dead phone. Be sure to charge your phone or digital cameras to capture some pretty incredible pictures of the wintry falls.
Down Historic Nature Trail from downtown Gatlinburg, you can find the trailhead of another magical frozen waterfall, Rainbow Falls. This hike is moderately-difficult in comparison to Laurel Falls, however, and rises approximately 1,500 feet in elevation for a 5.4-mile roundtrip voyage.
It is so important that you wear the right clothing and bring the essentials on your snowy hikes so nothing dampens your exciting day, other than the melting snow. Here are a few strategies and items you will definitely want to take with you!
It’s All About the Layers
While it is the winter, you are still in the South! We are known for our sometimes aggravating temperature and climate changes. A few weeks ago, we experienced 80-degree weather. In November. By layering your clothing, you can adjust to those spontaneous rises in afternoon temperatures by simply removing a jacket or shirt. A tight-fitting undershirt is great for insulation, then a more loose-fitting t-shirt or active shirt, along with a light or heavy jacket (check the weather forecast before heading out) is the perfect outfit lineup for your winter hike in the Smoky Mountains.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Southern winters in the mountains can range from inches of snow to rainy mixes. Either way, your everyday tennis shoes are not going to be the best idea for taking on the moist and sometimes frozen grounds along the trails. Invest in durable hiking shoes that will last you for a long time, rather than buying cheaper shoes that will likely be beaten up by the terrain.
Keep Your Head, Hands & Feet Warm!
You will not be able to focus on the beauty and serenity of the white forests and snow-capped mountains if you are focused on your ears and fingers freezing off! Wear hats, headbands with built-in ear muffs, gloves, and insulated socks to keep all the smaller parts of your body cozy and warm!
Walking this Way
Along with the right traction on your hiking boots, if you are scaling higher or steeper elevations, trekking poles would be another great investment. Trekking poles not only help you keep your balance, but they also relieve some of the stress and pressure on your back and knees!
Favorite Area Shops for Gear
- Nantahala Outdoor Center | 1138 Parkway | Gatlinburg
- Hikey Mikey | 157 Old Mill Ave | Pigeon Forge
- Columbia Sportswear Outlet | 1645 Parkway #1460 | Sevierville
- GSM Outfitters LLC | 3275 Wears Valley Rd | Sevierville</li>
- Day Hiker | 634 Parkway #1 | Gatlinburg
Don’t let the cold weather keep you in front of your cabin’s fireplace the whole time you are visiting the Smoky Mountains. Get out and explore all nature has to offer, even in quiet, peaceful beauty!
7 Top Tips for Surviving Winter in the Smokies
- Pack layers in case the weather changes. Winters in the South are typically pretty mild. In Pigeon Forge, the average high for December through February stays around 50 degrees, and the average low is about 25 degrees. That’s why so many folks like to travel to the Smokies during their winter vacations. But weather can change drastically and without much warning. So before you head to Pigeon Forge, be sure to check the forecast and pack several layers. Your winter coat, a rain jacket, and even t-shirt or 2 are good to bring to Pigeon Forge—you never know what you might need!
- Spend dreary days inside the cabin. Winter weather can also mean dreary weather. Cold, rainy days aren’t the best for exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or walking around shops on the Parkway. But don’t fret! There’s still plenty to do right inside your Pigeon Forge cabin! Many of our cabins come with a variety of game tables, from pool to air hockey. We also have cabins with covered outdoor hot tubs and indoor jetted tubs—the perfect way to warm up on a cool winter afternoon. Or just enjoy some family time in front of your wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplace. If there’s a specific amenity you’re looking for, search for it on our cabin rentals by amenity page.
- Bring movies and games for indoor fun. If you are planning on hanging out in the cabin for a day or 2 during your wintertime retreat, then be sure to pack your favorite games and movies for loads of indoor fun! You’ll love watching your favorite movies in the private theater room that comes with your cabin. Pop some popcorn, and curl up with loved ones for a movie-watching experience that doesn’t come with a steep price tag. Or try a favorite board game in the living room with the family. Popular board games for large groups include Catchphrase, Taboo, or Telestrations. Or you can stick with the classics like Monopoly, Life, or Scrabble. Bring along some options and plan for big fun no matter what the weather looks like outside.
- Plan to visit some popular indoor attractions. If the weather is still drab but you’re wanting to explore downtown Pigeon Forge, check out some of the popular indoor attractions in the area. The Titanic Museum Attraction is one of the more unique museums in the area. You can explore replicated hallways and rooms of the ship, learn the stories of original passengers, and even touch a real iceberg during your Titanic experience. Other popular attractions along the Parkway include WonderWorks, the Hollywood Wax Museum, and the Big Top Arcade. All of these are indoor attractions where you can escape the cold weather but still enjoy the best of what Pigeon Forge has to offer during your winter retreat to the Smokies.
- Keep a winter safety kit in the car. Before you leave home, be sure to inspect your car thoroughly. Make sure your tire tread is fit for travel and your fluid levels are normal. Then, pack a winter safety kit for your vehicle. Things like an ice scraper, jumper cables, blankets, flashlights, and a first-aid kit are all great to have in case of an emergency. And a few non-perishable snacks and water bottles can easily be stowed away for the times you’re stuck in the car for longer than you expected because of wintertime traffic.
- Take the trolley to avoid traffic. Wintertime, especially during the holidays, is one of the most popular times to visit the Smokies. And more visitors inevitably means more traffic! To avoid this, try to stay off the road during peak travel times—usually that’s after 10 a.m. and before 7 p.m. But an even easier way to stay out of Pigeon Forge traffic is to take the Pigeon Forge Trolley. The trolley will take you up and down the Parkway, to Dollywood, to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center, and even to Wears Valley for less than $1 per ride. Or you can purchase an all-day pass for only $2.50. The trolley operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the months of November and December.
- Drive slow though the mountains. Remember that Pigeon Forge is nestled in the Smoky Mountains, and many of our cabins can be found on winding, steep roads. So play it safe and drive SLOW through the mountains, especially during the winter. Even mild precipitation can cause slippery road conditions, and if it dips below freezing, there could be ice on the roads. Check the weather, and stay off the road if you can when the weather’s bad. And when you can’t, take it slow!