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17 Top Great Smoky Mountains National Park Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for great smoky mountains national park
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The Great Smoky Mountains are America’s most visited National Park. With sweeping mountain ranges, breathtaking fall hues, and beautiful waterfalls, it’s easily a park you’ll find yourself exploring again and again.

We’ve put together a list of all the things you’ll want to make sure to not forget, what to wear in each season, as well as a list of what NOT to bring.

See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for the Smoky Mountains - 17 Essentials

  • 1. Packing Cubes

    Organization is key when traveling. Packing cubes have saved me time, and money, and allowed me to stay focused on enjoying travel (instead of trying to find that *one* outfit). This five-piece set has 7 different color options and also includes two laundry bags, so you can keep your clean clothes separate and everything compact.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 2. Hiking Boots

    A good pair of hiking boots should be at the top of your list when budgeting for a hiking or backpacking trip. The last thing you want is a foot injury or a lot of blisters because you don’t have the right shoes for the trail. They are essential—trust me.

    Women Hiking Boots

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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become the new norm in our digital age; it’s the best way to protect your information at a coffee shop or in the airport. While you won’t necessarily need one if you’re spending all of your time on the trail, it’s a good idea to have one if you need to access sensitive information over public wi-fi.


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  • 4. Quick-dry Travel Towel

    Bulky cotton towels don’t pack well, whether you’re packing for travel or for the trail. If you get caught in a thunderstorm or decide to go for a dip in the cool mountain river, you’ll want to have a quick-dry, microfiber travel towel with you. This towel also comes with a bonus washcloth and a lifetime guarantee.

    travel towel

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  • 5. Wool Socks

    I’ve learned the hard way: wool socks are essential when hiking, especially in colder weather. While more lightweight socks might work for some occasions, the last thing you want is cold feet when you’re 10 miles into your hike. And you’ll want to pair your hiking boot sizing with the socks you’ll need most often on the trail.

    Wool Socks

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  • 6. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    If you’re traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains in the Spring or Summer, prepare for severe storms. March has the most temperature swings. If you get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm, you’ll need a windproof, compact travel umbrella. With a lifetime replacement guarantee, HERO’s travel umbrella is a solid buy to make sure you’re covered, whatever the weather.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

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  • 7. Bear Spray

    While it does add to the weight of your pack, when it comes to bears, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Check out the National Park Service’s advice for what to do if you encounter a bear, and make sure to not leave out any food or drinks while camping or out on the trail.

    Bear Spray

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  • 8. Cooling Towel

    If you’re hiking in the Smokies in the summer, it gets hot. With temperatures in the 90s, it can get sweaty and sticky with your daypack, no matter how much you make sure and wear quick-dry clothing. A microfiber cooling towel is the perfect reprieve, allowing you to cool off and continue enjoying the beautiful, Great Smoky Mountains.

    cooling towel

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  • 9. Portable Pour Over Coffee Maker

    This one is for the coffee connoisseurs. If you’re looking for ways to enjoy pour over coffee in the woods, the portable Cafflano has a grinder, spout for hand pouring, and is the size of a travel coffee tumbler. Whether or not it’s worth the extra lb will depend on the camper, but it’s worth a mention.

    Portable Pour Over Coffee Maker

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  • 10. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    If you’re planning on backpacking in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll want to have a water bottle with a filter. Running out of water on the trail on a day hike is the worst nightmare; needing to refill on a multi-day hike is expected. Being prepared for anything means more time spent enjoying the brightly-hued trees around you.

    Lifestraw Water Bottle

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  • 11. Neck Wallet

    Gatlinburg is one of the most “touristy” areas I’ve been to. Given that it’s a touristy area, pickpockets are inevitable. One way to protect yourself even if you’re jet-lagged and wearing your newest Smoky Mountains National Park t-shirt is to keep your cards, ID, and phone secure with a neck wallet.

    Neck Wallet

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  • 12. Travel First-Aid Kit

    When out in nature, it’s a good idea to be prepared for anything. This compact 100-piece first-aid kit has both the essentials (band-aids, antiseptic wipes, scissors, moleskin) and emergency items like a CPR mask and an emergency blanket. At less than half a pound of weight, it’s easily carryable on the trail.

    First aid kit travel

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  • 13. Travel Insurance for the Smoky Mountains

    With continued pandemic uncertainty, travel insurance is a smart thing to have, whether you’re traveling internationally or domestically. Easily compare your options with guaranteed best prices and helpful “What If” blog articles for travel preparedness. assures all of us over-thinkers that others have the same questions and concerns—while allowing us to enjoy our trip and remain fully present.

    Travel Insurance for the Smoky Mountains

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  • 14. Solar Collapsible Lantern with USB port

    When camping in the Smokies, it’s important to have lightweight, rain-resistant options for charging your phone and a way to get around in the dark. If you’re camping in the woods, you’ll want a few different sources of light and battery. A collapsible solar camping light will ensure that you’re prepared for anything.

    Solar Collapsible Lantern with USB port

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  • 15. Comfy Flannel

    When I think about hiking in the mountains, my mind immediately drifts to my favorite cozy flannel. Perfect both for layering on the trail and enjoying a cup of coffee on a brisk morning, flannels are one of the most versatile items of clothing to bring to the Smoky Mountains.

    Comfy Flannel

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  • 16. Flashlight

    A heavy-duty flashlight is essential if there’s a chance you’re going to be hiking after dark. With five different light modes (including SOS), a USB port so that you can recharge your flashlight in the car, and a sturdy carrying case, this is the perfect flashlight for road trip hikes.


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  • 17. Portable Charger

    Portable chargers can be bulkier than your phone, so a lipstick-sized charger is perfect as you keep an eye on the weight of your pack. The last thing you want is to be unable to access the trails you downloaded to your phone or be able to make an emergency call. This charger also comes with an 18-month warranty.

    Portable Charger

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What to Wear in the Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a temperate forest with four distinct seasons. While you’re hiking, keep in mind that the base of the mountain can be 10-20 degrees warmer than higher elevations, so be sure to pack layers for that cooler mountain air.

Spring and Summer will have more thunderstorms and temperature swings, so you’ll want to make sure you have a sturdy raincoat, windproof umbrella, and check the weather forecast ahead of time. How many layers you wear and bring will depend on if you’re doing a shorter day hike or if you’re backpacking. Regardless of season or hiking plans, make sure you wear sunscreen and quick-dry clothing.

What Should WOMEN Wear in the Smoky Mountains? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Women hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains will want to wear breathable, quick-dry clothing regardless of season, and pack layers. In the Fall, yoga pants with pockets, a crop workout tank, and an oversized flannel will keep you comfortable. Make sure to bring a fleece jacket and ear warmers, and wear a good pair of hiking boots.

If you’re dressing up in Gatlinburg, you might opt for a nice blouse, jeans, and suede booties, and re-wear that oversized flannel. If you’ll be in the Smokies during the rainy season (Spring), you might want to wear ankle-length rain boots instead.

What Should MEN Wear in the Smoky Mountains? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Men hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains will want to wear quick-dry clothing and bring lots of layers. If you’re hiking in the fall, a quick-dry shirt, flannel, and quick-dry hiking pants will keep you warm and comfortable. Keep a fleece jacket in your backpack.

If you’re dressing up in Gatlinburg, you might opt for a button-down, jeans, and oxford shoes.

Dressing for the Seasons in the Smoky Mountains

Spring – March, April, May

Spring is the most unpredictable weather in the Smokies—you may have sunny skies in the morning and snow flurries in the afternoon. March has the most changes in temperature and weather, you’ll want to plan for snow with gloves and a warm beanie. April has more rain showers, and May is generally warmer (highs of 70s and 80s and lows in the 40s and 50s).

Summer – June, July, August

Summers in the Smokies are hot and humid. You’ll want to prepare for afternoon showers and thunderstorms. At lower elevations, temperatures can get up to the 90s. It gets cooler in the evenings with lows in the 60s and 70s.

Fall – September, October, November

Fall is breathtaking in the Great Smoky Mountains. Daytime highs are typically in the 70s and 80s in September, cooling to the 50s and 60s in early November. October is the driest month out of the year. This is the best season to enjoy the Smokies, just make sure to layer with a fleece jacket.

Winter – Mid-November, December, January, February

During the winter, Smoky Mountains National Park weather is generally moderate. At low elevations, you’ll get about an inch or so of snow a few times a year. Up in the mountains, snow falls more frequently and during a snowstorm, you might get up to two feet of snow.

January and February are the months that you’ll want to prepare the most for snow in the Smoky mountains and remember your winter coat. January is the coldest month in the Smokies, with an average high of 37℉ and an average low of 20℉.

Dressing Appropriately for the Activity – (Click to expand)
If you’re hiking in the Smokies in the Fall (personally, I think this is the best time), you’ll need a light jacket and will generally be comfortable in whatever hiking gear you like to wear. Your favorite crop workout top, an oversized sweater, and bike shorts with pockets is an option that’s both cute and comfy. For guys, hiking pants or shorts and a lightweight long sleeve can be easily layered for cooler evenings.

While Gatlinburg is very much a more casual tourist town, you might want to dress up if you go to a nice dinner or bar. Plan ahead, look at what your options are, and opt for mostly casual with a dressier outfit or two.

If you’re traveling to TN in the Fall or Winter, flannels are perfect, both for women and men. Pair them with oxford dress shoes or suede booties and a scarf for the perfect cozy yet cute outfit. Just keep an eye on the rain forecast if you’re wearing shoes that aren’t water resistant.

What NOT to Bring to the Smoky Mountains

  • 1.DON’T Bring Lots of Cash

    Whether you’re staying in town or in a tent, you don’t need to bring lots of cash with you. While it’s a good idea to bring some cash in the event that you have issues with your card or Apple Pay, you’ll find ATMs in Gatlinburg and a lot of cash isn’t necessary.

  • 2.DON’T Bring Fragile Items

    Anything fragile that you take with you is at risk of breaking. Try to avoid bringing fragile items with you to the Smoky Mountains, and if you need to bring something fragile, make sure it’s packed securely.

  • 3.DON’T Bring Unnecessary Heavy Items

    While it does depend somewhat on if you’re flying or driving to the Smoky Mountains, if you’re going to be hiking and/or camping, you’ll notice every bit of weight. Try to choose to pack lightweight, compact items.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Lots of Books

    In an ideal world, maybe you’d read all 7 of the books you brought with you while cabin camping. In reality, you probably won’t read as much as you plan to. You can always take one or two books and take an e-reader or even read on the Kindle app on your phone.

  • 5.DON’T Bring Full-size Toiletries

    Traveling to the mountains = elevation change. Whether you’re driving or flying, you’ll experience all of your liquids expanding with air, which adds to the risk of your shampoo getting everywhere. Stick with small, TSA-friendly containers and a toiletry bag.

  • 6.DON’T Bring Too Many Clothes

    Anything you take with you, you have to travel with. With this mindset, bringing less clothes becomes simple. Especially if you’re camping, you’ll want to keep it light.

What NOT to Wear in the Smoky Mountains – (Click to expand)
Whether you’re hiking or sightseeing, dress in the Smoky Mountains is generally pretty casual, so you can leave your formalwear at home unless you have a special occasion event.

FAQs about Smoky Mountains National Park

  • 1. What’s the best time of year to visit Smoky Mountains National Park?

    What’s the best time of year to visit Smoky Mountains National Park?

    Personally, Fall in the Great Smoky Mountains is breathtaking and tough to beat. Especially if you’re traveling from somewhere without much of a Fall, there’s nothing like looking out from the top of a mountain and experiencing the yellows, reds, and orange hues in all of their glory. It’s also comfortable, light jacket weather for hiking; you’ll miss most of the Spring and Summer thunderstorms and the Winter snow.

  • 2. What are some of the best hikes in Smoky Mountains National Park?

    Laurel Falls is one of my favorite short, easy hikes (2.3 miles roundtrip) with beautiful views. It’s very popular, so you’ll want to hike in the early morning or on weekdays if you’re visiting during peak season.

    Trillium Gap Trail (to Grotto Falls) is also a great uphill climb with waterfall views. It’s 6.8 miles out and back and rated “moderate” difficulty, so perfect for a morning or afternoon hike. Trillium Gap also includes/connects to Rainbow Falls and Brushy Mtn. Trail, depending on which way you go, so if one trail is busy, you’ll have a few options.

    If you’re looking for a more challenging (day trip) route, Alum Cave Trail (to Mount LeConte) is 11 miles out and back with 3,061 ft elevation gain. It’s got beautiful twists and turns up the mountain, breathtaking overlooks, and the rushing river either parallel to or at crossings throughout the hike.

  • 3. What city should I stay in if I’m visiting Smoky Mountains National Park?

    What city should I stay in if I’m visiting Smoky Mountains National Park?

    If you’re traveling to the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is the closest and most popular travel destination, with lots of cabin and hotel rentals available. If you’re coming from the North Carolina end of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cherokee is considered the capital of Cherokee culture in the US and has lots of reservation retreats and airbnbs.

  • 4. Should I be worried about bears in Smoky Mountains National Park?

    An encounter with a bear is definitely something to consider and prepare for anytime you’re camping or hiking in wooded areas with larger bear populations. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is actually one of the largest protected areas for black bears in the eastern US. If you’re wondering what you should do if you encounter a bear, check out the National Park Service’s advice.

    While it is bulky, traveling with bear spray is a good idea. Ultimately, remember that bear attacks are rare and we’re in their home while out hiking and camping—the best prevention is to make sure to not leave food or drink out if you’re camping and to stay aware of surroundings.

  • 5. What timezone is Great Smoky Mountains National Park in?

    What timezone is Great Smoky Mountains National Park in?

    Tennessee is actually split in two different time zones, Central and Eastern. If you’re stopping by Nashville on your way to the Smoky Mountains, you’ll be on CST. But once you get to Gatlinburg, you’ll be on EST. It’s one of those nuances that’s good to know as you plan your travels, especially if you’re driving or coming from a different timezone.

  • 6. What is there to do in Gatlinburg?

    Gatlinburg has fun for the whole family with rollercoasters, an arcade, and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. While I personally enjoyed staying out in nature or at an Airbnb away from lots of tourists, the wonderful thing is that there are possibilities for every itinerary.