What Time Zone Are The Great Smoky Mountains In?

Planning a getaway to the marvelous Great Smoky Mountains, and wondering what time zone you’re going to be in during what’s sure to be an incredible trip?

Well, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn more about how time’s reckoned not only in the Great Smoky Mountains but in the two states within which these grand Southern Appalachian highlands and the world-famous national park they anchor fall.

What Are Time Zones?

First, though, what exactly are time zones? These are internationally followed bands of standard, agreed-upon time that represent positive or negative offsets from Coordinated Universal Time, aka Universal Time Coordinated (UTC). That’s the modern outgrowth of what once was known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and the number of time zones you are away from Greenwich, England remains the standard measure for knowing what your clock ought to say.

The contiguous United States encompasses five time zones: Eastern Standard Time, Central Standard Time, Mountain Standard Time, and Pacific Standard Time. (At the end of this article, by the way, we’ll list how all the states in the U.S. break down in terms of time zone.) Alaskan Standard Time and Hawaiian Standard Time cover most of Alaska and Hawaii, while other time zones—the Samoa, Chamorro, and Atlantic time zones—apply to various U.S. territories.

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates time zones in the country, while the meticulous timekeeping itself—upon which, needless to say, so much commerce and other everyday societal logistics depend—is overseen by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards & Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory.

What Time Zone Does Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fall In?

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The Great Smoky Mountains, which lie along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, are firmly in Eastern Standard Time. That’s a negative offset of five hours behind UTC when Eastern Standard Time is observed, and four hours behind when Eastern Daylight Time is observed.

Time Zones of Tennessee & North Carolina

When it comes to time zones, North Carolina is cut and dried: The entire state lies within the Eastern Time Zone.

Tennessee, though, isn’t quite so simple: It’s one of 15 states whose boundaries include more than one time zone. (The others, for trivia’s sake, are: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas.)

The Volunteer State comes unevenly split between Eastern and Central Time. The boundary line runs along the eastern borders of the following Tennessee counties: Pickett, Fentress, Cumberland, Bledsoe, Sequatchie, and Marion.

That means that the vast majority of East Tennessee—one of three legally recognized Grand Divisions of Tennessee, and the one that includes the state’s share of the Great Smokies—lies within the Eastern Time Zone. More than 70 percent of the state, though, including all of Middle and West Tennessee, are part of the Central Time Zone.

Before 1947, however, the entirety of Tennessee fell within the Central Time Zone. Lobbying by several East Tennessee cities, among them Knoxville and Chattanooga, helped lead to the westward shift of the Eastern Time Zone into the state.

List of Time Zones & the U.S. States They Cover

Now you know what time zone you’ll be in when visiting the Great Smokies: the Eastern Time Zone. Exactly what time it is will, naturally, depend on whether your Smoky Mountain getaway occurs during the observance of Standard Time or Daylight Savings Time, as both Tennessee and North Carolina follow that (perennially controversial) twice-yearly adjustment of the clock.

So let’s close things out with, as promised, a list of U.S. states by time zone, just to put your vacation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the broader context:

Eastern Standard Time

Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida (partially), Georgia, Indiana (partially), Kentucky (partially), Maine, Maryland, Michigan (partially), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee (partially), Vermont, West Virginia

Central Standard Time

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida (partially), Illinois, Indiana (partially), Iowa, Kansas (partially), Kentucky (partially), Louisiana, Michigan (partially), Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska (partially), North Dakota (partially), Oklahoma, South Dakota (partially), Tennessee (partially), Texas (partially), Wisconsin

Mountain Standard Time

Arizona, Colorado, Idaho (partially), Kansas (partially), Montana, Nebraska (partially), Nevada (partially), New Mexico, North Dakota (partially), Oregon (partially), South Dakota (partially), Texas (partially), Utah, Wyoming

Pacific Standard Time

California, Idaho (partially), Nevada (partially), Oregon (partially), Washington

Alaska Standard Time

Alaska (partially)

Hawaii Standard Time


Here’s the take-home message, though: It’s always a good time to steal away to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina! And—if you’ll allow us to riff on our theme just a little bit more—the splendor and majesty of these rugged, lushly cloaked mountains are downright timeless.