The Hot Springs, NC climate is very moderate, making for pleasant year-round living and comfort. The town is nestled in a mountain valley created by the French Broad River. Surrounding town are the peaks and ridges of the Pisgah National Forest, with elevations ranging from 1,300 feet in town to over 4,600 feet in the mountains.
In the summer, the elevation and surrounding mountains tend to keep the area cooler than other locations in North Carolina. Likewise, in winter the mountains protect the town from the harsh winter weather you might find in higher elevations.
Distinctive Seasons of Hot Springs
A wonderful aspect of the Hot Springs weather is the distinctive seasons. Each season is marked with its own wonderful characteristics that punctuate the year and add spice to the different holidays and and associated activities. When the topic of weather and seasons comes up with a group of Hot Springs residents or frequent visitors, there is a wide range of opinion about which season is the favorite and why.
Spring is wonderful in Hot Springs as the town begins to emerge from the relatively mild winters. Spring starts in the valley where the sunshine warms the air, first bringing the crocuses and daffodils starting in late February or early March, followed by redbuds, dogwoods and flowering fruit trees.
As spring emerges and leaves begin to cover the trees, the fresh green foliage makes its way up the mountains to higher elevations. You can literally watch from day to day as the bright green color moves up the side of Round Top Mountain and Hot Springs Mountain.
It is during this time that the northbound Appalachian Trail “thru-hikers” begin to arrive in town. April starts festival season with the Hot Springs Community Trailfest, our annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail.
Summer in Hot Springs is a great time of the year. June brings warmer days but the nights remain fairly cool as the air from up high on the mountains floats down into the valley. July is the area’s warmest month and it’s a great time for swimming in a mountain creek or rafting on the French Broad River. A trip to 5,000-foot-tall Max Patch is guaranteed to bring temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler than in the valley and on some days a sweater or light jacket is needed.
Fall is a spectacular time of year in Hot Springs, NC. You may begin to feel the coolness in the air in late August, and by September the days are generally cooler and nights are pleasant.
Color starts to arrive as early as mid-September in some of the trees, particularly the dogwoods, which turn red very early. Mid-October through the end of October is the peak time for fall color, although the show extends well into November.
Fall is the reverse of Spring: leaves change color at the higher elevations first, and the brilliant shades move from the mountaintops gradually down to the valley floors. A drive around the nearby communities of Spring Creek and Shelton Laurel is a perfect way to observe this beautiful phenomenon.
Winter doesn’t really arrive in Hot Springs until January. December weather is chilly, but pleasant. Even during January, the average daytime temperature is well into the 40’s and the nighttime average is in the low 30’s to upper 20’s.
Most days are bright and sunny in the winter making for particularly good hiking. With the foliage down, views from the mountain trails are expansive with long vistas. The structure of the mountain ridges are made visible, and the trees show their elegant branches. The contrast of the evergreen plants, such as rhododendron, laurel, pine and hemlock, makes winter hiking especially enjoyable.
A nice feature of the winter weather in Hot Springs is derived from the topography. Because the town is in a slightly warmer valley, it is largely protected from snowfall. When snow does fall in town, it does not last long. Up in the mountains, at higher elevations, our 2-3 inches might translate into 10-12 inches. It is not at all unusual for us to have a dusting of snow here in town and to see the mountaintops gloriously white with new fallen snow for several days. In winter, if it’s snow you want you will find it at higher elevations like Max Patch or Wolf Laurel.
By February, the winter days start growing longer and temperatures rise most days into the high 40’s and low 50’s. Many accommodations in Hot Springs have fireplaces and, in winter, they are toasty and very inviting. The hot mineral springs are open year-round and, with water temperatures of 102-103 degrees, a soak in the springs is great even in the coldest of weather. In fact, many people prefer a hot soak during the coldest of weather.
When Valentine’s Day arrives in Hot Springs, we know that spring is just around the corner.