The Hot Springs, NC climate is very moderate with no big extremes making for good year-round living and comfort. Even though Hot Springs is in the North Carolina mountains, the town is nestled in a mountain valley created by the French Broad River. The elevation runs 1,300-1,400 feet in town and to over 3,500 feet in the surrounding 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 is 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 wonderful, and colorful, time of the year in Hot Springs, NC. You can actually start to feel the coolness in the air in mid to late August and by September the days are generally cooler and nights are very 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 color extends well into November. Fall is the reverse of springs in that leaves begin to turn color at the higher elevations. So the mountains tops change colors first and fall color gradually makes its way down the mountains into the valley.
Winter doesn’t really arrive in Hot Springs until January. The town might get some cold weather in December, but, generally, December weather is chilly (in the 50’s) but pleasant. Even in January the average daytime temperature is well into the 40’s and the night 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 wonderful with long vistas and the structure of the mountains more visible than when trees are covered with leaves. The contract of the green rhododendron, laurel, pines and hemlocks 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 valley, it is largely protected from snowfall because of the slightly warmer temperatures. We might get 2-3 inches of snow in the valley and a day or 2 later it is gone. 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 have the mountain tops 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 getting 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 arrive in Hot Springs, we that spring is just around the corner.