Guide to Winter Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

November 24, 2021

As long as you don’t mind the cold, winter is an amazing time to go hiking in the Smokies. The trails will be less crowded and there is a good chance you might even see some snow! There are an array of different hiking trails that are perfect during this time of year. Here is the ultimate guide to winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains:

What to Expect

Smoky Mountains Winter Although the weather will be chilly, winter is an amazing time to go hiking in the Smokies. The majority of the trails remain open during the winter months, which means there will be plenty of hikes to choose from. If you decide to hike in the higher elevations, there is a good chance you will see snow blanketing the ground. In addition, there are some amazing trails that can take you to gravity defying frozen waterfalls! If you are willing to battle the cold, there is a ton of beauty to be seen in the Smokies during the winter!

Best Winter Hikes

Although these trails are spectacular all year round, the winter months just add to the excitement. From snow covered mountain tops to hanging icicles, there are several trails that will make you feel like you are in a winter wonderland! Here are a list of hikes you do not want to miss this winter:

1. Rainbow Falls

If you are looking for an amazing waterfall hike to adventure this winter, look no further than the trail to Rainbow Falls. The amazing 80-foot waterfall is truly a sight that will take your breath away. The thing that makes this an amazing hike during winter is the opportunity to see impressive ice formations built around the falls. This normally happens when there is an extended amount of cold days in a row, so the best chances are in January and February.

2. Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Trail The Alum Cave Trail is probably one of the most visited hiking trails in the winter. The reason for this is because of the frozen icicles that frequently hang from the side of the cliff! One of the good things about this trail is that it is only 5 miles roundtrip. If you are not a big fan of the cold, you can easily hike this trail in only a few hours. The views from the Alum Cave Bluffs will make it well worth your trip!

3. Andrews Bald

Andrews Bald is a large grassy area that is named after an old cattle herder, Andres Thompson. When you get to the bald, you will have an amazing view of the Smoky Mountains. On clear days, it seems like you can see for miles as you look across the mountaintops. As you can imagine, this is an astounding sight to see when the mountains are blanketed with snow. You will want to bring your camera along to capture pictures of this true beauty.

Tips for Winter Hiking

Before you hit the trails, we have put together a list of some important things to remember when hiking in the Smoky Mountains during the winter months. From things to bring to what to look out for, we hope this list makes your next hiking adventure a success:

Check the Weather Forecast

Chances are you can guarantee the weather will be on the colder side. In the lower elevations, the average highs during the winter months hang around in the 50s. However, once you are on the hiking trails in the upper elevations, temperatures can drop into the lower 30s during the day and even colder at night. Knowing the temperature for the day you are hitting the trails will help you be more prepared.

Pack What You Need

shoes for hiking One of the key things when planning a hiking trip is packing the right equipment. You do not want to get out on the trail and realize you left an essential item at home. We recommend wearing footwear that is going to keep your feet both warm and dry. The best shoes to wear are certified hiking boots, to go along with wool socks. You will also want to make sure to pack plenty of water. Even though you will not get as thirsty when it is cold outside, it is still important to remain hydrated.

Bring Navigation Equipment

Many people do not think to bring a map anymore when they go hiking because they rely on their phone’s GPS. However, some of the trails have very limited, if any, cell phone reception. Also, the cold weather can cause your phone battery to die faster than it normally would, especially if it is constantly searching for a signal. This is why it is important to print out a map ahead of time for the trail you plan on taking.

Now that you have a guide to winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to check out this map to start planning your next adventure! We hope to see you out on the trails!