Whether a first-time visitor to the Smokies, or someone who has been returning for years, you already know it is a remarkably beautiful region. It is why millions of people head there every year, but you don’t have to limit your visits to the peak seasons. From late spring and into autumn, the region hosts many visitors who head out on the roads and trails to enjoy the stunning natural beauty that is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Yet, as winter arrives, the crowds thin and the park grows quieter than at any time of year. And that is precisely the reason to pay a visit during the winter months. Now, you might think it a bit unappealing to head into the woods if the snows are deep and the temperatures freezing, but you might be surprised at how amenable the parklands are to winter hikes.
The Advantages of Winter Hiking in the Smokies
Experts even point out that there are distinct advantages to choosing to hike in the winter. One such advantage is the absence of bugs! You won’t have to use any sort of repellents in the winter and can just enjoy the scenery.
Another advantage is that the leaves have fallen and opened up views and vistas that you cannot enjoy at any other time of the year. While the leaves may help to keep you cool and create a wonderful sort of scenery in the warmer seasons, with their disappearance in the winter, it changes the entire experience of hiking.
The temperatures are always cool and amenable to activity. You may even find you have to unzip or remove a layer as you make your way along the snow covered trails! And speaking of the snow cover, it is a wonderful way to begin learning about the native creatures of the forest. After all, they leave behind their footprints, quite clearly, in the snow and can help you to begin recognizing who has passed through the same trails you are hiking!
Of course, the peace and quiet of a winter’s hike in the Smokies is also an advantage. Though it is great that so many people like to get out into the woods and explore this stunning destination, it is awfully nice to feel like you have it almost entirely to yourself!
The Hikes to Consider
Not all trails are suited to novice or even somewhat experienced hikers in the winter months. We suggest the following three easy hikes for their amazing winter beauty and predictable conditions:
- Laurel Falls – If it is very cold, the falls freeze and create an unforgettable sight. The 1.3 mile trail is paved, so no extra-slippery conditions, and you’ll definitely want to use the wooden footbridge to take a few unforgettable photos.
- Porter’s Creek – Easily reached by car, it is gentle and brings you past Fern Branch Falls, usually frozen in the winter months. This is a four-mile loop.
- Schoolhouse Gap – Set near famous Cades Cove, it is where you will find a lot of local wildlife and can enjoy the scenery on this relatively flat and easy hike.
Remember to always check conditions and ensure roads are open, dress properly, and bring a camera! Winter hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is something you’ll want to photograph in order to capture some amazing memories.
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