6 Best Winter Hikes in the Smoky Mountains
Winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains comes with great perks and challenges that will help you grow as a hiker. Exploring our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the wintertime is a great way to enjoy more solitude, views that are revealed only during the colder months, and if you’re lucky the peacefulness of taking a walk in the woods on a snowy day. We have put together a group of hikes for you that include a variety of trails and some of the best in the park. Read over each description, find the trails for you, book your trip, and start hiking the Smokies!
Easy Winter Exploring:
1. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail
If you’re looking for a nice walk in nature, Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is the perfect easy, but beautiful, escape in the Smokies. If there are no concerns about ice or snow, the trail is also great for guests that use the assistance of a wheelchair or those that have small children in strollers. The trail is wide, paved, flat, and completely handicap accessible. The park has also provided nice benches along the way and a couple of pull offs along the river. This trail is also great for enjoying a snowy day walk with the family or just taking a solo stroll in the park.
2. Gatlinburg Trail
If you’re in town on a day when the park is closed due to snow, the Gatlinburg Trail is one that is always accessible due to the fact that it bumps up against downtown Gatlinburg. A hike along the trail has very little elevation gain but you can put in 4 miles of trail time if you hike from River Road to Sugarlands Visitors Center and back. You’ll be treated to time along the river and glimpses of yesteryear here in the Smokies. For a little extra treat, take time to visit Cataract Falls, a beautiful 25-foot high waterfall.
Wintertime Waterfall Chasing Adventures:
3. Grotto Falls
Winter is a great time to seek out the waterfalls of the Smoky Mountains and all the gems you’ll find along the way. One of the most unique waterfalls in the park is Grotto Falls. Located on the Trillium Gap Trail, Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the national park where the trail actually leads you behind the waterfall. During warmer months, the hike to Grotto Falls is only 3 miles round-trip making it a very popular spot. It’s a destination for many in the winter as well, but you’ll get a bit of break from the crowds due to needing to double your miles to access the waterfall when the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is closed. During the seasonal road closure hikers must begin the hike near the Rainbow Falls Trail parking area or walk the road to the beginning of the hike used during other times of the year.
4. Ramsey Cascades
Ramsey Cascades is a stunning 90-foot high set of cascades that is the ultimate payoff for hiking the Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike offers hikers a great workout on the way to their destination. Round-trip mileage for the hike is 8 miles, but don’t let that fool you. We’re not sharing the piece of info to deter you from this hike, it is certainly one of the best hikes in the park, but it is a trail that you’ll want to be prepared for. Seeing Ramsey Cascades frozen over and surrounded by snow during winter is an experience that not everyone gets to have but it is an experience that is never forgotten by those that have made the trek up on a cold day. Layer up, pack microspikes to keep you safe on the ice, charge up the camera, and head into the Greenbrier section of the park for a hike that you’ll hate to love and love to hate!
Peakbagging Pursuits for Prepared and Experienced Hikers:
5. Mount LeConte
A hike to the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains is a rewarding experience during every season, but winter brings a level of beauty that few ever get to see in Appalachia. There are multiple routes to the summit of Mount LeConte and it can be a bit tricky to pinpoint the trail you want to take during winter months due to road closures. However, if you’re an experienced hiker and you have all of the winter gear that you need for a cold trek to a snowy summit that will take you over trails of ice, then this is a destination that you’ll want to put on the list. If you need any assistance on weather conditions, trail information, or winter gear during your time in Gatlinburg take a trip to the NOC in Gatlinburg and their knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you out and get you set up for an unforgettable adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains.
6. Charlies Bunion and The Jump Off
A hike along the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion is a classic hike of the Smokies. During winter months the beautiful views that have been attracting hikers since before the national park was even formed. This 8 mile round-trip trek begins at Newfound Gap and offers up the option to take a side trip out to The Jump Off, another spot with stunning views.
Are you ready to start hiking in the Smoky Mountains?
Staying at our Gatlinburg hotel is the perfect way to spark motivation to hit the trails and explore the national park, as well as learn more about The Appalachian Trail that runs between Georgia and Maine.
The Appy Lodge was created to instill a love of the great outdoors in folks and hopefully encourage our guests to connect to the beautiful mountains that we call home. We can’t wait to welcome you and share the beauty and charm of the Smokies with you!
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