While our campground may be closed for the season, you can still get outside to enjoy the great outdoors with a winter hike! This can actually be one of the best times to hit the hiking trails in the Smokies because the temperatures are generally moderate, there are far fewer visitors and no bug spray is necessary! So grab your hiking gear and get ready to explore some unique winter scenery while enjoying some great exercise! Here are 4 of the best winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains:
1. Porters Creek Trail
One of the best winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains is along the Porters Creek Trail, which is a 4 mile round trip hike that features an old cemetery, creek views and a variety of historic buildings, including the remnants of an old farmstead! While this trail is beautiful at any time of year, it is a great trail to hike on even the coldest winter days because it is situated at a lower elevation where snow is unlikely to close the roads. A highlight of the trail is a 40-foot cascading waterfall known as Fern Branch Falls, which looks absolutely spectacular when it is frozen!
2. Alum Cave Trail
The Alum Cave Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains and is perfect for a winter excursion! The trail begins by crossing Alum Cave Creek and then travels through a heavily forested area with plenty of bridges and streams. Once you get about 2 miles into the hike, you can spot the Alum Cave Bluffs in the distance. Alum Cave Bluff is not actually a cave, but a massive concave overhang that towers 75-80 feet high! This is a great resting point and a a good place to turn around if you don’t feel like hiking the entire trail. While walking along the trail, keep your eye for frozen icicles that may have formed along the side of the cliffs!
3. Laurel Falls Trail
The Laurel Falls Trail is a fantastic hiking destination at any time of year, but winter is a great time to experience a little more serenity on this popular trail! This 2.6 mile round trip hike features a paved trail, making it perfect for families with younger children who want to spend about two hours exploring the great outdoors! Once you climb up the paved path, you will be able to enjoy some fantastic mountain views through the trees before reaching the 80 foot waterfall. If the temperatures are cold enough, you might even have the opportunity to see the waterfall when it is frozen!
4. Charlies Bunion Trail
Another one of the best winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains is the Charlies Bunion Trail, which follows a gorgeous stretch of the fabled Appalachian Trail! This out and back trail covers just over 8 miles and involves an elevation gain of 1,640 feet, and it can be quite rocky with a few steep sections. Despite being a fairly difficult hike, you will be rewarded when you reach the breathtaking stone outcrop called Charlies Bunion! From here, you can see countless snow-covered mountains including Mount Kephart, Mount Guyot and Mount LeConte! If you choose to hike the Charlies Bunion Trail, keep in mind that the trail can get slick with ice, and snow spikes are recommended.
We hope that these winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains satisfy your cravings for the great outdoors until the Pigeon River Campground opens again in the early spring! Be sure to check out all of the information about our Smoky Mountain campground and make your reservations today for the best availability!