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November 28th, 2023
bridge along Alum Cave in the winter

Top 4 Winter Hikes in the Smoky Mountains That You Need to Experience

November 20, 2023 November 28th, 2023

Although it’s the off-season for white water rafting in the Smokies, you can still enjoy the great outdoors for some scenic hikes! The winter months are actually a fantastic time to explore some of the popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! While the days may be a bit shorter and the weather cooler, you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and unique winter scenery! Here are the top 4 winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains that you need to take:

1. Metcalf Bottoms Trail

The Metcalf Bottoms Trail is a relatively easy 1.5 mile out-and-back trail that gains about 187 feet in elevation, making it an excellent option for those who have a limited amount of time to hike! While this is an all-season trail, it is particularly magical during the winter and offers a combination of spectacular scenery and fascinating historical structures. This is because the trail takes you down into the historic Little Greenbrier Community, a small ghost town with an old schoolhouse, cabin and cemetery!

2. Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Trail with iciclesWhen it comes to the top winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to put the Alum Cave Trail on your itinerary! This moderately difficult 4.6 mile out-and-back trail meanders through an old-growth hardwood forest and ends at the Alum Cave bluffs, where you can enjoy the unique views of icicle formations along the bluffs! While many folks turn around at this point, you can also continue forward to the summit of Mt. Leconte for stunning views from the third highest peak in the Smokies!

3. Trillium Gap Trail

Another one of the top winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains that you need to take is the Trillium Gap Trail, which is an 8.9 mile out-and-back trail that takes a considerable amount of time to complete. Therefore, you’ll want to bring plenty of water with you and dress in layers in case the temperature drops! This moderately challenging hike features a lovely trail through the forest with several footbridges that cross over creeks, eventually leading to a 25 foot tall waterfall called Grotto Falls! From here, you can turn around or continue forward about 5.4 miles to reach the summit of Mt. LeConte!

4. Laurel Falls Trail

Laurel Falls Trail during winter with snowIf you’re not up for the length of the Trillium Gap Trail and have your heart set on seeing a waterfall this winter, Laurel Falls Trail is a fantastic alternative! This 2.5 mile out-and-back trail is an easy hike that is ideal for all skill levels, making it one of the most popular destinations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! As the name implies, the trail travels to the 80 foot high Laurel Falls, which is divided into an upper and lower section by a walkway at the base of the upper falls.

Tips for Winter Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

When you plan to go for one of these winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains, we want to make sure you’re prepared! As part of its Park It Forward program, visitors are required to display a parking pass on their vehicle if they are parked for longer than 15 minutes. You can purchase a tag online or at one of the visitor centers in the park! We recommend arriving early for the best parking options. You’ll also want to keep in mind that with the beauty of the winter comes uncertain trail conditions. Trails can be slick with ice, and proper hiking shoes are recommended for safety. Before you come to hike, be sure to check for trail and road conditions online, as closures can occur.

While you’ll love these winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains, it’s never too early to “think spring”! This is actually the perfect time to book your white water rafting trip for the upcoming season and take advantage of our best availability! We’ll see you in a few months on the Pigeon River!