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winter hiking trail in the smoky mountains

The 3 Best Winter Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains

Over 11 million people a year come to the Smoky Mountains to see the many breathtaking views and experience the amazing hospitality of the region. However, one of the top things that people come to this region for are the many great hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. You might think that winter is too cold to go for a hike, but it’s actually one of the times for hiking in Gatlinburg TN and the Smoky Mountains! Learn more about the best winter hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains.

When you visit the Smoky Mountains in winter you will see things that may normally be hidden in leaves during the other months of the year, and you will also get to experience the frozen wonders of the Smoky Mountains. Here are a few of the breathtaking winter hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains that you will definitely want to check out.

1. Alum Cave Trail

person on a winter hiking trail in the smoky mountainsThe Alum Cave Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains in winter. During the warmer months, water is typically seen dripping off the cliff from the bluff above the Alum Cave Trail, however, during the winter, these droplets turn into frozen icicles, providing hikers with a beautiful frozen view.

The trail begins by crossing Walker Camp Prong and Alum Cave Creek on log bridges, leading hikers through an old-growth hardwood forest. The Alum Cave Bluffs are 2.3 miles from the trailhead. However, the Alum Cave Trail continues on to below the summit of Mt. Le Conte for a total of 5 miles hiked. This trail can be a bit difficult because of how long it is and because hikers climb to a height of 1,200 feet. The trail is steep and follows the edge of the ridge during some sections of the hike.  

(See Also: How to Convince Your Family to Take a Winter Vacation in the Smoky Mountains)

2. Andrews Bald

One of the best things to check out on winter hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains are the amazing views of the mountain tops covered in snow. During the winter months, the peaks of the Smoky Mountains are typically covered in a layer of snow. Andrews Bald provides hikers with amazing mountain views that you will definitely not want to miss out on this winter.

The Forney Ridge Trail, which leads to Andrews Bald, starts in the parking lot for Clingmans Dome, and you will initially begin a long descent on this trail. Then the trail will level off for a while until the final ascension through a forest, until you reach the grassy Andrews Bald. Forney Ridge Trail is 1.8 miles one way to Andrews Bald, however, the trail continues on for another 3.8 miles to Springhouse Branch Trail. This trail can be considered somewhat difficult because there is an elevation change of 1,200 feet during the duration of the hike.

3. Porters Creek

winter hiking trail in the smoky mountainsIf you love taking in the wonders of the frozen world during the winter, then Porters Creek should be your hiking destination this season. Porters Creek is one of the best winter hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains because it is situated at a lower elevation, where it is less likely that the roads will be closed off due to snow. Also, what is great about this trail is that visitors to the park can enjoy the history of the Smoky Mountain region during the hike and admire Fern Branch Falls in a frozen state. This trail is small and little known, so you should not expect to see much foot traffic to this relaxing and quiet site.

It is 2 miles from the trailhead to Fern Branch Falls, but that distance is very much worth the trip to this beautiful winter site. This trail is considered to be moderately difficult, with no big elevation changes.

More Winter Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains

These are just some of the best hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains to try during the winter. Whether you’re looking for something easy that the whole family can do or a challenging, yet rewarding, hike, there is a trail that’s perfect for you in the Smokies. Other popular winter hiking trails include Laurel Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Gatlinburg Trail.

They’re also great to visit no matter what time of the year it is! When you’re planning to go hiking in Gatlinburg TN, choose to stay in one of our Gatlinburg cabin rentals! Our cabins put you near all of the best hiking trails. Check out our amazing Smoky Mountain cabin rentals that will warm you up after a busy day of hiking!