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Late Fall and Winter Hikes Offer the Best Views

Unless you have been in the Smokies before in the late fall or winter, you might not realize that it is the perfect time to experience our amazing views.  Winter temperatures are more than 50 degrees on about half of the winter days.  Moderate temperatures coupled with low humidity make for comfortable hiking conditions!  Higher elevations are cooler, so dress accordingly.  Be sure to dress in layers and remember to wear a hat.  A thermos of hot cocoa is a treat during your rest breaks on the trail!  Grab a couple of sack lunches from the Inn and have a winter picnic while admiring the scenery.   

Here are some of our favorite winter hikes:

The Laurel Falls trail is 2.6 miles round-trip and paved.  If you are lucky enough to be here during a stretch of below-freezing weather, the frozen water fall creates a crystal castle.  The freezing and thawing from warm days and cooler nights makes an incredible display of dripping ice. 

The hike to Andrews Bald is about 1.8 miles with 1,200 feet in elevation changes.  The hike starts at the Clingmans Dome parking lot.  When you get to the Andrews Bald area, you will have the chance to take in the winter views of the snowcapped peaks of the Smoky Mountains.

Sparkling icicle formations can be seen at the Alum Cave Bluffs, about 2.3 miles from the start of the Alum Cave Trail.  The hike through the old-growth forest is especially quiet and peaceful without the summertime crowds.  The path goes from Newfound Gap Road to the top of Mount LeConte.  You will see log bridges and stone stairways. 

Porters Creek Trail is a gravel road for the first mile or so.  The trail then changes to a dirt trail and heads to Fern  Falls.  The hike to the Falls is about 4 miles, round-trip.  You will cross log bridges and see some of the stone walls erected by this area’s original settlers.

If you prefer to drive, Cades Cove is a favorite winter destination.  The valley is a great place to observe wildlife, such as coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and deer.  The Visitor’s Center is open year-round and can help you plan your visit to the historic buildings in the area.