Best Winter Hikes

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again which means you’re probably already beginning to plan your winter vacation, am I right?! Has it been a long year? Are the mountains calling your name? That just means it’s time to come and see us here in the Smokies. While our rolling hills are beautiful no matter when you come to visit, there is still something so special about seeing them during the winter (especially when it snows!) We all know it isn’t a Smoky Mountain vacation if you don’t do some hiking and there’s no better time to do so than during the cooler months. When you stay with us here at Whispering Pines, we offer beautiful and cozy 1-4 bedroom condos that each come with a gas fireplace, so you can warm right up after your journey on one of our many trails! They also come with a full sized kitchen and we all know what that means – hot chocolate time! Another perk of vacationing with us is that we offer FREE TICKETS to numerous shows and attractions in the area for you and the family to take advantage of after a day of hiking. So now is the time to start narrowing down which spots you want to hit this season. While there are so many trails to choose from, and all different kinds of difficulty levels and views, we decided to list a few of our personal favorites. Join us on this little guide to the Best Winter Hikes in the Smokies!

  • Laurel Falls – This is one of the more moderate trails, but that doesn’t make it any less of an exciting journey from beginning to end! It’s 2.6 miles round trip with a paved path which is nice if you’re a beginner like me. It can still have some steep moments, so you want to be extra careful when traveling, especially in the winter since it can get slippery due to ice or other factors. The best part about hiking this trail during the below-freezing weather is that the falls become frozen themselves and it seems like you’re just looking at a true winter wonderland so to speak! Waterfalls are one of the most beautiful things to see while you’re here, so it’s no wonder why this spot has become such a staple for so many people when visiting the area. I could stand on that wooden walkway for hours looking at all the scenery, it’s just so relaxing! Make sure to add this one to your list this winter.
  • Porters Creek Trail – This is another moderate trail and it’s actually one of the best family friendly hikes in the area! Not only does it offer some amazing views, but it’s on one of the lower terrains which makes it possible for this spot to always be open, even in the freezing winter. The best thing about this particular trail is all the history that you get to encounter on your family adventure. The trail starts out as a gravel road which will lead you to some old stone walls from the 1900’s on the Elbert Cantrell Farmstead. You’ll definitely want to have your camera ready to snap some photos of this special spot. If you continue on a few more steps, you’ll come across the Ownby Cemetery which also oozes of history itself. The road will soon turn into a dirt footpath which means you’re finally reaching another great part of the trail – Fern Branch Falls! What can I say, I’m a sucker for waterfalls, so I just have to tell ya’ll about every single one here in the Smokies! This four mile hike is sure to become a family favorite in no time!
  • Rainbow Falls – While this spot is extremely popular especially in the warmer months, there is still something to be said about seeing it during the winter! What makes this one so special? Well, Rainbow Falls is the highest (at 80 feet) single-drop waterfall in our wonderful Smokies. If you catch this site on a sunny day, a rainbow that is produced by the mist can be seen. Now I know what you’re thinking, why would I want to see it during winter then? The answer is easy. Once we reach below-freezing weather, a crystal castle formation, so to speak, sets up around the waterfall for our viewing pleasure! It’s absolutely beautiful and it’s something you will want to see every winter for years to come. This is another moderate trail, but hiking boots are strongly encouraged for this one. Also, remember not to try to climb the rocks, the algae and mist from the falls make them extremely slippery and easy to get hurt on, so use caution when you’re near the waterfall!
  • Charlies Bunion – We’ve taken it easy on you with some moderate trails, but if you’re more of a thriller seeker, then this one is just for you! You will travel along the Appalachian Trail to reach this special stone outcrop. Please be aware that this trail has a lot of steep drop-offs, so you will want to be very aware of your surroundings. Once you’ve reached this spot, you will be able to see some of the most beautiful views around of the Smokies! Getting to see the snow covered rolling hills without interruption in the winter is a view that you will never forget, so make sure to have your camera ready for it. It’s four miles one way to reach this location, but the views definitely make it worth your while!
  • Alum Cave Trail – This is one of the most popular winter hiking trails in the Smokies and it’s for good reason! This is a moderate hike and will feature some really special views that you may not even expect to see. One of the best parts is when you reach Arch Rock. This is an incredible landmark where you will feel like you’re actually walking under an arch as you climb stairs that are etched in stone! Once you reach Alum Cave, which is actually a concaved bluff and not a cave, you will be able to see some beautiful views. The reason why this trail is so popular in the winter is because you get to see icicles forming on the ledges above you when you reach this location. It’s like you’re truly walking in a winter wonderland! Make sure to get here somewhat early so you can enjoy it before the crowds start forming.

Thank you so much for joining us on our guide to the Best Winter Hikes in the Smokies! Make sure to wear extra warm clothes when you’re hitting the trails because after seeing the views, you may never want to leave them! I swear I can get lost on so many of them because of the gorgeous scenery that comes with it. Winter is such a special time here and there’s no better way to experience all the magic that our mountains possess than hiking to different and beautiful parts of our area. You know our rolling hills are calling your name, so I think that means it’s time to answer. Book your vacation now and don’t forget to take advantage of our Lodging Specials! Come and join our family here at Whispering Pines, we would truly love to have you!

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