No matter what time of year you plan to visit the Smoky Mountain area, you have to spend some time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, this winter, make sure you take a look at our tips that will keep you safe while you’re out on the trails during the colder months.
- Start Your Trip Early
When you go hiking in the Smoky Mountains in the winter, it’s important to start your hike early! In the Smokies, there are shorter daylight hours in the winter, so the sun begins setting around 5 p.m. You don’t want to be stuck out on the trails when the darkness starts rolling in.
Many hikers begin as early as 5 a.m. when they plan a longer hike. If you’re taking a shorter hike, you don’t have to worry about being on the trail so early, but should still get out before noon.
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Of course, one important thing to remember is to never hike alone. Granted, there are some avid hikers out there who spend a lot of time hiking in the Smoky Mountains alone, but we don’t recommend hitting the trails on your own at all! It’s safer to have at least one other person with you, just in case of any emergencies that may arise.
Remember, once you’re in the mountains, there’s no cell phone signal, so you’ll be on your own. Make sure to take a map, so you don’t lose track of where you are. Another helpful tip is to make sure to let someone know where you are headed, which trail you will be taking and when you should be expected to return. This way, if any problems should occur, someone will be able to contact officials to check on you.
- Pack Plenty of Water
Water is one of the most important things you can take on the trail with you, no matter the time of year! In the winter months, you may not think you’ll get dehydrated while you’re hiking in the Smoky Mountains, but your body definitely needs the water to keep active.
No matter what happens on the trail, DO NOT drink water directly from any of the streams, waterfalls or other water sources in the national park. These waters are contaminated with bacteria. We don’t even recommend using the ‘filtration tablets’ that are available because it’s not a guarantee to completely clean the water.
If you forget to pack water, stop by one of the visitor centers to purchase a few bottles for your hike.
You should always have a specific plan before you start your hike. Know exactly which trails you will be hiking, so you don’t get off course. Especially in the winter months, hikers tend to run into snow and ice throughout the national park which can cause trouble when you’re on the trail. It’s best to stay on well maintained trails, so you can easily make your way back to where you began.
- Dress in Layers
Of course, when you’re hiking in the winter weather, you want to be as warm as possible. The best way to guarantee that you’ll be comfortable when you’re hiking is to dress in layers. When you wear many layers, you’ll be able to take off your top layers and carry them in your backpack if you need to cool down. Keep in mind that the upper elevations can be extremely cold in comparison to the lower elevations in the national park.
For more safety tips for hiking in the Smoky Mountains, take a look at the National Park Service’s website here: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/hikingsafety.htm
If you are hiking to Clingmans Dome or Mt. LeConte, you will definitely want to make sure you have those extra layers of clothes. You may even want to make sure you have a scarf and a pair of gloves with you.
For more information about hiking in the Smoky Mountains, take a look at all of the Smoky Mountain travel information on our blog. There, you can find everything you need to know about events in the area as well as travel tips and tricks.