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Alum Cave Trail bridge covered in snow

6 Things to Pack for a Winter Hike in the Smoky Mountains

Are you visiting the Smoky Mountains this winter? One of the best activities you can do during your visit is go on a winter hike. If you’ve never hiked in winter before, you may be wondering what you need to take with you. That’s why we’ve put together this list of things you should pack for a winter hike in the Smokies so you can be prepared and stay safe and warm!

1. Durable Hiking Boots

winter hiking in the smoky mountainsThe Smoky Mountains can see a lot of snow and ice during cold winter months. That’s why it’s important to wear durable hiking boots for your winter hike. You need to wear shoes with good ankle support in case you slip or step on an uneven surface. It’s also best to wear hiking boots that are waterproof in case you walk through snow or across a mountain stream. You don’t want to finish out the rest of your hike with cold, wet feet.

2. Wool Socks

Speaking of cold feet, you should definitely wear long wool socks during your winter hike. Wool is a great insulating material, which means it can effectively keep your feet warm in cold conditions. It is also moisture-wicking, so it will help keep your feet dry. You want to wear a long, thick pair of wool socks that will protect your feet, but you don’t want them to be too bulky so your boots won’t feel too tight.

3. Clothing Layers

man wearing many layers of winter clothingIf you want to be prepared for your winter hike, dress in layers. If you are hiking in the Smoky Mountains in cold temperatures, you will likely feel chilly when you start out. Then, as you get moving, you will start to warm up. To keep from getting too warm and sweating, it’s best to dress in layers that you can shed as you go. As you reach higher elevations where temperatures are lower, you can add these layers back on to keep you warm. Don’t wear something warm that you can’t take off because sweating in cold temperatures can be dangerous.

4. Crampons

In the Smoky Mountain, snow and ice are common on hiking trails in the winter, especially at the higher elevations. Crampons can help you walk on slippery surfaces like ice and densely packed snow. These are essentially ice spikes that you can strap onto your hiking boots that dig into ice and snow to give you better traction. This keeps you from slipping and falling on slick surfaces during your winter hike.

5. Plenty of Water

water bottle sitting on snow-covered logDuring a winter hike in the Smokies, you likely won’t feel as thirsty as you would when hiking in summer. When you aren’t sweating, you may not feel as much of a need to drink water. However, hydration is still very important when hiking in winter, as your body loses water through both perspiration and respiration. That’s why you should bring plenty of water and drink throughout the hike even if you don’t feel thirsty.

6. Headlamp or Flashlight

There are fewer hours of daylight in winter. That means you have less time to finish your hike before the sun goes down. It’s important to start your winter hike early in the day so you can finish well before sunset. However, it’s also a good idea to bring a headlamp or flashlight as a precaution. Hiking in winter conditions can take longer than expected, so it’s best to be prepared just in case you aren’t finished before it gets dark.

More Ways to Prepare for a Winter Hike in the Smokies

Hiking can be a fun winter activity that lets you explore the beautiful winter wonderland of the Smoky Mountains. However, there are added challenges when hiking in winter, so it’s best to be prepared. In addition to bringing the above items with you on your winter hike, you should also read this guide to winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains so you can be fully prepared for your next winter adventure.