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Spending the day hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few activities that families and guests can enjoy all year long. However, as the seasons change, so do the hiking tips that visitors need to follow, especially in the winter.
Before you set out on your next hiking adventure, be sure to read what we consider to be the most important Smoky Mountain hiking tips below!
Never Hike Alone
Having a buddy or a friend with you when you go hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most important safety tips that we can give you. In the unlikely event that something happened to you when you were on the trails, you want someone there who can get help or notify the park rangers.
Besides, it is always nice to share the memorable experience of hiking in the Smokies with someone. It also gives you someone to hold the camera in case you want to take a few pictures with the scenic mountains in the background when you reach the top of the trail.
If you absolutely cannot find anyone willing to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park with you, at least make sure you let someone know where and when you will be hiking. Check in with this person before you start your hike and tell them an estimated time as to when you will be finished. This way, someone will know if you don’t check back in at the appropriate time.
You can also consider joining in one of the many guided Smoky Mountain hiking tours, like the ones offered by A Walk in the Woods.
Just like the weather outside, your body temperature will fluctuate throughout the day, especially the longer you hike. This is from the increase in blood flow and adrenaline that occurs from being active.
That being said, you want to stay as comfortable as possible when you are hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park, and this includes wearing layers. This way you can add a jacket or a scarf for when you are cold, and you can take them off when you warm back up.
Here are a few of our favorite things to pack when layering to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Thick socks
- Sturdy shoes
- Fleece jacket
- Ear muffs
- Long-sleeve shirt
- Shell jacket
Cotton is a fabric that absorbs moisture and takes awhile to dry. Therefore, if you encounter snow flurries or light rain when you are hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park, you are more likely to end up cold and uncomfortable. Not to mention, hiking in clothes that are cold and wet will probably result in your catching a cold, and that is the last souvenir you want to bring home for your latests Smoky Mountain vacation.
We encourage hikers to consider wearing fabrics that are mainly nylon or fleece. These clothes are known best for being light-weight, well insulated and water resistant.
Just like when you prepare for any other outdoor adventure, you want to make you check the weather forecast before you leave. The last thing anyone wants when hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park is to find themselves in the middle of of pop-up rain storm halfway through their hike.
To find out what the forecast will be when you plan on hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to check out our bi-weekly Smoky Mountain weather forecast with Paul Poteet. His weather videos can be found under the Travel Tips sections of our website, under the Area Information tab.
The weather in the Smoky Mountains can also determine which of the hiking trails will be open that day. Don’t forget to check the National Park Service’s website before you leave to make sure that your favorite trail will be open.
Start Your Adventure Early
It’s no secret that the days run a little shorter in the winter, at least in terms of how early the sun goes down. It is also not a secret that there are no lights to guide the way along the Smoky Mountain hiking trails. To make sure that you and your group don’t get stuck on the trails after dark, plan to begin your hiking trek earlier in the day.
If you don’t think you will like waking up that early, try going to bed a little sooner the night before. You will want to make sure that you are well-rested before you go hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you do think there is a chance that the sun will set before you are finished hiking, don’t forget to pack a flashlight with backup batteries to help navigate your way back to your car. You could also pick a shorter hike that won’t leave you on the trails as long.
Speaking of things to pack, don’t forget to bring a lightweight backpack or fanny pack with you when you are hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park. This will give you a place to store all the extra items you will need to ensure a fun and safe hiking experience.
The most important items you want to include in your backpack are:
- Extra water
- First aid kit
- Multi-tool knife
- Hand-warming packets
- Smoky Mountain Hiking Map
- High protein snack
- Extra socks
This may seem like a lot of items at first, but you need to remember that there are no general stores or gas stations inside the park. This means that if you need something while you are on the trails, then you need to bring it with you. There are no substitutions for being safe when hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
Do you have a favorite story from when you were hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park? Let us know in the comments below!