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winter hiking in the smoky mountains

5 of the Most Popular Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains During Winter

From snow-covered mountaintops to frozen waterfalls, the Smoky Mountains are a winter wonderland. If you don’t mind a little cold weather, you’ll love going for a hike and exploring the beauty of the Smokies during this season. To help you have the best hiking experience, we’ve made a list of 5 of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains during winter.

1. Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Trail is a beautiful sight during the winter because the water that can be seen during warmer months dripping off the bluffs forms into frozen icicles. About 2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Inspiration Point, which provides breathtaking views of the winter scenery. The Alum Cave Bluffs are about 2.3 miles into the trail, which is the turning point for most hikers. If you’re up for a challenge, continue the rest of the way to Mount LeConte for a total of 5 miles hiked. Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains and is a spectacular sight during the winter.

2. Rainbow Falls Trail

man-on-a-winter-hikeThe Rainbow Falls Trail is also another popular trail that offers breathtaking sights in the winter. During long spells of cold weather, an impressive ice formation can be seen around the falls. It is 5.4 miles to the waterfall and back, but the trail continues for another 4 miles to the summit of Mount Leconte. The trail gains about 1,500 feet in elevation, so be prepared for a bit of a trek that’s worth every step.

3. Andrews Bald

Andrews Bald offers amazing mountain views during the winter that you don’t want to miss out on. To get to Andrews Bald, you’ll hike along Forney Ridge Trail, which begins from the Clingmans Dome parking lot. The trail drops in elevation to get to Andrews Bald, and after the large descent, it levels on a broad ridge. The final part of the trail runs through a forest and brings you to the grassy bald. You’ll have picture-perfect views of snow-covered mountaintops!

4. Porters Creek

winter hiking in the smoky mountainsPorters Creek is beautiful during all of the seasons, but especially during the winter. It is situated at a lower elevation, so there are less chances of the roads around it being closed due to inclement weather. Not only does the trail provide great opportunities to learn more about Smoky Mountain history, but it features a waterfall! About 2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Fern Branch Falls. This 40-foot waterfall is even more gorgeous in its frozen state.

5. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains throughout all the seasons, and winter is no exception. This 2.6-mile roundtrip hike is great for families and features a gorgeous 80-foot waterfall. Laurel Falls itself has an upper and lower section that is divided by a walkway so visitors can actually cross the falls! If the temperatures get cold enough, you may even see the waterfall when it’s frozen. Make sure to keep your camera close to capture all the beautiful snowy sights.

Where to Stay

Cabin in the snowWhen you visit the Smoky Mountains for a fun winter hiking trip, you’re going to want a warm place to stay, and nothing beats a cabin! Our Smoky Mountain cabins are great for any occasion, from romantic getaways to family vacations. Whether you plan to go hiking with your sweetheart, your family, or a group of friends, there is a cabin for you. Enjoy spending the afternoon exploring the trails before soaking in the bubbling hot tub or getting warm in front of the fire. You’ll even have spectacular mountain views from your cabin! To get the best deal on your stay, check out our Smoky Mountain cabin specials!

Now that you know all the best hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains to try during the winter, it’s time to start planning your trip! Browse our Smoky Mountain cabins and choose the best one for your stay.