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couple winter hiking in the Smoky Moutnains

How to Predict the Temperature When Winter Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

How cold is too cold? When planning a winter hike in the Smoky Mountains, the most important questions everyone asks is, “what will the temperatures be like?”

The last thing you want when hiking in cooler weather is to learn that you did not wear enough layers to keep yourself warm. Not to mention, being uncomfortable or cold during your hike can take away from your ability to appreciate the natural beauty of the area this time of year.

To avoid this, be sure to check out our tips on how to calculate the temperature changes you should expect during your winter hike below.

Do you have your own way of predicting the temperature when winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments below!

Check the Weather Forecast

snow covered Smoky MountainsThe first step to figuring out what the temperature will be when you are hiking in the Smoky Mountains this winter is to start by figuring out what the forecasted temperatures for the day are. This will give you a general sense of what temperatures to expect when you arrive at the beginning of the trail you want to hike.

Most weather forecasts give a high and low range for the day. Obviously, the temperature will fluctuate depending on what time of day it is.

To see the current weather conditions in the area, be sure to check out our Smoky Mountains weather forecast with Paul Poteet on our website.

person hiking in the Smoky Mountains in snowDetermine Your Forecasts’ Reference Elevation

All weather forecasts are based on of a specific elevation. You want to determine what elevation your forecast is referenced to in order to properly calculate the temperatures the higher you climb.

This may seem trivial, but when you reach the peak of your trail and you realize you didn’t prepare for cold enough temperatures, you will be disappointed.

The National Weather Service does a really good job of providing their forecasts’ elevation. You can find their website here: https://www.weather.gov/.

Find Your Peak Elevation

Smoky Mountain View nears Wears ValleyAfter determining the reference elevation your forecasted temperature is, it is time to find out exactly how much of an elevation gain you will experience on your winter hike in the Smoky Mountains. It is also important to find out at what elevation the trail begins.

It is pretty easy to find the elevation gain for individual hiking trails. You can either consult a Smoky Mountain hiking guide or you can do a quick Google search of your trail’s name with the trail’s name and the phrase ‘elevation gain.’

A few of our favorite winter Smoky Mountain hiking trails include:

  • Rainbow Falls Trail
    • Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
    • Elevation Gain: 1,685 feet
  • Alum Cave Bluff Trail
    • Distance: 4.4 miles round-trip
    • Elevation Gain: 1,125 feet
  • Mt. Crammerer
    • Distance: 12 miles round-trip
    • Elevation Gain: 2,470 feet
  • Ramsey Cascades
    • Distance: 8 miles round-trip
    • Elevation Gain: 2,375 feet
  • Chimney Tops
    • Distance: 3.8 miles round-trip
    • Elevation Gain: 1487 feet

hiking in the Smoky Mountains in snowAdd It All Up

Now that you have all the information you need, it is time to figure out the change in temperature you and your family should expect when winter hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

The rule of thumb is that you will lose an average of 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet in elevation you climb. This is why it is important to find out what the reference temperature is and the elevation gain for your specific trail.

For example, if the trail starts at 1,000 feet and you have an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, you should expect a 7 degree loss in temperature.

snow covered river in the Smoky MountainsFor extra precautions, try rounding the numbers to the nearest 5 and subtracting from the lowest forecasted temperature for the day. This will make sure you are amply prepared for your winter hike in the Smoky Mountains.

The equation for temperature drop is (3.5 x Change in Elevation) = Temperature Loss
If you would like to learn more Smoky Mountain hiking tips, be sure to check out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park section of our website. There, guests will find a ton of useful information on all the fun and exciting outdoor adventures waiting to be discovered inside the park, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife views, and much more!