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Colder weather doesn’t mean your visits to the Smoky Mountains have to stop! There is plenty of fun to be had in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in winter. You’ll have gorgeous views of snow-capped mountains, icicles and frozen waterfalls. Not to mention, there’ll be fewer crowds this time of year! To help you plan your trip, we’ve made a list of the top 4 things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in winter:
1. Go for a Hike
If the cold weather doesn’t bother you, winter is one of the best times to go for a hike in the Smoky Mountains. The scenery is beautiful, and there’s a peacefulness about hiking when the trails aren’t filled with crowds of people. Here are some of the best trails to hike in the winter:
Alum Cave Trail
A hike to the Alum Cave Bluffs and back is one of the best to do in the winter. About 2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Inspiration Point, which offers stunning views of the winter scenery. About 2.3 miles into the trail, you’ll reach the Alum Cave Bluffs. In the winter, you can see impressive icicles falling from the top of the bluff.
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hikes all year round, and winter is no exception! It’s a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike and a great choice if you’re looking for a family-friendly hike. If the weather is cold enough, you’ll have the opportunity to see the waterfall in a frozen state!
Rainbow Falls is another great hike to do in the winter! The waterfall itself is 80 feet tall. If there’s been long spells of freezing temperatures, you’ll be able to see an ice formation around the falls. It’s a 5.4 mile hike to the waterfall and back, but worth every step!
2. Cross Country Skiing on Clingmans Dome Road
For a fun winter adventure, go cross country skiing on Clingmans Dome Road. Clingmans Dome Road closes to vehicle traffic from early December through late March. During this time, visitors love cross country skiing on the road! Because of its high elevation, the road gets more snow than other popular areas in the park. And since it’s closed in the winter, it doesn’t get plowed — meaning it’s perfect conditions for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing!
3. Drive Along the Cades Cove Loop
While there are some road closures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in winter, the Cades Cove Loop Road stays open year-round! This is one of the best ways to explore the Smokies if you want to avoid the cold weather. Along the 11-mile loop road, you’ll see historic structures, mountain views and more. It tends to be less crowded during the winter months, which means you won’t have to worry as much about heavy traffic! We recommend stopping at the pull offs and exploring some of the historic structures on foot.
Keep in mind that although the road is open year round, it may close in serious weather conditions.
4. Stop by a Visitor Center
Another great activity to do during winter in the Smoky Mountains is Stop by a visitor center! There are 4 visitor centers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 3 of which are on the Tennessee side of the mountains. If you visit Cades Cove, stop by the Cades Cove Visitor Center. This visitor center has indoor and outdoor exhibits and is next to the John P. Cable Mill and other historic structures. If you’re visiting the park from Gatlinburg, we recommend starting your visit at the Sugarlands Visitor Center! This visitor center plays a free 20-minute film about the park and has some interesting natural history exhibits.
Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Winter
Start planning your visit to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in winter! There is so much to do during this magical season. Before you plan your trip, be sure to check out these tips for visiting the park in the winter.