Winter Hiking in the Smokies

Discover Cold Weather Hikes

Winter Hiking in the Smokies

Discover New Views During Cold Weather Hikes

When most people think of hiking, their thoughts immediately turn to a warm weather day next to a mountain stream or a brisk walk through an autumn color forest. To be sure, those hikes can be great. But what about the cold weather months? Is everyone to stay indoors from December through March? A hike in January can be among the best you’ve ever taken if you know how to do it.

Consider the benefits of a winter hike. You’ll encounter fewer hikers along the trail, so you’ll have the hike mostly to yourself. With the foliage off the trees, you’ll be able to experience views that would otherwise be blocked by leaves. A frozen waterfall is a sight to behold. A rushing cascade can be seen just about anytime, but a wall of ice is a bit more rare in the Smokies.

So if you decide that you want part of your stay in the Smokies to include a day of hiking, how do you prepare? Follow these tips for the best cold weather hike experience.

Stay Warm
Obviously when you’re taking a winter hike in January, you’ll want to keep your heat as much as possible. The term “layers” gets thrown around, but what does it really mean? Just remember three.

Base Layer
Your base layer is closest to your skin and acts to wick perspiration away from your body, If you get damp, you’ll get cold. Stay away from cotton as it holds moisture rather than moving it. Look for soft wool, synthetics like polyester, or silk.

Middle Layer
The middle layer insulates. Fluffy materials that catch the air work well. Again, wool is an excellent choice for the middle layer, as is fleece from synthetics.

Outer Layer
Some folks call this the weather layer. You’re looking to keep the rain, snow, or most likely, wind away from your inner layers. You want something waterproof that still breathes.

Snowy National Park Hiking Trails

Snowy National Park Trails

Use Your Head… and Your Feet
Most of your cooling happens high and low, so keep a warm hat on your head and warm, dry socks on your toes. Be sure to take along an extra pair of dry socks, just in case the pair you’re wearing gets wet. Again, stay away from cotton, especially for your socks.

Stay Hydrated
You might think that hydration isn’t an important issue on winter hikes, but you lose a lot more moisture than you think when you’re exerting yourself, even when it’s cold. A dehydrated body is less capable of keeping you warm.

Remember that dark comes more quickly during the winter. Get an early start so that you’re off the trail before nightfall when the temperatures will really drop.  No matter what time of year you’re hiking, let someone know where you’re going. We want everyone to come back safe and sound.

After a full day of winter hiking in the Smokies, nothing beats a comfy, cozy spot in a Carr’s cottage or Jacuzzi suite to spend the night. There you can warm up, rest up, and be ready to get up for another great day of cold weather hiking.

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