smoky mountains covered in snow
December 8, 2021

Winter is a beautiful time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Most people think about visiting during the other seasons throughout the year, but there’s something peaceful about visiting when everything is still and quiet in the winter. Plus, there are plenty of fun things to do when you have a full day to explore the park! Here are 4 ideas for a day trip to the Smoky Mountains in winter:

1. Hiking to Laurel Falls

laurel falls in the smoky mountains

If you want to see a waterfall in the winter, Laurel Falls is a great choice! The trail to get to the falls is easier to climb since the path is paved, and it is considered easy at 2.6 miles roundtrip. As you make your way up the trail, you can turn and look out at the incredible views of the Smokies in the distance. Once you reach the falls, you’ll see ice and icicles surround the water, and if it’s really cold, the entire thing might be frozen! If there has been recent snowfall, the Laurel Falls looks even more beautiful in the winter surrounded by snow!

2. Hiking Alum Cave Trail

A popular trail to hike during the winter is Alum Cave Trail. This moderate hiking trail is about 5 miles roundtrip, and you’ll pass all kinds of interesting features along the way! As you start out, you’ll make your way through the woods and over creeks where you might spot ice. As you keep trekking, you’ll find Arch Rock and rock staircases that keep you climbing. When you finally make it to the bluffs, you might see huge icicles that are 2 to 3 feet long hanging from the rock formation. You’ll want to be cautious around these icicles since they are known for falling.

3. Driving the Cades Cove Loop

cades cove in winter

Another fun thing to do in the Smoky Mountains in winter is drive the Cades Cove Loop! With weather permitting, this beautiful scenic drive is open all year long. There’s nothing quite like driving along the Loop with ice on the trees and ground. You might even spot some wildlife during the winter, and if there is snow on the ground, it’s a breathtaking sight. In addition to winter weather, you’ll still be able to get out and explore all of the historic buildings throughout Cades Cove, including John Oliver Cabin and Primitive Baptist Church.

4. Cross Country Skiing at Clingmans Dome

Another fun thing to do in the Smoky Mountains in winter is cross country skiing on Clingmans Dome Road! Although this road is closed for the winter, it’s not closed for fun! Many people will drive to this road and use it as a winter wonderland for cross country skiing! You’ll have a blast crushing the uphills and cruising downhill along Clingmans Dome Road. Some people still like to hike to the observation tower during winter too! To make sure you can reach this road, keep up with seasonal road closures in the national park!

You’ll love visiting the Smoky Mountains in winter, even if it’s just for one day! Wondering what else you can do in the national park? Here are some of the top activities you don’t want to miss in the Great Smoky Mountains!