winter camping
December 21, 2023

If you’re up for the adventure of camping in the Smokies during the winter, you’ll be excited to know that the Cades Cove and Smokemont Campgrounds are open year-round! These campgrounds feature restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets, and each campsite offers a fire grate and picnic table. However, since there are no electrical or water hookups in the park, you’ll need to know how to enjoy a successful winter campout! Here are the top 4 tips for winter camping in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Bring the Essential Camping Gear

a backpack with camping gear in the snow

The simple rule of winter camping is to stay dry and warm! You’ll want to have the right gear for your camping trip since this is critical when you’re outdoors in the cold for extended periods of time. It’s important that you have a sturdy tent that can handle the winter weather, and a typical 3-season backpacking tent is normally fine if you’re not anticipating any stormy weather. To ensure comfort at night, use a sleeping bag that is rated at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the coldest temperature you expect to encounter!

2. Wear the Right Clothing to Stay Warm

Another one of the top tips for winter camping in the Smoky Mountains is managing your clothing layers, as you’ll want to have the right clothing for optimum comfort. For the base layer, midweight long underwear is a good option for all-around use. Look for fabrics like polyester or wool that wick perspiration away from your skin and dry quickly. The middle layer is the insulating layer that is designed to help you retain body heat, so generally thicker clothing equals warmer. Finally, the outer layer is your waterproof defense against wind, sleet and snow! Also, don’t forget accessories like a winter hat, gloves or mittens, and non-cotton socks!

3. Food and Drink Tips for Winter Camping

camping snacks

If you’re planning on doing some hiking in the National Park, It’s essential to eat and hydrate well before, during and after so that you can keep your energy up and stay warm! To stay properly hydrated, it’s important to make yourself sip water regularly throughout the day even if you don’t feel thirsty. For lunch, simple sandwiches or quick-grab snacks and energy foods that provide protein, fats and carbohydrates are excellent options. As for breakfast and dinner, consider calorie-dense foods that don’t take much time to cook and look for one-pot options. Remember that all food and equipment used to prepare and store food must be kept sealed in your vehicle, and a limited number of food storage lockers are available at the Cades Cove and Smokemont Campgrounds.

4. Staying Warm Throughout the Night

The winter temperatures dip during the evening hours, so you’ll want to make sure you are warm at bedtime! Exercise immediately before bed by doing jumping jacks or jogging in place until your heart is pumping and you’re feeling warm, then get into your sleeping bag and zip it up tight! Have a little snack at bedtime too to keep your metabolism going and change into clean long underwear and socks before sleeping. You’ll also want to fill any extra empty floor space in your tent with your backpack and other gear, as this will provide some additional insulation.

Now that you know about the top tips for winter camping in the Smoky Mountains, you’re ready for a unique camping adventure in the Smokies! If camping in colder weather just isn’t your thing, be sure to check out our 4 ideas for a day trip to the Smoky Mountains in winter!