5 Important Tips for Hiking in the Smoky Mountains During the Winter
- December 16, 2019
The winter season can be one of the best times to explore the hiking trails at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! During the winter, you don’t have to worry about applying bug spray or sharing popular trails with lots of other visitors. The winter also offers the unique opportunity to experience views that normally don’t appear when leaves are on the trails, as well as the chance to spot some critter tracks in the snow! Before heading out on that hike, check out these 5 important tips for hiking in the Smoky Mountains during the winter:
1. Start Your Hike Early
Since the days run a bit shorter during the winter months, start your hiking adventure early to make sure you don’t get stuck on the trails after dark! If you don’t like to get up early on vacation, try going to bed a little sooner the night before your hike so you’ll be well rested before an active day of hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Although you can use a sunset calculator to determine how much time you have available, you should always plan to be back well before the sun actually begins to set.
2. Never Hike Alone
One of the most important rules when hiking is to never hike alone, but this is especially important during the winter months when trails can be slippery due to ice and other conditions. In the unlikely event there is an incident while you are on the trails, you should have someone there who can get help or notify a park ranger. Of course, it is always more fun to have a buddy along with you anyway to share the hiking adventure! Don’t forget to let some friends or family members know of your specific hiking plans and when you should be expected back.
3. Check Weather and Road Conditions
Before hiking in the Smoky Mountains during the winter, be sure to check the latest weather and road conditions to see which trails may be closed. We recommend starting your day at one of the visitor centers within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where a park ranger will have the most updated information. If you prefer to get right to the trails, carefully consider the temperatures, precipitation, and wind in the forecast. The weather can change drastically as the elevation changes.
4. Dress Appropriately for the Weather
When you are gathering the layers for your hiking adventure, it is natural to reach for your favorite long-sleeve shirt or hooded sweatshirt. However, keep in mind this might not be the best decision because cotton absorbs moisture and takes a while to dry. If you encounter rain or snow flurries during your winter hike, you are more likely to end up uncomfortable and cold! As an alternative, consider wearing fabrics that are mainly nylon or fleece because these clothes are known for being well insulated, lightweight, and water resistant.
5. Carry a Backpack With You
Carrying a backpack during a winter hike in the Smoky Mountains is vital because you will need to bring plenty of extra water to stay hydrated. There are several other important items you should pack as well, including a first-aid kit, compass, flashlight, hand-warming packets, high protein snacks, extra socks, and a good map of the hiking trails. While this may seem like a lot of gear, remember that there are no convenience stores inside the park so you will need to bring everything with you.
Now since you are ready to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains this winter, we hope you enjoy a fun and safe adventure on the trails within the national park! If you are looking for some other unique activities to enjoy during the winter season, check out some of the top things to do in the Smoky Mountains in winter!