Winter is no reason to put off a nature walk or hike in the Smoky Mountains. Near the main road, you will see signs for several short easy nature trails that are perfect for getting everyone out of the car to experience the natural beauty of Smoky Mountains during Winterfest. In fact, you will have more wide open views because of the absence of leaves. Also an added bonus of walking in winter…the bears are all asleep.
Pull your car off the road at signs marked as “scenic overlook.” You will be amazed by the snowcapped mountain vistas. Many viewing areas provide a short nature trail. Venture a short distance down the nature trail, and prepare discover the enchantment of the forest floor and what it reveals. You are likely to see beautiful stone chimneys and house foundations…reminders from early settlers.
A short winter walk on a nature trail can be quite different from a full hike. If you haven’t hiked very much, be conservative. You will want to stay under five miles for your entire journey. This means that for good winter day hike, do not choose a trail that is over 2.5 miles.
The nature trail on the grounds of Sugarlands Visitor Center is beautiful in winter and a very easy stroll that is appropriate for any age group. Plus, you have the added convenience of restrooms nearby.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete your hike before dark. According to the National Park Service, hikers in the Smokies generally travel about 1.5 miles per hour. Many people travel slower. Sunset typically occurs at 5:30 pm.
Only the most experienced winter hikers would attempt the 8-mile round trip trail entitled “Charlies Bunion,” which is part of the Appalachian Trail.
A favorite short winter hike is the handicapped-friendly trail named “Laurel Falls.” Only a couple of miles and paved, this trail is moderately steep but well worth the effort. Parents agree… it is the perfect trail to “sufficiently wear out the family.” The hike concludes at an astonishing 80-foot waterfall…typically accented with icicles throughout winter. No matter what the temperature is outside, you will find yourself toasty warm and feeling a sense of accomplishment.