4 Best Winter Hikes in the Smoky Mountains to Try When You Visit

alum cave

The Smoky Mountains are a beautiful winter wonderland! When you visit during this season, take some time to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and choose from more than 850 miles of trails to hike. From frozen waterfalls to snow-covered mountaintops, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous views. Here are 4 of the best winter hikes in the Smoky Mountains to try when you visit:

1. Alum Cave Trail

To see the most impressive icicle formations, hike the Alum Cave Trail! It’s about a 4.5-mile hike to Alum Cave and back, and worth every step. At about 2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Inspiration Point, which offers incredible views. A little further and you’ll reach Alum Cave, a concave bluff that is about 80 feet in height and 500 feet in length. During the winter, the water that drips off the ledges above form large icicles. It’s a stunning sight you don’t want to miss! The trail continues up to the summit of Mount LeConte, the third-highest peak in the Smoky Mountains.

2. Rainbow Falls Trail

Rainbow Falls Trail is a 5.4-mile round-trip hike to the waterfall and back. The trail gains about 1,500 feet in elevation on its way to the falls, so it’s considered moderate in difficulty. However, the views you’ll get when you reach the falls make it well worth it. During the winter, an ice formation builds around the 80-foot waterfall, creating a picture-perfect sight. If you want to continue your hike after you reach the falls, the trail continues 4 miles to the summit of Mount LeConte.

3. Porters Creek Trail

From historic sites to a waterfall, the Porters Creek Trail has it all. It’s known for its variety of wildflowers during the spring, but it’s just as beautiful during the winter! It’s one of the best trails to hike in the Smoky Mountains during winter because it has easy car access and lower elevation, meaning there aren’t any strenuous climbs. It’s a perfect trail for the family to complete together! You’ll see John Messer’s cantilevered barn that was built in 1875, the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Cabin that was built in 1934-36, and a 40-foot waterfall. When temperatures are cold enough, you can see the waterfall in its frozen state!

4. Andrews Bald

To get to Andrews Bald, you’ll take the Forney Ridge Trail from the Clingmans Dome parking lot. Andrews Bald is an outstanding destination for who want to see breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountain highlands. At 3.5 miles roundtrip, the hike is just long enough to escape the crowds at Clingmans Dome, but just short enough for the whole family to enjoy. Enjoy views of the mountaintops covered in snow. Be sure to bring a camera with you to capture the incredible scenery.

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