Winter has arrived. There are road closures that you have to watch for hourly in the Smoky Mountains as well as roads that are now closed for the entire winter season. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy all that the national park has to offer. In fact, i’m going to offer you two hiking suggestions that I think are better in winter. Why? For one thing, the crowds are VERY small in these locations due to the fact that the access roads are closed. Secondly, the scenery is even more beautiful in winter with snow and ice-capped peaks, trees, and trails.
First, Clingmans Dome. This place is a nightmare during the summer and fall months. Even in the off-season, people will drive the 7-mile Clingmans Dome Road to drive right up to its peak and lookout tower. Of course. This place offers some amazing views and is the highest point in the Smokies and the Appalachian Trail. BUT, when the road closes, you can still reach the summit, but without all the people. Simply park at Newfound Gap parking lot, and hike the Appalachian Trail for the seven miles to the summit. You will have a peaceful experience you just can’t get with hoards of people. I’ve done it twice and absolutely love it. You will too. If you like to ski, you can simply cross-country ski the 7 mile road during the winter to the peak. People do this quite frequently, and you can often make better time than by hiking the trail.
Secondly, Grotto Falls. I have mentioned the popularity of this hike before. With the ease of the trail, the cool waterfall, and the traffic heading on to Mount LeConte, this trail stays busy. BUT, in the winter when Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail closes, it is essentially deserted. You can still go to the falls, but it turns into a bigger hike (which is half the fun). Simply Park at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead parking area. After only .4 mile, you will take a left onto the Trillium gap trail. 3.6 miles later, you will arrive at Grotto Falls. The hiking is not that hard, and the Falls are gorgeous after a heavy snow.
These are just two of the many things in winter in the Smokies that are far better than the temperatures are high. Check them out!