Every year, the Smokies are transformed into a magical playground during the winter season, creating a breathtaking snowy paradise, just begging to be explored. The mountains, draped in a gentle blanket of snow and mist, invite you to embark on a winter adventure like no other. In order to ensure your stay is not only unforgettable but also filled with the enchantment of the season, we’ve created a guide to provide a comprehensive overview of the various winter activities available in the heart of the Smokies as well as other attractions found outside the park. Get ready to discover the enchanting possibilities that await in the Smoky Mountains during the winter months!
II. Winter Hiking: Laurel Falls Trail
Begin your Smoky Mountain winter adventure with a moderate hike along the paved Laurel Falls Trail. Spanning 2.6 miles roundtrip and with an elevation gain of 400 feet, this family-friendly path is one of the few paved trails in the park. During winter, the crowds thin, creating a serene atmosphere where you can leisurely make your way to the stunning 80-foot-high Laurel Falls. The snow-dusted undergrowth and frozen streams along the trail add to the enchantment of this winter hike. However, be cautious as rocks and boulders can be slippery, especially when covered in ice. It’s a trail that’s not suitable for strollers nor is it handicap accessible, but the winter landscape rewards those willing to explore.
III. Cross-Country Skiing: Clingman’s Dome
For an exhilarating winter experience, consider cross-country skiing to Clingman’s Dome, one of the highest points in the Smokies. Although the road to the observation tower is closed from December to March, this shouldn’t stop the adventurous and experienced outdoors enthusiasts from embarking on a 14-mile cross-country ski, to and back. Keep in mind that the climb up to the tower’s peak via a paved trail is steep and challenging, but also highly rewarding. If weather permits, the observation tower offers breathtaking 360° views of the snowcapped Smoky Mountains. Proper planning is key, so make sure to check the weather forecasts and road conditions before you head out, and pack appropriately for this weather-dependent expedition.
IV. Wonders of Light Walking Trail
The Winterfest Wonders of Light Walking Trail returns in 2023, after an amazing debut last year. Located along the Riverwalk Greenway, the trail is a sight to behold, with a magical mix of art and nature. Thanks to a $1.5 million investment, the trail is even better this year, featuring oversized flowers, dancing snowflakes, and Smoky Mountain critters. Some of these installations stand at an impressive 25 feet tall! You can access the trail from the Pigeon Forge municipal parking lot located near The Island. With the addition of five new light displays and illuminated deciduous trees, this unforgettable experience is sure to capture the spirit of the season.
V. Visit Ober Mountain
Ober Mountain is the perfect winter destination for those seeking an exciting and unforgettable experience in a winter wonderland. With a range of snow activities including skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating, snow-tubing, and the Snow Zone, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Accessible via the Aerial Tramway in Downtown Gatlinburg, Ober Mountain not only eliminates parking concerns but also treats visitors to a breathtaking view of the Smokies during the ascent. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast who craves adrenaline-fueled adventures or someone who prefers indoor activities, you will not be disappointed. The ski and snowboard season typically begins in early to mid-December and lasts until mid-March. Meanwhile, snow tubing season is more predictable and starts on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, continuing through March. Looking for something a little warmer? Be sure to check out their indoor skating rink for a wonderful afternoon of gliding on the ice.
VI. Jeep Tour through the Smokies
For those seeking an unforgettable, off-the-beaten-path adventure, a Jeep tour through the Smoky Mountains is a must-try experience. Whether you prefer intense off-roading excursions or gentle tours exploring waterfalls and hidden routes, providers like Pink Adventure Tours and Smoky Mountains Jeep Tours offer a variety of options to suit your taste. With jeeps as the ideal vehicle for navigating through the park’s rugged terrain, you can reach destinations that are otherwise difficult to access. Enjoy the thrill of exploration, stay warm in heated jeeps, and learn from entertaining and informative guides. The tours offer an immersive experience, showcasing the beauty and bio-diversity of the Smoky Mountains.
VII. Scenic Drive to Cades Cove
Embark on a scenic winter drive through the picturesque Cades Cove. A popular destination within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cades Cove offers a unique glimpse into the life of early Southern Appalachian settlers. Located at a lower elevation than most of the park, Cades Cove becomes a charming ghost town covered in a blanket of white snow during the winter. During the colder months, the crowds thin as snow gently covers every surface, blanketing this charming ghost town in a blanket of white. This time of year is also ideal for wildlife viewing, such as the whitetail deer munching on patches of green peeking through the snow, wild turkey waddling along or coyotes darting here and there. This unique combination of history and scenic beauty creates an unforgettable winter experience you won’t find anywhere else. Just don’t forget to dress warmly and check the weather and road conditions before embarking on your journey, despite the milder climate in the region.
VIII. Smoky Mountain Wheel: Capturing Incredible Views
Take your winter adventure to the next level with the Southeast’s tallest attraction – the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, located at The Island in Pigeon Forge. This ride offers a panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains and thrilling ride 200 feet above the tree line. With enclosed gondolas that can hold up to eight people, this family-friendly activity is ideal for enjoying the winter scenery with the whole group while avoiding the hassle of a challenging hike back to the car. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience and witness, from high above, the picturesque Smoky Mountain sunset as it dips below the snow-dusted horizon.
Enjoying the View from Your Smoky Mountain Cabin
As your day of winter adventures winds down, retreat to the warmth and comfort of your Smoky Mountain cabin at Parkside Resort. Outfitted with fully equipped kitchens, fireplaces, hot tubs, and more, our cabins offer the perfect mountainside haven for relaxation and memory making. Whether you choose to heat up some hot cocoa and enjoy the view of the snow-covered peaks, start a roaring fire and curl up in an overstuffed armchair, or have a family movie marathon in your in-home theatre, Parkside Resort ensures a delightful stay. Even on cold and gloomy days, there’s no reason your family can’t have fun and stay warm during your winter getaway in the Smokies.