TENNESSEE, USA — Jack Frost may be nipping at your nose, but what better way to stave off that chill than by getting out for a hike?
Whether you want to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or stick a little closer to home, there are plenty of cool places to go across East Tennessee.
No matter where you decide to go, be sure to wear lots of layers, check the weather to make sure it's not looking frightful and bring plenty of water with you.
Of course, at the end of your wintry adventures, you can warm up with a hot beverage before you settle down for a well-earned long winter's nap.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you want to head to the Smokies, keep in mind Clingmans Dome Road, Forge Creek Road, Little Greenbrier Access Road, Parson Branch Road (due to hazard trees), Rich Mountain Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail all close down for the winter and cut off access to some areas of the park.
However, if you stick to the lower elevations, you still have access to many popular hikes and drives all over the park. Just be sure to check online for any temporary closures from weather or road hazards before you head to the mountains.
Here are some popular options in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Laurel Falls: 2.6 miles round trip, the trail was built to give fire crews access to Cove Mountain in case of a forest fire, moderate difficulty
- Look Rock Tower: highest point on Foothills Parkway, easy 0.5-mile hike to observation tower, Blount County side of the Smokies
- Rainbow Falls: 5.4 miles round trip, continue for 6.7 miles more to the summit of Mount LeConte (keep in mind that LeConte Lodge is closed for the winter), moderate difficulty
- Alum Cave: 5 miles round trip, continue for 5 miles more to just below the summit of Mount LeConte (keep in mind that LeConte Lodge is closed for the winter), moderate difficulty
- Elkmont: connects to Little River Trail (5-mile round trip, moderate difficulty), Jake's Creek Trail (6.8-mile round trip, moderate difficulty), and Elkmont Nature Trail (less than 1 mile, easy loop); historic sites
- Cades Cove: one of the most popular destinations in the park, on the Blount County side
- Newfound Gap: right on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, along U.S. 441
- Foothills Parkway: westbound runs from Walland to Chilhowee, eastbound runs from Cosby to I-40 exit 443
- Middle Prong Trail: moderate difficulty, roughly 8 miles round trip, near Tremont on the Blount County side of the park, leads to Indian Flat Falls
- Porters Creek Trail: 4 miles roundtrip, moderate difficulty, on the Sevier County side
Outside the Smokies
Of course, if you don't want to venture all the way to the park, you can visit one of Tennessee's 56 state parks or one of the many greenways closer to home.
Here are some popular options across East Tennessee.