Don’t let the winter months keep you on house arrest. Beat cabin fever and get some crunchy snow under your hiking boots as shafts of gentle winter light dance upon nearby lakes and frosty foliage instead. Ranging from easy to challenging, here are some of our favorite winter hikes on the Appalachian Trail that are perfect for a foray on foot into a great North Carolina winter.
Mount Cammerer in the Smoky Mountains
Named after Arno Cammerer, a well-liked Director of the National Park Service in the 1930s and instrumental figure in establishing a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains, this roundtrip hike of more than 11 miles to Mt. Cammerer from Cosby is still the shortest and most commonly used route to the summit of the 4,928-foot mountain — so it’s not for the faint of heart. The steep and relentless climb that traverses more than a few switchbacks is as rewarding as it is challenging though. A perfect long day out to take in a frosty mature hardwood forest as you wander through the Cosby Creek Valley.
Lover’s Leap Loop Trail, Hot Springs North Carolina
What could possibly be better than to have hot springs waiting for you at the end of a good hike? This trail features stunning panoramic views of the French Broad River and Pisgah National Forest. Starting from the center of downtown Hot Springs (yep, that’s the town’s name and it does what it says on the tin!), this scenic 2-mile, moderate loop follows a gradual 500-foot elevation to the ridge where legend has it, a lovesick woman flung herself from the rocks — we wouldn’t recommend it though. If you are so inclined afterward, you can include a short detour to the legendary Bluff Mountain Outfitters for supplies, or just to have a look around.
Glen Falls — Nantahala National Forest
What’s better than a double waterfall? A triple waterfall! Located near Highlands following no less that four scenic stops en route, this roughly two mile round-trip hike to Glen Falls in the Nantahala National Forest is well worth a visit. Particularly in winter months when it ices over. Considered a moderately challenging route, the walk makes a gradual descent of about 400 feet in elevation change and there are quite a few switchbacks, so the going is not too steep.
Mount Mitchell — Pisgah National Forest
If your in for something a bit more challenging, why not take on the highest point east of the Mississippi? Just kidding, you can actually drive to the summit of this one…all 6,684 feet! Located just 35 miles from Asheville, the accessible trail to the observation deck is excellent for taking in 360 degrees of panoramic views. If you did want to venture a bit further on foot though, there are some beautiful routes through the surrounding forests including the Deep Gap Trail, Balsam Trail, and the long, strenuous Mount Mitchell Trail for the bold hikers.
And these routes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hiking trails near the Blue Ridge Basecamp. We are truly a wanderers’ sanctuary. Hopefully, these hikes get you through the colder months all merry and bright.