horses in Cades Cove

6 Tips to Help You Prepare for a Winter Hike in Cades Cove

Snow-covered hiking trail
November 30, 2023

One of the most popular activities to do in winter in Cades Cove is hiking. There are many hiking trails to choose from. For example, you can hike the popular Abrams Falls Trail to see a breathtaking waterfall, Lead Cove Trail to Spence Field for panoramic views, or Rich Mountain Loop Trail to explore history. No matter which hiking trail you choose, you are sure to see plenty of beautiful sights along the way. If you are planning a winter hike in Cades Cove, make sure you follow these tips to help keep you safe and warm.

1. Check for Road Closures

Scenic photo of Cades Cove in winter.Before you make your way to Cades Cove for a winter hike, you should first check for road closures. In winter conditions, certain roads in the Smoky Mountains can become dangerous. They may close if the area has recently had snow or sub-freezing temperatures that cause the roads to be unsafe for motorists. Make sure you can safely travel to Cades Cove in the winter by checking current road conditions and closures. You can check with the National Park Service to learn about temporary road closures and delays as well as hiking trail closures.

2. Start Early

In the winter months, it gets dark early in the evening. This is very important to remember when you are planning a winter hike in Cades Cove. You don’t want to get caught hiking after dark, especially if there is snow or ice on the trail. When planning your hike, keep in mind that winter conditions can make your hike take longer than it normally would. Even the most capable hikers are slowed down by snow and ice. Plan to start your hike early so you can be finished well before sunset. It’s also a good idea to always bring a flashlight or headlamp with you just to be safe.

3. Dress in Layers

woman and child hiking in winter with winter clothes and backpacksOne of the best ways to prepare for a winter hike is dressing in layers. If you are hiking in low temperatures, you will likely feel cold when you start the hike. However, the physical activity may cause you to warm up after a bit. If you dress in layers, you can shed a layer or two when you get too warm and add them back on if you get cold again. You don’t want to wear something that you can’t take off because sweating in cold temperatures can be dangerous. Smoky Mountain winter is unpredictable and temperatures can range from below freezing to 70 degrees, so you should also bring clothing for unexpected conditions such as an extra pair of socks, gloves, a winter hat, and even a rain jacket or poncho just in case.

4. Pack Crampons

If you are planning a winter hike, you should definitely bring crampons for your shoes. Crampons are essentially ice spikes that strap onto your hiking boots to give you better traction on ice and densely packed snow. If you come across ice or snow during your hike, you can strap these on to keep you from slipping. Make sure you also wear hiking boots that cover your ankles for support in case you do slip.

5. Bring Lots of Water

water bottle sitting on snow-covered logWhen you hike in winter, you may not feel as thirsty as when you hike in hot summer months. Because you are not sweating as much, you may not realize how thirsty you really are. On a winter hike, you lose hydration through not just perspiration but also respiration. That’s why it’s important to bring and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated even when you don’t feel thirsty. It can also be helpful to pack a hot drink in an insulated bottle to help you stay warm in cold temperatures.

6. Inform Someone of Your Plans

One of the most important safety tips when preparing for a winter hike is to let someone know about your plans. This is something you should do any time you go on a hike, but it’s especially important during winter months. Winter conditions can make hiking trails more challenging, and shorter days means fewer hours of sunlight. You should let someone know which trail you will be hiking, when you will start, and when you expect to end. This person can then be on the lookout for your return and will know if something goes wrong.

More Things to Do in Cades Cove in Winter

Hiking is one of the best activities you can do in Cades Cove in winter. The landscape becomes a majestic winter wonderland just waiting to be explored. If you are looking for more fun things to do this winter, check out these top 5 activities you’ll love in Cades Cove in winter.

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