View Full Version : What to expect in the Smokys in Feb.

02-05-2007, 13:32
Hola to you all..

I am going on a 27 mile trip for my 27th birthday this upcoming weekend in the Smokys and wondered if anyone had any insight on what we should expect as far as weather and hiking conditions. I've done quite a lot of winter hiking but none at 6000 ft. in Feb. We're starting at Newfound and headin' North.

02-05-2007, 13:41
Sounds like you need to do some planning before departing. Every winter hikers go to the Smokies unprepared and get caught in bitter cold and waist deep snow. The AT thru the Smokies is no place to be for the uninitiated.

I'm not saying don't go; I'm saying make sure that you have the proper equipment, right know how, enough food, and the physical abilities to endure siginificant snow and/or ice over steep, isolated terrain.

Expect the worst. Only the Whites are...

02-05-2007, 13:44

Last night, air temp was 1 degree F on Mt LeConte, with 4 inches of snow. This doesn't include wind chill. The high expected for today is 13 degrees F. Elevation is 6400 feet. Hope this helps.

The Solemates
02-05-2007, 13:46
the ridgeline gets about 70 inches of snow a year. some winters that accumulates over 25 weekends. other winters it may only take 8-10 snowfalls to get that much. there was 30-inch snowdrifts and temps below 0 when we went through in Feb 2004.

02-05-2007, 13:50
RT441 - check to see if it is open

02-05-2007, 14:06
go here (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm) for list of GSMNP closures which includes status of Rt441 (should be US441) to Newfound Gap;;

February 5, 2007
Weather-related road and facility closures may change throughout the day. For updated road and weather information please call (865) 436-1200. Once you hear a voice, dial extension 631 for road information or extension 630 for a weather forecast. You may wish to write this number down when traveling to the area for handy reference for road and weather updates. This webpage is updated 2-3 times a week. For the most current report, please call the number listed above.

Temporary closures:
Here is info from the report on Monday, Feb 5, 2007:
US-441 (Newfound Gap Road) - due to ice and snow. May reopen during the day on Monday, call the number listed above for updates.

02-05-2007, 17:02
I was out camping at Gregory Bald in GSNP on Feb 1, and I was reading a low of 4* at around 2 am. Really cold, and I was having trouble staying warm. Make sure you take enough food with you in case you need to munch during the night to stay warm, and take warm clothes, and of course, a GOOD sleeping bag is totally essential. We have finally gotten pounded with a cold winter these past 2 weeks. Best of luck and be safe. The smokies are so beautiful with the still silence of a nearly vacant park, and especially with the snow covered trees on the peaks. have fun!

02-05-2007, 17:22
It is beautiful to be on the north portion of the Smokies after snow, but it can be a pretty daunting task to pot hole your way thru it. I've been caught in a blizzard at TriCorner Knob Shelter and felt like I was in the middle of no where.

The sleeping bag is your most important gear in the Smokies. Food is the next most important. Have lots of calories and means to keep those calories under your skin.

02-05-2007, 20:26
I heard that the trail from the Smokies to Springer is like walking on ice flows right now. Crimpons anyone ??


02-05-2007, 20:39
crampons on the east section out of NFG. I've hiked it many times in the winter and I've come as close as I've ever come to sliding off the mountain. Global warming seems to have departed us temporarily...

02-05-2007, 22:15
That's right. There is a little "knife's edge" ridge line that scared the bejezzus out of me during a melt. At least instep crampons would be a reasonable bit of gear to bring.

02-06-2007, 09:55
The planning stages have been in the works for a few weeks now. I am definitely expecting the worst. Along with crampons... Would you think Gaitors are a pretty essential piece of the pie? One more question.... What would you all suggest as far as hiking pants.?

02-06-2007, 16:42
Does anyone have anything else to add?

02-06-2007, 21:49
that section of trail will be iced over take cramp ons for sure

the big thing is to check and see if the road to newfound gap is open.

the park closes that road on a moments notice.

i went on a short hike in the smokeys yesterday (2500 feet elevation) and the trail was iced over

02-06-2007, 22:41
Heavy long pants, and consider rain pants to cut back on wind. Gaiters are a good idea, especially if you need to post hole. Bring some plastic bags or Vapor Proof Barrier socks, just in case. Consider more than one set of gloves to deal with wet and wind. Balacava is essential, and your choice of hat may be critical.

Definitely have something that will remain dry to get you safer when you get in the sleeping bag. Bring LOTS of food.

If you are prepared, even nasty weather will be fun - although the fun won't appear until you begin telling stories about the Blizzard of Ought Seven.

02-07-2007, 10:04
Thanks for all the help.. We'll see what happens!

02-07-2007, 10:14
Are the cheap, spring-like bottom crampons okay?

02-07-2007, 10:23
There are no guarantees on any gear. I have instep crampons and know they can be difficult to install with cold hands. Those "spring" things look a lot easier, but I wonder if the spring would give good traction is you start to slide on it.

Why not give us a gear report on them?

02-07-2007, 10:35
The spring things... do work well, better on snow than ice though. make sure you ties them on as well because you can walk right out of them.

02-07-2007, 11:22
are the German-made rubber overshoes that slip over the toe only, with carbide tipped spikes, like permanent golf spikes. I've used them extensively while on skiiing trips (apres, of course, on icy sidewalks). I've never tried them hiking...

02-07-2007, 13:23
thanks for wuestioning this Chris - I have two boys heading north. They will be at fontana early next week and looking at the Smokies - dread. They have been on ice flows since Springer Saturday. Both have busted their butts a few times even though they have good poles for extra stabililty. I may have to talk them into soe sort of crampon too - better safe than plummeting.

02-07-2007, 15:20
Going north from Newfound Gap you will need some sort of crampons 'til you get past Charlie's Bunion (sp.?), 'cause there is no easy place to climb around the ice floes blocking the trail. In that area this time of the year I have run into powdery snow that swallows up a 5 foot hinking stick and -17 bone-chilling degrees at night.....or sunny and 60 degrees during the day. This year I would expect the former rather than the latter. I have also run into over a foot of snow through that stretch the second week in April....more than once. The Smokies are the only rain forest on the east coast, so whatever falls out of the skies does so in great abundance. Be sure to save some energy and check out the Mt. Cammerer tower before starting the long downhill to Davenport Gap.

02-07-2007, 17:02
I was caught in a blizzard and could not get to the Mt Cammerer Tower. However, I did see a helicopter flying by and photographing it in a huge snow blanket.

02-07-2007, 22:45
To miss Mt. Cammerer. It's one of the premier sights in the GSMNP...

02-08-2007, 00:35
I'll throw this link out as a decent resource on clothing and gear prep for winter camping:


02-15-2007, 22:56
I went through the smokies late April. No snow but cold cold cold... did I say cold? Yes cold rain. The kind that kills. I made sure I had some dry cloths to change into at the shelters. I couldn't imagine going in February. I hope you have some experience in harsh climate backpacking.

Chaco Taco
02-15-2007, 23:56
I like Yaktrax instead of crampons. Easier to put on and pull off. Just my opinion though

02-16-2007, 01:40
I like Yaktrax instead of crampons. Easier to put on and pull off. Just my opinion though

I'd be very concerned about the Yaktraxs being able to hold up under prolonged use.

02-16-2007, 16:29
The Yaxtrax were great, but you're right, they only held up for about 10-14 miles before they were a twisted and mangled mess.

02-16-2007, 17:22
I have the instep crampons. I wonder how they would have held up. Did anyone have a set of those

02-16-2007, 19:55
I have instep crampons. They are good for limited use around ice, but can be difficult to install. I would treat a consecutive 2 miles of ice as a definite Voice of God suggestion to stop for the day.