View Full Version : Snow in the South?

08-30-2010, 13:41
I started a flip-flop at HF this year and headed North. My wife hurt her knee so we had to get off in Great Barrington. We’ve been off for a month and seen the doc a number of times. It looks like her hike is over. She says I can go back. The question is what should I do? I will not be able to start until mid-September at the earliest. I was thinking of starting in Maine and going back to GB then flipping back to either HF or GA. I also toyed with the idea of just doing the southern section then trying to do the northern part another year. I have backpacked in the winter before but really would rather not finish my hike with three months of harsh winter conditions. Thoughts?
I’m not sure of the climate so is there any places in the south that I would need to hit sooner rather than later (Smokies, Shenandoah, etc) to avoid snow? Truth be told I can’t finish by end of the year, but I wouldn’t going into January/February if the weather holds (but I may just bag it and come back when it warms a bit). I’m guessing that hitting snow is a “be prepared for it but I might get lucky” if I elect to do the northern section. Is this correct? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Keep in mind I will not be able to start until mid-September.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions

08-30-2010, 13:53
Snow in the Smokies and points farther south is potentially a hit or miss. Basically, you are far enough south that there might not be any snow for the whole year. But on the flip side, I've heard reports that snow has been seen at LeConte Lodge (same basic elevation as Clingman's Dome) in every month of the year but July. I've seen permafrost in the trees at upper elevations in October.

The weather in fall time in the Smokies can range pretty much all over the place. We annually go to LeConte Lodge in September, and we've had days where we get to the lodge (about 6,500 in elevation) and the temperatures at mid-afternoon might be as warm as in the upper sixties, and as low as the upper thirties. Night time can be as warm as the fifties, and as cold as below freezing... and that's just September.

Rain Man
08-30-2010, 17:00
In his thru-hike account in "Hiking the Appalachian Trail," Volume One, by Rodale Press, page 593, Jim Shattuck reports that is was -27 degrees at Mountain Lake, Virginia on March 1, 1967. So, yes, it does get cold and snowy at elevation in the South. Tidbit: Mountain Lake resort is where "Dirty Dancing" was filmed.

The Barefoot Sisters wrote in "Southbound" at pages 329-334 that they feared dying in the Grayson Highland snow drifts at 0 degrees in late December. They gave this account by a NOBO of "winter in the South": "It'll snow on night, four inches maybe, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Generally, it'll melt by noon." Apparently,they didn't think much of that report.

Here's a photo (there are more in my gallery) from Buzzard Rock (Whitetop Mtn., VA) on November 16, 2008. It was 22 degrees and driving sleet.
http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/files/1/2/9/3/dsc00712_thumb.jpg (http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/showimage.php?i=29451&c=)

Of course, if you hike up North, I'm not qualified to say.



Sierra Echo
08-30-2010, 17:20
Usually in GA if it snows, its generally between Jan and March. But it doesn't snow every year. And if it does its usually only a few inches or less.

Old Grouse
08-30-2010, 18:24
Coldest winter I ever spent was in a tent at Ft. Gordon GA. Not snow, but just sayin....

08-30-2010, 21:36
Snow is unusual, and doesn't usually last. That said, it can happen. If you're flexible with your time and money, you can get the hike done by planning three-day sections, getting a long-term weather forecast, and going out when you've got a favorable weather window.

Last winter was a bugger--unusual amounts of snow and cold. Who knows what this winter will bring?

08-31-2010, 06:59
Unusual, but not last year. The weeks both sides of Christmas had a lot of show in NC. Knee plus high at Carvers Gap/Roan Mt areas.

08-31-2010, 07:23
Last winter down here was way different from previous winters. The snow on the ground hung around for a long time before melting even at lower elevations in the valleys. :)

Gray Blazer
08-31-2010, 07:25
March 2005. NC.

http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/files/6/2/1/7/MountainsII005.jpg (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showimage.php?i=9130&original=1&c=member&imageuser=6217)

Gray Blazer
08-31-2010, 07:28
March 2006. Nantahalas, NC.

http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/files/6/2/1/7/100_1937.jpg (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showimage.php?i=12455&original=1&c=member&imageuser=6217)

08-31-2010, 11:35
Southbound from HF seems like your best alternative and the opportunity for some spectacular fall hiking. With a 10 week itinerary, you would finish in GA at the end of Nov. The best chance for snow would be in the Smokies but it would be a lot lower chance than, say, March.

08-31-2010, 12:32
Thanks for the beta everyone! Still debating about whether to attempt the northern section then flipping or just start at HF and finish at Springer (skipping the northern section this year). At least I have a better idea on what to expect in the south. You guys have been very helpful. Thanks a bunch!

08-31-2010, 14:09
March 2005. NC.

http://whiteblaze.net/forum/vbg/files/6/2/1/7/MountainsII005.jpg (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showimage.php?i=9130&original=1&c=member&imageuser=6217)
Is this the grave site of the two brothers that were from NC, fought for the north and were killed when they got home?

Gray Blazer
08-31-2010, 14:12
Is this the grave site of the two brothers that were from NC, fought for the north and were killed when they got home?

Yes. The Shelton Gravesite near Big Butt, TN.

08-31-2010, 14:20
Great thread!! Since I wasn't able to do my section hike in August, I am shooting for Late November, around the 20th. I could use this information.

My second option is going to the Pinhoti Trail, But I so much want to be back on the Good Ole' AT!!..


08-31-2010, 14:52
In late October 2008 I walked through 6" of new snow, 15F early morning temp, 40 mph sustained winds with 70 mph gusts at Carvers Gap. Most of the snow had melted when I entered Erwin two days later.

Basically, if you're prepared for cold Fall weather then you can probably get through one of the late Fall snowstorms without much risk. I do suggest using gaiters to keep high snow from entering the top of your boots and bringing an extra pair of socks. A lot of SOBOs finish around Thanksgiving.