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  1. #1
    Registered User tagg's Avatar
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    greenwood, sc

    Default southern winter hike suggestions

    I just found myself with 5 free days coming up in mid-December, and would like to use that time to practice some winter hiking. Most of my hiking has been 3 season, and though I've dealt with cold temperatures and a little bit of winter weather, I've never been all in on a winter trip. I'd appreciate any recommendations, especially anything that hits as many of these as possible:
    • GA, NC, TN, or southern VA. I live in upstate SC and don't really want to drive more than 4-5 hours.
    • I'm looking for a loop because I'll be solo, don't want to deal with a shuttle, and don't really love out and backs.
    • An area that has a higher probability (relatively speaking) of seeing snow. I know weather is completely unpredictable, but I've never been on a trip where I've had to deal with much snow and I'd like to increase the odds of that happening. So I'm assuming that means some elevation. I can be flexible and change my location at the last minute to sort of chase the weather, but I can't change the dates.
    • Relatively easy trailhead access - in the event that I get lucky and I do see winter weather, I'd like to be going somewhere that the road doesn't commonly close and make it impossible to get in or out (like Newfound Gap, for example).
    • Does not have to involve the AT. I've hiked everything from GA to NJ so far so I've seen it already, but I'm certainly not opposed to seeing it again if the loop involves part of the AT.
    • I usually hike about 18 miles per day in warmer weather, but I get that daylight will be short and snow/sleet/freezing rain will shorten my mileage, so I'm looking for a trip maybe 50-70 miles?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

  2. #2

    Join Date
    state of confusion
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    You cannot predict snow in southern mountains in advance. It snows, it melts away in a few days or weeks.

    Might get 1 good snow in winter, might get 10. Very variable. But generally dec. Is too early anyway. 32f rain more likely

    Clingmans dome, highest spot in gsmnp only averages 8" snow in dec. So chances of seeing more than dusting anywhere are slim.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 08-22-2018 at 14:36.

  3. #3
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Birmingham, AL
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    From what I've seen in the past looking at GSMNP Webcam historical data...

    For a given date, it is unlikely for snow to be on the ground, even at higher elevations.

    You can be assured that sometime between November and March, there will be snow on the ground in parts of GSMNP. But even in the middle of winter at Clingman's Dome, the average daily temperature climbs above freezing. So when it does snow, it usually melts within about a week.

  4. #4


    Go to the northeast end of the GSMNP and park at Big Creek Campground. From there, there are tons of options available for loops that put you at higher elevation. Mount Sterling has a campsite at the summit which is stunning on any day of the year, but especially when there's a good snow on the ground.

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Husk NC


    You could start in Damascus and take the AT up to MT Rogers and wonder around Grayson Highlands/Lewis Fork Wilderness. If you do some in the Lewis Fork area, you will most likely be the only one there. Then take the Iron Mountain Trail back down into Damascus. That trail was once the AT but the AT was moved....still in good condition with a good shelter about 2 miles from White Top Rd. Again, you will most likely not see anyone else.

    ETA: you can contact Mt Rogers Outfitters and they might help you string the trails together.
    Last edited by DownYonder; 08-22-2018 at 15:36.
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  6. #6


    Have you done the Foothills Trail yet? IMO, it fits most of what you are looking for with the exception of it not being a loop. The trail is right at 80 miles and has 10+ spots to enter or exit the trail if needed. A shuttle is easy to get but I would suggest just leaving your car in Oconee State Park and getting someone to take you to the trailhead at Table Rock.
    I did the last several sections this Spring and plan to finish the trail in October. If you go in December, the leaves will be gone and the views will be nice.

    If the Foothills Trail is something you are not interested in, the Art Lobe trail is nearby in Pisgah NF. It is less than 3 miles from Greenwood. Lots of options, including loop trails up in Pisgah.

  7. #7


    There's a 55 mile Benton MacKaye Trail - AT loop in Georgia among the hikes here.

    This is a piece of trail in North Carolina (not a loop) that's on my to-do list for a winter hike. It's close enough to urban areas that Uber/Lyft should work for a shuttle.

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