Best Winter Weekend Getaway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

By Alli Hill

Best Winter Weekend Getaway in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There’s never a bad time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but it’s hard to stay away from this amazing place in the winter. From hiking to camping to beautiful 360-degree mountain views, the GSM National Park is the perfect haven for every outdoor aficionado. Here’s how you can make the most of your winter getaway. 

Pitch a tent along Old Settlers Trail

This 16-mile trail is a favorite locale for winter backcountry camping. The trail offers a lower elevation that most of the other trails in the park so it’s not as chilly. Winter is an ideal time to travel the trail because there isn’t much to bar your vision of the area, giving you glimpses of building remnants, old homesteads, and the famed Cat Stairs Trail. 

Hike the Alum Cave Trail

This trail is bustling with activity year-round, so you’ll want to come early. But the rewards are well worth the effort. The 4.5-mile hike to Alum Cave (which is actually a towering bluff) leads you to some beautiful icicle formations in the winter. It’s all uphill on the way, but the all-downhill hike back to your car is a lot less strenuous.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gatlinburg, Tennessee (@visitgatlinburg) on

Take a guided atv tour with Bluff Mountain Adventures

This ATV outfitter provides guided tours all around the national park, giving you a chance to get off the beaten path and onto a path of adventure. Excursion times and locations can vary, and you’ll want to reserve your spot ahead of time. 

Hit the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg

Tennessee’s only ski destination is also a family-friendly fun haven. Their ski resort features multiple lifts and trails for every skill level, as well as tubing, ice skating, and a kid-friendly snow zone. Their freestyle terrain park is perfect for extreme athletes that want to hone their skills.

Go winter fly fishing

Winter fly fishing is a big draw to the Smokies each year. The trout here love the crisp, cold waters, so there’s a strong chance you won’t be leaving disappointed. You can head to downtown Gatlinburg for catch and release fishing in the crystal-clear river, meaning you’re never far from a coffee shop or store where you can defrost yourself throughout the day. Or, set out along the parkway and find a spot on the river to cast your line.

Grab a craft beer at Smoky Mountain Brewery

Sipping a frosty brew when it’s freezing outside might be the furthest thing from your mind, but the cozy atmosphere and delicious wings at the brewery will warm you right up. They brew a variety of flagship and seasonal beers on location, and many of the local restaurants serve them. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Smoky Mountain Brewery (@smokymountainbrewery) on

Stock your campsite at the Day Hiker

This outdoor store has everything you need for a winter mountain getaway. Whether you’re going backcountry hiking and camping or just planning a day excursion, you can find high-quality hiking poles, backpacks, apparel, and camping gear to complete your mission. The experts here are avid hikers, too, and can point you in the direction of all the best trails.

Get the best views in town on the Sky Lift

This long-standing family attraction takes you up Crockett Mountain to an overlook for the best views in the city. The bare trees in winter give you a mostly unobstructed view of Gatlinburg and the surrounding area, perfect for family photo ops.

Take a ride on the Mountain Coaster

Touted as the “must do” activity in Gatlinburg, this single-car coaster takes you up the mountain so you can zip down at around 30+ mph. Perfect for day or night rides, kids and adults alike love zooming through the woods and down the mountain to see sights of the city that just aren’t visible from the Parkway.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster (@gburgmtncoaster) on

Explore the Guinness World’s Records Museum

This museum is almost too amazing to be true. Wander through the most unique, brain-bending, and dazzling world records set by real people throughout the year. With hundreds of exhibits depicting some of the most astounding records ever documented, this adventure is unlike any other in the city.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Crystal Carder (@crystalcarder1) on

Subscribe for future Step Outside News!