The Case for Winter Hiking in North Carolina

The Case for Winter Hiking in North Carolina

In western North Carolina, the mountains seem to grow a little bit closer together once spring comes around. They’re covered in a bright green fuzz, inviting hikers to come out and watch the distinct Appalachian canopy emerge. It’s vibrant and exciting, crackling with new energy.

During the summer, trails leading to majestic waterfalls and refreshing swimming holes reach peak popularity. The canopy grows into a thick green roof. Late-blooming rhododendrons burst with bright violet flowers.

Then comes autumn, the most dramatic time of year in the mountains. That profoundly green canopy erupts into an array of orange and red hues, dappling the hills with dazzling color. Hikers come from all over to immerse themselves in the beauty before the leaves fall too suddenly.

In the winter, hiking goes quiet. The trees are barren, the temperatures chill and stillness sets in. This scene, however, is a perfect time to venture out into the woods. Winter hiking in North Carolina is just as rewarding as hiking in our other seasons.

Great Trails for Winter Hiking in North Carolina

For seasoned hikers, winter hiking isn’t anything new. But if you’re a part-time hiker with an interest in venturing out during the colder months, here are a few trails we recommend.

Moore Cave Falls

Moore Cave falls is a perfect beginner-level trail for winter hiking in North Carolina.
Image courtesy of Explore Asheville.

Located near Looking Glass Falls, the Moore Cave Falls trail is a quick and easy winter hike. The three-quarter-mile trail leads to a 50-foot waterfall nestled in a beautiful mountain cove. If temperatures are low enough, icicles form from the falling water to create a gorgeous, dramatic effect. If it’s still a bit warm out, you’ll be able to sneak behind the waterfall for a stunning view of the cove.

Overall, it’s a simple and family-friendly winter walk sure to whet your appetite for winter hiking.

Rattlesnake Lodge

Just a short jaunt north of downtown Asheville lies the ruins of an old mountain lodge. Located off mile marker 375 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Rattlesnake Lodge includes a trail that makes a perfect winter hike. During the summer months, the moderate uphill trail is a beautiful sea of green that can obscure the ruins themselves. In the winter, however, the remnants of the lodge reveal themselves much more easily.

Chimney Rock State Park

Image courtesy of Chimney Rock State Park.

Situated between Bat Cave and Lake Cure (about 20 miles southeast of Asheville), Chimney Rock State Park offers multiple ways to experience the joys of winter hiking.

Hike along the Four Seasons Trail and take in the quiet stillness of crisp winter afternoons in the woods. Look out from Hickory Nut Falls, and follow the water’s rush down into the Broad River. If you have a good set of binoculars, climb to the top of Chimney Rock itself and see the Charlotte skyline, 70 miles away.

Looking for more seasonal mountain activities? Check out our Lifestyle section for more wonderful hikes.