STAFF PICKS: BEST WINTER HIKES
We all know that winter can be a hard time to gear up and get outside. The cold, windy weather and changing conditions on the parkway can make accessing your favorite trails hard. Two things can change your outdoor experience this winter: knowing where to go and knowing how to prepare. Since our staff loves to play outside at this time of year, we asked some of them to share their favorite winter hikes in the area. These are sure to give you options for some cool adventures.
- Three Top Mountain Trail
Three Top Mountain is our general manager, Thea’s, favorite winter hike. The trail is a tough 4.1 miles, but the hard work is worth the 360 views from the top. Don’t let the relatively flat beginning trick you into thinking there is not a lot of elevation change. It gains over 1,000 feet in one mile! It’s called Three Top Mountain because of three major rock formations at the summit. Thea’s advice to consider before the trek is, “Since the trails in this area are not highly trafficked they can get brushy in the late summer, so winter time makes it an easier time for travel. Do be mindful that this is a public game land open to hiking so remember your blaze orange during hunting season!”
2. Elk Knob Summit Trail
Elk Knob Summit Trail is one of staff member Jill’s favorite winter hikes. It is 3.8 miles and rated as moderate. Jill and her family like this trail because “It’s close to Boone and it’s fairly steep but not super technical. You get about 1,000 feet of gain in under two miles! And the views from the top are awesome!” The trail is very well maintained which makes it a good pick for families with children. Keep in mind that the trail closes at 5:45 pm and the park closes at 6 pm.
3. Roan Mountain State Park
Roan Mountain State Park has something to offer everyone. With incredible views, you can easily pick the length of the hike you are looking for. Try a moderate 4.7 mile day hike starting from Carvers Gap and going to Grassy Ridge for beautiful balds and views. Or do what staff member Virginia likes by grabbing your pack and doing an overnight along the Appalachian Trail starting at Carvers Gap and hiking 16.7 miles to 19E. Virgina likes Roan mountain as a winter trail because “most of the campsites give horizon views of the whole area and it’s got all the humps you can ask for.”
4. Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail
Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail is a moderate trail with great views. It’s 1.65 miles to the cliffs so it’s a whopping 3.3 miles total. Keep your eyes peeled, the area is a peregrine falcon nesting site. Staff member Rich loves this hike because it’s a little bit off the beaten path and he hardly ever sees anyone else when he goes.
5. Profile Trail to Calloway Peak
Looking for a challenging winter adventure? Check out the Profile Trail to Calloway Peak. It is 7.6 miles round trip and is rated as hard. However, attempting it in the winter adds to the technicality. During the winter months, weather adds thick ice and snow to the trail that lingers even on warmer days. Keep in mind that it is known for being very icy in the winter. Both Staff member Rose and Brian love doing this hike in the winter because of the unique nature and terrain elements you experience. Rose digs the ice caves that form after Shanty Springs freezes over. This trek would be best accompanied by microspikes.
Now that you know where to go, let’s talk about what to bring. Make sure to be layered up with a good base layer, midlayer, and jacket to stay warm. All the hiking will create heat so having a daypack where you can put your layers if you get hot is always a good idea. Other things you might want to consider are the trail conditions. Has it snowed recently? Is the trail icy? If this is the case, having a pair of microspikes would be a good idea. These would be especially good for hikes with steep elevation change. Always consider your hydration and food. Hydration can be tricky in the cold but it is important to stay hydrated and well nourished.
Let us know what your favorite winter hikes in the High Country are! Leave a comment to share!