Winter hikes can provide many wonderful surprises like better views (since leaves are off the trees), few fellow hikers, no bugs, brilliant skies with clear distant views on many days and cool temperatures. Here are some of our favorite winter hikes near Asheville! Click on the names for a detailed guide for each.
Deep Creek Waterfalls: See three waterfalls with a 2.7 or 5-mile loop hike in the Great Smoky Mountains (pic at top of page is Juney Whank Falls). This area seldom sees snow. Only three miles from downtown Bryson City.
DuPont State Forest: Find a big network of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. It's lower elevation means mild weather for much of the winter. Hike to a variety of waterfalls, including Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls (pic above) with a moderate 3-mile hike. A 4.4-mile roundtrip hike takes you to Bridal Veil Falls and a 3-mile woodland walk takes you to often overlooked Wintergreen Falls.
For great mountain views in DuPont State Forest, hike Cedar Rock Mountain (pic above) on a 4.5-mile loop trail or Stone Mountain.
Rainbow Falls: Located in the Nantahala National Forest, adjacent to Gorges State Park, A 3-mile roundtrip moderate hiking trail takes you to views from the front, side and top of the 150-foot waterfall.
Daniel Ridge Falls: Hike a four-mile loop near Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah National Forest with a 150-foot waterfall. If we have a lot of very cold weather, you can see a frozen waterfall. Nearby is a beautiful hike to Cove Creek Falls.
Bearwallow Mountain: Just 19 miles from downtown Asheville, hike a two-mile loop trail to the summit of this bald mountain with wonderful views. From the same parking area, hike the 5-mile roundtrip on the Trombatore Trail to Blue Ridge Pastures, another bald. Also nearby is the new trail to Wildcat Rock.
Looking Glass Rock: For 180+ degree views from a rock face, hike this strenuous trail in the Pisgah National Forest. You'll climb 1,700 feet in elevation in just over three miles (6.5 miles roundtrip). Nearby is John Rock, a five-mile loop trail to a another rock face with panoramic views of Looking Glass Rock and surrounding mountains.
Shortoff Mountain: Located near Lake James, this 4.5-mile roundtrip hike affords spectacular views as you walk along the ridgetop along the rim of Linville Gorge. The Mountain-to-Sea Trail continues to Table Rock if you want to add another 9.5 miles roundtrip.
Chimney Rock Park: Climb the 500 steps to the top of the Chimney for breathtaking views of the gorge and continue up the trail to see the Devil's Head. Often overlooked, the Four Seasons trail begins near the Meadows and takes you through a beautiful deciduous forest and boulder fields.
Lover's Leap: This short loop trail leaves from downtown Hot Springs via the Appalachian Trail and climbs to a rock outcropping for beautiful views of the river and town. Then take a hot soak in the mineral springs when you get back to town.
Lake Junaluska: If you are looking for a flat, paved trail with plenty of views, you can choose a 2.3-mile or 3.8-mile loop about the lake with views of the Great Smoky Mountains. There are plenty of benches along the way. Great for scooters, wheelchairs and strollers too.
Roan Mountain: This section of the Appalachian Trail is frequently blanketed by snow and rime ice in the winter (if you like snowy hikes). It's about an 1.5-hour drive from Asheville. The road to Roan is usually clear of snow. From the Highway 261 at Carver's Gap on the North Carolina / Tennessee state line, hike across the bald summits.
Max Patch on Appalachian Trail: A 2.4-mile loop circles the bald mountain for outstanding views from all the sides. If there is snow on the ground, four-wheel drive is definitely required since you will be driving on an unpaved forest service road.
Whiteside Mountain: This moderate 2-mile loop hike rewards with panoramic cliff-top mountain views in Nantahala National Forest near Cashiers. Starting in January, peregrine falcons, one of the world’s fastest and most beautiful birds return annually to nest on rock ledges through Spring. Read more.
Linville Falls: While the Blue Ridge Parkway is often closed in the winter and you cannot access the Visitor Center parking area for Linville Falls, you can always hike in from the Pisgah National Forest side! Hike to four vistas of the waterfall and gorge in less than two miles. Read more about winter hikes to Linville Falls.
Mt. Cammerer: If you are looking for a strenuous day hike (12 miles roundtrip), head to the summit of Mount Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail begins in the Big Creek area, just off Interstate 40 near the North Carolina & Tenneessee line (about 50 miles from Asheville). At an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, the summit is often covered in snow. But you can warm up inside the fire tower. Allow a full day and take food.
Asheville City Hikes
Blue Ridge Parkway
When sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed in the winter, the roadway is a great place to hike and bike (and cross country ski when there's snow)! The closed sections change daily in the winter. If road repairs are underway, it will close to walkers and bikers too. Since the Mountains to Sea Trail follows the Parkway in the Asheville area (including the 60-mile stretch from Mt Pisgah to Craggy Gardens), you can access it at many crossroads with the Parkway or at the Folk Art Center. A local's favorite winter hike is the Rattlesnake Lodge Trail section, accessed from Ox Creek Road near the Parkway. To see our favorite section to explore, go to Blue Ridge Parkway Winter Hike & Bike.
Mt. Mitchell (if open)
The highest peak in the eastern USA is technically open every day, weather permitting. But the severe winter weather often closes the access roads that include the Blue Ridge Parkway. When there is snow and ice, the rangers work to clear the park road and the Parkway to NC Highway 80 (reach the Parkway on NC 80 from the Marion or Burnsville area.) The weather on the summit can be brutal, so be prepared. Read more about our snowy hike on Mt. Mitchell.
Needle ice is a frequent scene along hiking trails in the winter as the ground freezes and forces moisture upward.
Tips for Winter Hiking
See our Hiking Guide for all of our recommended hikes near Asheville.