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Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains is an essential part of any vacation within the area. Beautiful forests and waterfalls await on the trails, and, even though the winters can be a bit on the chilly side, there really is no better time to reap the full beauty of the landscapes.

To help you begin your sightseeing journey, here is a list of the top 5 hiking trails recommended you see in the wintertime.

Top 5 Winter Hikes in the Smokies1. Indian Creek Falls
An easy trail and perfect first for beginning hikers, Indian Creek Falls can give you the beautiful sight of a water slide (rather than a true waterfall) as well as an abundance of scenic forest life. It is accessed by the Deep Creek Trail, which is one of the oldest paths to be constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (back in the 1930s), and lasts a roundtrip of 1.9 miles.

2. Ramsey Cascades
Though known to be a bit more strenuous of a hike, the Ramsey Cascades is one of the prettiest waterfall sights in the Smokies. At an 8.0 mile roundtrip, you’ll be able to experience both the falls as well as the largest old-growth forest in the entire mountain range. Hikers have said that the majority of the walk is about moderately difficult to tackle, but the final third of a mile is much more extreme and rugged, so plan your trip accordingly.

3. Little Brier Gap Trail
Giving you a chance to experience the history of the area with a fairly easy 2.6 mile hike, Little Brier Gap Trail will start at the schoolhouse built by John Walker in 1882 for students in Little River Valley, and then lead you to the cabins his daughters, the Walker Sisters, lived in until the early 1940s. All surviving structures have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.

4. Mount LeConte
At the very end of the Trillium Gap Trail, you can reach the top of Mount Leconte. Along the trail, you will be able to encounter Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that you actually walk behind. At the very end of the trail, you’ll get an amazing panoramic view of the western Smokies from the summit, known as High Top. This is an extremely difficult trail at 13.9 miles roundtrip, though, so it is recommended mainly to experienced hikers only.

5. Rainbow Falls
Probably the best hike to take during the winter, the moderate 5.4 mile hike to and from Rainbow Falls is a must. These falls are the highest single-drop waterfall in all of the Smokies and, during the winter when extended periods of cold temperatures arise, beautiful ice formations will build around the waters. There is also less bright sunshine in the winter, which makes photography much easier to accomplish with these specific falls.

There you have it – 5 beautiful hiking options for your next trip to the Smokies. And, though the wintertime may be cold and fierce, the sights and nature of the trails are just all the more stunning.

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