Walkin’ In A Winter Wonderland


Don’t let the winter months scare you from going outside, there is still so much to be seen. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is brimming with beauty, even in the colder months. Several hikes will give you luxurious views of snowy mountains, icy falls and even traces of wildlife!snowycreek_ig

Alum Cave Bluffs is a 5 mile, round trip hike that sits off of Newfound Gap Road. The trail has recently been restored for better access to hikers. During the winter months, the drips from the Bluff turn into icicles, so watch out! If you continue from the Bluffs up another 2.5 miles, you’ll reach the summit of Mt. LeConte and run into some amazing views. This is a difficult hike, especially in the snow so don’t forget to come prepared for anything.

Another Local favorite is Porters Creek Trail. This kid-friendly, 2 mile hike leads into what used to be a small farmstead. You will see several buildings and other structures still standing from the early 1900s. Follow the trail left up to Fern Branch Falls for a magnificent view of the 60-foot frozen waterfall. laurel250xv

Laurel Falls is a paved, relatively easy trail, but one of the most traveled in the area. The trail is kid-friendly, although it does have a few steep drop offs along the way. In the winter, the Falls will ice over providing you with the perfect winter snapshot.

Our favorite winter hike would have to be Rainbow Falls. This 5.5 mile hike is rated as moderate to difficult, climbing a total of 1,700 feet. This trail sends you right through Bear Country so always keep an eye out for wildlife, even though they usually hibernate through winter. The 80-foot Falls usually boasts a beautiful rainbow, hence the name, although in the winter months it will freeze, creating a gorgeous hourglass shaped ice sculpture! You really have to see this one for yourself!

Remember that preparation is key for hiking, especially in the winter. Some guidelines to ensuring your safety include carrying a map of the area, informing another person(s) where you are going and when you plan to return, researching terrain or trail conditions and staying up to date on weather and weather alerts. Don’t forget to bring key items such as water, food, a flashlight, trekking poles for stability, an emergency blanket and other items you may need in case any unforeseen issues arise. Always dress in layers and wear adequate shoes or boots. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and always practice Leave No Trace principles.


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This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Smoky Mountain areas.

Snowed In? Snow Day!


Here in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, we experience our fair share of snow days. While getting out of school or work is exciting, spending the day inside can be a bore. We’ve come up with some activities that are perfect for a good snowy day.

Make Snow Cream!

Snow Cream is a delicious treat that you can’t get all year long. Kids 10890636_1572602209620477_2098604635_nlove getting involved in the kitchen -especially if they get to bring snow in the house! All you need is milk, vanilla extract, and some clean, fresh snow. We recommend setting a big bowl out once the snow starts falling. Once you mix everything together add in any toppings you would like. Sprinkles, chocolate chips, coconut, and honey are some favorites.

Do Yoga!

Yoga is a great way to warm up on a snow day. Practicing yoga has many benefits. These include increased blood flow, boost in immune system, boosts metabolism, and much more. Loosen up after walking around with all those layers from playing in the snow. Try out some basic poses like the Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, and Downward Facing Dog.

Make it a Spa Day!

There’s nothing more relaxing than a day at the spa, but no one wants to trek out into the snow to do so! Grab some ingredients from your pantry and put together some DIY spa treatments. Combine coconut oil, honey, and lemon juice for a fantastic face mask. For a hair mask use 1/2 a ripe avocado and mix it with coconut oil and vitamin E oil. After throwing snowballs all day, your hands will want some love too. Mix coarse sugar with lemon juice and coconut oil for a silky hand scrub.

Set up a Photoshoot!

10525552_347616358767131_1087180128_nGrab any type of camera and head for the pretty white blanket that has covered your yard. Snow makes for such a fun backdrop to candid
photos. Have someone snap several pics of you tossing up the snow,
trudging through it, shaking a tree to cover yourself, the possibilities are endless! The lighting on snow days is perfect for pictures so even if you’re just using your phone, there’s bound to be a good one!

Build a Fort!

Tap into your inner child and break out the extra pillows and sheets for nostalgic purposes. Everyone loved building forts as kids and now that we understand construction a little better it’s a great time to get your creative juices flowing. You can get really creative with all of those left over boxes from Christmas and put together a cardboard fort. Just attach some tape to secure them together. Mr. McGroovy’s sells boxes of rivets to help bring your creation to life. They also have tons of downloadable plans if you’re not up for designing your own.


Play Outside!

Of course playing in the snow is the best part about snow days! Step your snowball game up by using a ball press. You can also get a snowball launcher to have even more fun! Build a snowman, snow bear, or any other snow creature that may be native to your area. Grab a sled or a tube and find the nearest hill to spend hours entertained or even just plop down and make a snow angel.


Now that you have a day full of activities planned, go ahead and get started! Enjoy your day full of snow!



LOGO with text This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 865-430-3366. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

Winter Wildlife: Doe a Deer

Subscribe to A Day In The SmokiesMost of us probably assume that there isn’t much wildlife to see in the winter. In the Smokies, however, winter is a perfect time to view wildlife such as deer, as the trees have lost their leaves. This makes it easier to spot deer through the trees.

White-Tailed Deer in the SmokiesHere is what the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to say about our local white-tailed deer:

White-tailed deer live throughout the Smokies, but are most commonly seen in areas with open fields such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.

Deer living in the southern Appalachians give birth in late June. Newborn fawns have no defense beyond camouflage. Many are lost to predation during their first few days. By their second spring, males begin to grow antlers. They fully develop in August, and in September, the bucks fight for mating rights. Mating occurs in November. The antlers fall off by mid-winter.

Deer browse for nutritious foods. The diversity of plants growing in the park provide excellent food sources. When favored foods disappear, deer switch to more common, less nutritious plants. If nothing else is available, they will eat poison ivy or rhododendron. Acorns and nuts are important fall foods.

Deer populations can change quickly. Local over-population leads to widespread disease and starvation. Predation by coyotes, bears, and bobcats help reduce threats associated with overpopulation.

Foraging In WinterAccording to the Adirondack Ecological Center,

Winter activity, mainly foraging, is more likely in late afternoon. After snowfall, the winter diet consists of woody browse – the twigs and stems of seedlings, saplings and shrubs. An adult white-tailed deer requires approximately 5-7 lb of food per day. Energy demands vary seasonally, and are greatest for pregnant and lactating females, for males in the autumn rut, and for all individuals during severe winter weather.

So this winter, when you’re in the Smokies, don’t be discouraged! Pack up a lunch to take in the car, or get take out, and take a drive into the Park! Cades Cove is an especially good place to see deer. Go during the warmest part of the day. Begin about lunch-time, and drive slowly! You’ll be traveling through at the perfect time to see plenty of deer! Enjoy, and take pictures! How many deer did you see on your last drive through Cades Cove? Did you see a lot of deer in another part of the Park? Tell us about it!

Groundhog Day 2013 and Winter Activities

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Check out groundhog.org!Our favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, says we are going to have an early spring this year. As exciting as that is, let’s enjoy winter while we can! In an effort to encourage you to take advantage of the remaining winter weather, we thought we would remind you (and ourselves) of all the great things to do in the Smoky Mountains during the winter.

Play in the Snow!1. Play in the Snow. We know this one is obvious, but we couldn’t very well neglect to mention it, could we? What happens if you get to Gatlinburg…and it snows? Well, you play in it, of course. What happens if you were hoping for snow and don’t see any when you get here? Well, you have to find the snow. Snowfalls of an inch or more occur on average only one to five times per year in the valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains although Gatlinburg has already had two of these snowfalls in December alone. In the high country, over five feet of snow falls most years. For all the best places to play in the snow, visit our snow post.

See Rainbow Falls!2. Tour the Waterfalls. Winter can be the best time for enjoying waterfalls. Waterfall flows are higher because of greater amounts of snow and rainfall. In addition, there is less uptake by forest plants. Waterfall views and opportunities for photography also improve after the trees have dropped their leaves. Visit our winter waterfall post for some of our favorites.

Where have all the black bears gone?3. Take in the Wildlife. Winter is one of the best times for wildlife viewing in the Smokies. Once the trees have shed their leaves, views into the forest are much longer. Wildlife like elk and deer are active for longer periods during the daylight hours because of the cooler temperatures. What wildlife other than bear and dear might you see? Otter, bob-cat, red fox, gray fox, mink, red squirrel, coyote, and lots of birds. Visit our winter wildlife post for all the details.

Ski at Ober Gatlinburg!4. Skiing Anyone? Ober Gatlinburg offers 8 ski trails serviced by two quad and one double chairlift which keeps you out of lift lines and on the slopes. When temperatures drop, their snow-making equipment blankets 100% of there slopes. Slopes are maintained with the latest in snow-grooming equipment to provide a smoother, more consistent surface creating enjoyable skiing conditions. For more information on skiing in Gatlinburg, visit our Let’s Go Skiing post.

Winter Wildflowers!!5. Winter Wildflowers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts approximately 100 species of plants that are restricted to a single region of the park. Many of these species are only found in the southern Appalachian Mountains, but some have been documented only inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Think wildflowers only bloom in the Spring? Visit our wildflower post to find flowers year ’round.

ERA In The SmokiesSo never fear…you can always find something to do in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains even in the dead of winter.

This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

Gettin’ By In Winter

Subscribe to A Day In The SmokiesWe would like to thank the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for this wonderful article. You can find many more interesting articles on their website!

What did mountain families do to get by during the long, gray days of winter?

Elijah Oliver PlaceCabin Fever
The homes of mid-19th century farm families were small, while the families themselves were often large. The typical log home was 18’ x 20’ (360 square feet) plus, perhaps, a sleeping loft. Families were frequently multi-generational, including a grandparent and five to 12 kids.

During periods of cold, snowy, or rainy weather, families were forced to spend most of the day indoors. Dorie Woodruff Cope, who spent her childhood and young adulthood in the Smokies, described winter this way:

“So we waited. Snow came two or three times a week to add inches to the blanket already on the ground. Silence hung over the mountains like a misty fog…. Wind whistled around the corners of the cabin and down the chimney, causing the fire to reach out of the fireplace and fill the room with ashes. Ma kept beans and meat boiling in a kettle.”

Smoky Mountain Tunes & TalesMaking Music
Mountain folk knew lots of songs and enjoyed singing ballads at home during winter, often solo and unaccompanied by musical instruments. Many of the ballads were from the British Isles and were about love or death, or religious faith. Ballads told stories and sometimes included lessons on life. Examples are “The Drunkard’s Last Drink,” “Barbara Allen,” “Pretty Pollie,” “Geordie,” “Young Hunting,” and “Bold Soldier.”

Some residents wrote their own ballads about local places or events, like the tragic train wreck chronicled by “Daddy Bryson’s Last Ride.”

Winter Fare
Mid-1800s Smoky Mountain winter fare was somewhat lacking in fresh produce, but few complained: it was a whole lot better than having nothing to eat.

If the crops had been good, the livestock prolific, and the jobs of pickling, drying, salting, and sulfuring productive, the typical menu might include:

• lots of corn bread
• salted pork
• dried green beans
• pickled vegetables
• chicken
• potatoes
• chestnuts
• butter
• stack cake
• sulfured apples
• honey
• sorghum molasses
• squirrel
• corn mush

Smoky Mountain people are still crafting beautiful quilts!Lessons Learned
Winter days were often school days in the Great Smoky Mountains of the mid-1800s. Winter was when children were needed the least on the farm, so it was the logical time to hit the books.

In the early days, the school year lasted only 2-4 months. Parents paid about $1 per student per month to get their children educated. The money (or produce in lieu of cash) went to a teacher who often boarded with a local family.

Most students completed only 3-5 years of schooling, enough to learn to read and write and perform basic mathematics. By the early 20th century, however, Smoky Mountain schools and school years more closely resembled today’s.

Two country schools are preserved in the national park. Little Greenbrier School is accessible in winter by the 0.7 mile Metcalf Bottoms Trail which begins at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Beech Grove School is beside the road in Cataloochee Valley.

A Stitch in Time
Mountain quilts were often both useful and beautiful. The top layer was usually made from leftover scraps of cloth, worn out clothing, and cloth sacks. The middle was stuffed with pieces of old clothing, old quilts, feed sacks, or sheep’s wool, and the bottom was simply whatever other plain material was available.

Popular patterns in the southern Appalachians were Log Cabin, Blazing Star, Double Wedding Ring, and improvised “crazy quilts.”

ERA In The SmokiesThis blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

Clingman’s Dome Road in Winter

One year, one of our staff members, let’s call her Amy, cross-country skied on Clingman’s Dome Road.Clingman's Dome RoadThis 7-mile road leads up to the highest point in the Smokies, Clingman’s Dome, at 6,643 feet. This road is a popular tourist destination in the warmer months, but in the winter it is closed to all motorized vehicles(until April 1). This high elevation road probably gets more snow than anywhere else in the Park! And since it is closed in the winter, it never gets plowed, creating great conditions for great cross-country skiing and snowshoeing!

Clingman's Dome

Those that are feeling ambitious go the whole distance to Clingman’s Dome – 14 miles round trip! When they arrive at the Clingman’s Dome Observation Tower, they may have the whole place to themselves – a rare occurrence at this popular spot! Amy wasn’t feeling quite that ambitious, so she skied 2 miles in and 2 miles out.

It is amazing how much it snowed that winter here in the Smokies! It made for some treacherous driving, but was also great for winter sports! Up on Clingman’s Dome Road there were between 10 inches and 2 feet of snow (depending on how sunny or shady the spot)! What started out as near perfect powder, became somewhat sticky beneath Amy’s skis as the day warmed up.

My Snow Bear!After an hour or so, she took a break and decided to build a snowman! Over the next half hour Amy had a blast building her creation, which ended up being a snowbear! At first she was sad to leave him, but she was glad that she didn’t have to watch him melt! Hopefully he made a few people smile as they passed by in the following days!

Got Skis?

Unfortunately we don’t know of ANY places around here that rent cross-country skis or snowshoes. Usually we don’t get that much snow, so renting out these items probably hasn’t been profitable in the past. If you are coming to visit Gatlinburg from far away, our advice is to find some cross-country skis or snowshoes before you leave and bring them with you! You can always find them online too. Try Craigslist for a used pair – our friend Amy actually found a few used pairs in the Knoxville area!

SkiingIf you decide to try out Clingman’s Dome Road this winter, we hope you have fun! We recommend parking right beside the closed gate, off to the side so that other cars can get by. The Park Service might prefer that you park in the Newfound Gap parking lot, but then you would need to walk on the sometimes busy road, so we’re not sure which is preferable. Use your best judgement!

Make sure you bring everything you normally would for hiking: water, hat, gloves, sunglasses, snacks. Keep in mind that you will warm up fast since this is GREAT cardio! This is where layering is important. Amy only wore her jacket for about 5 minutes! Then it stayed in her backpack for the rest of the day.

Top 10 Reasons We like Cross-Country Skiing

We will leave you with the Top 10 Reasons Why We like Cross-Country Skiing:

  1. My SkisIt’s Free lift tickets can be EXPENSIVE!
  2. No Lines – you never have to stop moving
  3. No Lifts – you don’t get cold sitting on the lift.
  4. You can bring your dog, and it’s great exercise for him too!
  5. You can do it in your backyard, and a bunch of other places!
  6. It is GREAT exercise.
  7. Easy to learn (and less painful).
  8. You can watch winter wildlife and look for tracks.
  9. It gets you outside and into the sun, which helps beat winter blues.
  10. It’s FUN!

ERA In The SmokiesThis blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

Let It Snow!!!

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Snow is more controversial than I ever thought possible! We have quite a few people who come here looking, hoping, praying for snow. We also have several people who are afraid of snow, or rather what it might do to the roads. In Gatlinburg we do occasionally get some snow, although rarely more than an inch. And it usually melts the next day. Here are some tips on how to enjoy (or survive) the winter weather here in the mountains!

Rent a Cabin in the Higher Elevations!1. Finding the Snow!
If you are one of those people who wants the snow, be encouraged! Just rent a cabin in a higher elevation, and chances are, if there’s the slightest chance of precipitation, it’ll snow at your cabin. If it doesn’t snow at your cabin while you’re here, stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and ask the nice folks there if they know of any snow in the National Park that you could get to. On the higher elevations, once it snows, the mountains usually keep that white on their tops for the rest of the winter!

4x42. Avoiding Icy Mishaps!

Since they can’t control the weather, cabin rental companies don’t give refunds due to weather or road conditions. Besides, you’re coming to the mountains to enjoy the mountains! If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, or can borrow one from a friend or rent one, we recommend this. If not, invest in chains for your tires. Our Wal-tireMart here sells them for just $25-$65, depending on tire size. Well worth the investment! If you would still rather just avoid the steep hills altogether, make sure to ask your reservationist for a cabin that has no steep hills to get to. This can be very difficult to find around here, so be sure to book early.

Check the weather for Gatlinburg!3. Timing is everything!
Check the weather before you come. And once you’re here, check your radio, TV, or newspaper for regular weather updates. If there is a chance of snow or ice, plan to do your driving in Gatlinburg at the warmest, sunniest time of day. Don’t wait to go out and about, or wait to head back to your cabin, til after dark, when it will be colder, harder to see, and more difficult to find help if you need it. Don’t stay out much past 7pm, if there is any chance of bad weather. Get to your cabin and snuggle down for a cozy evening. Try to plan your vacation so that you don’t have to leave your cabin early in the morning. (It’s vacation, you want to sleep in anyway!) Give the sun a chance to thaw out the roads for you. If you feel it absolutely necessary to be out early in the morning, remember that 4-wheel drive and/or chains, and maybe even bring a bag of rock salt with you just in case.

Go Snow Tubing at Ober Gatlinburg!4. Enjoy The Adventure That Comes To You!
The snow is absolutely gorgeous! Just imagine waking up to a winter wonderland! Don’t be a worry wart and ruin you and your family’s vacation! Enjoy it! Go sledding! Build a snowman! Snow angels! A fort or igloo! Head to Ober Gatlinburg and try skiing or snow tubing!

Get Some Great Deals This Winter!5. Be Prepared!
Here are some things to have with you:
* 4 wheel drive vehicle and/or chains for your tires
* rock salt
* windshield ice scraper
* flashlight
* starter log and matches or lighter if you have a wood-burning fireplace
* plenty of food
* hot chocolate!
* coffee
* sled
* an adventurous spirit
* a smile!

Now that we’re all ready… Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!!!

ERA In The SmokiesThis blog is sponsored in part by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.