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.

Fresh Tracks: Hiking the Trillium Gap Trail in Gatlinburg, TN

Trillium Gap Trail taken by Jon Ives

Trillium Gap Trail taken by Jon Ives

The Great Smoky Mountains have finally turned brilliant green, and every local I know has been itching to get outside and enjoy the lushness of it all.  In that spirit, my husband, Jon, decided to spend his day off Tuesday hiking. 

 The Trillium Gap Trail off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in downtown Gatlinburg is a natural choice because it is so close to town. Luckily for us, he took along his camera and documented a few of the sites along the way.

Trillium Grandiflorum

 Trillium Gap Trail meanders through an old-growth hemlock forest and actually runs behind the twenty-five foot high Grotto Falls.  For more information on local waterfalls, click here.  

Grotto Falls by Jon Ives

The cool, moist environment near the falls is ideal for salamanders and summer hikers. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty. The trail is named for the white trillium flowers (Trillium Grandiflorum pictured right) that bloom in the area.  The first half of the hike is approximately 1.5 miles and takes you to Grotto Falls (pictured left), “and I always enjoy sharing the path with families with kids,” says Jon.   

Path to Grotto Falls by Jon Ives

Ferns by Jon Ives

“The path is wide, smooth and not too steep (pictured right) so I usually see kids of every age on this trail.”  With lots of places to rest and sites to see, this moderate path is a great for families or casual hobbyists.

Moss by Jon Ives

 “I couldn’t believe how beautiful the moss and ferns (pictured left)were there,” said Jon.   “The cool green lushness of the Spring forest was almost bright enough to hurt your eyes.”  

Path past Grotto Falls by Jon Ives“Once I took a few pictures and rested a while, I decide to keep hiking the Trillium Gap Trail for a bit longer,” said Jon.  The path past Grotto Falls gets significantly steeper, narrower, and rougher.  “I realized after just a few minutes that I was on the path completely alone which was refreshing…until I started seeing fresh bear tracks.”  

Pigeon Forge in the Distance by Jon Ives

The steeper rougher trail can be worth the view if you are patient.  Many hikers are startled by how significant the elevation can get in a short period of time.  There are areas where the view extends all the way to Pigeon Forge and beyond (pictured right).

 Jon hiked approximately 1.5 miles past the falls to the next trail intersection.  The trip up (approx. 3 miles) took him 2 hours, and the trip back down took about 1 hour travelling at a fairly brisk pace and stopping to take an occasional picture.  Of course the trail continues thereby allowing you to cater your trip to the amount of time you have and your personal ability.   See the Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map for complete details.
 To get to the Trillium Gap Trailhead from downtown Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (no RVs; closed in winter ) to stop #5. There is a large parking area.






This 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.