Posted by Darryl Payne in Smoky Mountains
Fortunately, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open all year, but for those who plan to visit in winter, you might need to keep a few things in mind, whether you're planning to hit the hiking trails, camp or just do some general sightseeing.
First, realize that although their may not be snow in the lower elevations, if you're planning on hiking one of the taller mountains like Mt. LeConte, there's a good chance you'll start running into snow when you get to a certain height. It's a beautiful sight, but you'll need to be careful.
Snow can often be compacted into ice, which makes for very slippery footing. If you're going to run into snow, you can purchase instep crampons for your boots, which will give you traction. There's also a product for runners called Yaktrax, which slip on over your footwear and dig into the frozen stuff.
Also realize that melting snow can cause creeks and rivers to swell beyond their usual levels, resulting in trails that are flooded with water. Getting your feet wet in such conditions could lead to hypothermia. Of course, hiking in winter always makes it easier for hypothermia to set in at any time, so be sure to wear plenty of layers and possibly carry some dry clothes in a waterproof bag.
And did you know that black bears don't really hibernate? They estivate, which means they'll stay in their dens when it's cold, but when disturbed, they will leave and go out for a walk, so be on the lookout for hungry bears even in winter.
Finally, remember that even if you're just going out for a scenic drive that not all roads in the national park remain open in winter, especially Newfound Gap road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, North Carolina. Check the park Web site, www.nps.gov for up-to-date postings.
To put yourself in a convenient location to tour the national park this winter, be sure to check back on our Web site, which features some of the best Gatlinburg cabin rentals on the market.
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