19 Dec 2018
Asheville has its share of chilly winter days from late November through February and March, but fortunately, the winters in Asheville also often include a mix of mild winter days with temperature highs in the 40s and 50s and even the occasional 60-degree day. Hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers can bring along a pair of trail running shoes or hiking boots because hiking is a 4-season sport in our beautiful mountains.
Each season in the mountains brings its own unique scenery and wonder. Spring brings flowers and the return of greenery and new life, summer is lush and warm with blue skies and mountain breezes, fall's trees are a colorful sight to behold...and then there is winter. During the winter, the mountain foliage clears out and so do the views. Mountain vistas expand into new depths, icicles form on rock faces and around waterfalls, and rime ice and hoarfrost can be spotted along trails - wintertime is a truly magical season in the mountains.
When it comes to winter hiking, it's honestly impossible to narrow down our favorite trails down to five, but for the purpose of this post, we will give it a shot.
Top 5 Winter Hikes in Asheville
Bearwallow Mountain Trail
Located just 20 minutes from downtown Asheville, this 1-mile (2-mile round trip) trail set aside by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, offers views from every angle of its mountain bald. It's a great
option for a fairly simple hike that offers just enough elevation gain to warm you up on a brisk winter day. On days where the temperature has dropped below freezing, you may spot an icicle-laden boulder three-fourths of the way up the trail. Looking to lengthen your hike? The Trombatore Trail is accessible from the same parking area as Bearwallow. The Trombatore Trail clocks in at around 5 miles round trip or you can hike both Bearwallow and Trombatore for a 7-mile round trip hike.
With its location near the Hickory Nut Gorge and Fairview area, The Bearwallow Mountain Trail is also a quick drive from some great, laid-back breweries in the Fairview area so you can reward yourself with a tasty brew following the hike.
Walker's Knob from Greybeard Trail
We couldn't resist featuring our namesake, Greybeard Mountain (listed as Graybeard Mountain by some) in Montreat in this list. If you've got a 5-6 hour period of time set aside for a strenuous walk in the woods with 2400 feet of elevation gain, Greybeard Trail in Montreat is a worthwhile meandering trail that crosses creeks and ends in spectacular views. The trail is 4.8 miles one-way, and ultimately, a 9.5-mile round trip hike. One of our favorite views from Greybeard trail is Walker's Knob overlook which branches off from a neighboring Walker's Knob shelter as you are nearing the summit of Greybeard.
Located in the neighboring Brevard area, the hike to John Rock is a beautiful 5-mile loop in Pisgah National Forest. The trail weaves through woodlands, offers views of Cedar Rock Falls along the way, and its summit opens up to some awesome views of the area, including Looking Glass Rock to the right. Parking for John Rock trail is at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education and Fish Hatchery. To access the trail, take Cat Gap Loop trail from the parking lot and follow the orange blazes. After multiple log bridge crossings, you'll come to an intersection and turn left onto the Cat Gap Connector trail. When you come to the following intersection, you'll take another left on the yellow-blazed Cat Gap Bypass trail. When you come to a four-way intersection, look for the John Rock trail sign and finish your way up the trail's 3320 peak feet of elevation.
Catawba Falls Trail
If you're staying in the Old Fort, Marion or McDowell County area, near Black Mountain, you're in for a treat with this hike. This 3-mile round-trip hike in the Pisgah National Forest is mostly level with some slight uphill terrain and the trail concludes with a stunning 100-foot tall waterfall.
Dupont State Forest Waterfalls
Dupont State Forest waterfalls such as Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls are all fairly easy access from the Dupont State Forest wilderness area and access roads. After hard freezes, you may be lucky enough to catch sight of ice formations around these otherwise surging waterfalls. During the winter months, you can also take in the sweeping views from Dupont's Cedar Rock Mountain hike. Dupont State Forest is also a popular spot for mountain biking.
Other Tips for Winter Hiking Excursions in Asheville
- One thing you'll want to keep in mind when planning winter hikes in the Asheville area is that many popular trails are located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway which is sometimes closed as early as November or December depending on weather patterns. The trails we've listed above are more than likely accessible because they are not located off of the Parkway. If you want to try a hike off of
the Parkway, we recommend checking their closure map to see if the section you want to visit is open.
- Dress in layers. Mountain winter weather fluctuates and temperatures at higher elevations can easily be chillier than what they are at lower elevations. We recommend bringing a backpack and packing along a warmer winter jacket even if you don't wear it at the start of your hike.
- Check the weather before you head out. In freezing temperatures, trails can be slippery and access roads could be difficult to access.
Outdoor adventures aren't limited to hiking during the winter months! Asheville has some great ski resorts and ski access areas such as Wolf Ridge Ski Resort. Mountain biking is also a great way to explore new trails and see new sights.