Hiking in the winter can be challenging and dangerous, but if you prepare and pick the appropriate trail then you can be rewarded with stunning views. Knoxville’s trails offer landscapes and wildlife that many people will never experience.
A local trail that is perfect for winter hiking is the Jump Off, right off U.S. 441 at Newfound Gap. This road is open year round, salted often and easy to drive on in any vehicle or weather. Rated moderate at 6.8 miles round trip, the Jump Off’s trailhead starts on the Appalachian Trail at the Newfound Gap parking lot. In the winter, this trail rewards a hiker with bare trees giving you views of the North Carolina Smokies in the south.
At 2.7 miles turn left at the Boulevard Trail junction. You will reach the junction for the Jump-Off a tenth-of-a-mile after turning onto the Boulevard Trail. While trekking, poles and spikes will be invaluable on the rocky ridgeline and crossing the frozen streams. These natural ice formations are fantastic for photos, but without the aid of spikes you can end up falling. Be careful.
Continue on this trail until come to a small clearing. At this point you will quickly realize why this special place is called the Jump-Off. The impressive views of Charlies Bunion, Mount Guyot, and the Appalachian Trail ridge are incredible.
Note: When planning always be aware of road conditions and making sure you are dressed for the elements. This trail will have ice in the winter and can be steep in sections, take a few minutes to prepare before heading out.
- Check the Smoky Mountain National Park’s website or Twitter for road closures.
- Check the weather in advance and make sure you leave with plenty of daylight to hike in.
- Prep your backpack with a trail map, first aid kit, hand warmers, flashlight, etc.
- Bring your poles, hiking boots and spikes.
- Dress in layers with gloves and a hat.
- Don’t forget to bring water and some energy bars.
- Make sure family or friends know your plans before you leave.