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9 of the Best Winter Hikes in Tennessee

Researching the best winter hikes in Tennessee? We’ve got nine suggestions for you right here, with something for every type of hiker.

In lots of places, people don’t necessarily associate hiking season with winter.

However, with our endless rolling hills and dense tree cover, winter is actually one of the best times to hit the trail in Tennessee.

Don’t get us wrong, hiking Tennessee in the fall among colorful fall foliage is amazing. But once the trees lose their leaves, the views get significantly better! ❄️

Whether you’re chasing semi-frozen waterfalls, looking for something short and sweet, or you’re willing to huff and puff your way up mountains, keep reading for the best winter hikes in Tennessee.

The Most Popular Winter Hikes in Tennessee

Three hikers hiking in snow during winter in Tennessee.

1. Mounds Great Outer Loop Trail – Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park

  • Length: 2.7-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 85 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy

Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park is not only home to one of the best winter hikes in Tennessee, but it’s also an important historical site.

The park is home to 15-plus sacred Native American mounds. It’s also a designated national historic landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

Of Pinson Mounds’ five hiking trails, the Great Outer Loop is the longest and most rewarding. However, it’s still quite easy and suitable for just about anyone. In fact, the entire trail is wheelchair-accessible and easily navigable with strollers, also.

The paved trail takes you around some of the park’s mounds. There’s also a wooden staircase up the back side of Saul’s Mound, the highest one in the park. You’ll have sweeping views of cypress swamps from the observation deck here, but note that the stairs aren’t wheelchair-accessible.

2. Boardwalk Trail – Reelfoot Lake State Park

  • Length: 0.45-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: Negligible
  • Difficulty level: Easy

Tucked into Tennessee’s far northwest corner, Reelfoot Lake State Park is a criminally underrated state park. Most folks simply don’t think of the wetlands when they think about hiking.

However, the park has a ton to offer, including one of the best winter hikes in Tennessee. Truthfully more of an easy stroll, the short, sweet Boardwalk Trail gets you up-close and personal with the only naturally-formed lake in the state. Isn’t that crazy?!

In less than half a mile, you’ll walk along a boardwalk, right up to the lake’s edge. From there, you’ll have excellent views of the unique “forest,” cypress trees submerged underwater.

What makes this one of Tennessee’s best winter hikes, specifically, is that the lake actually freezes over. Several times each winter, you can view a true winter wonderland of frozen trees and nature’s very own ice sculptures.

Then in January and February, thousands of bald eagles also temporarily call Reelfoot Lake home.

Best Winter Hikes in Middle Tennessee

3. Radnor Lake Trail – Radnor Lake State Park

  • Length: 1.35 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 121 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy

Believe it or not, you can tackle one of the best winter hikes in Tennessee without even getting out of Nashville.

Radnor Lake State Park has a network of 10 hiking trails, totaling just shy of eight miles. One of the most popular is Radnor Lake Trail, which is rated easy and runs through the woods along the lake’s north shore.

There are several observation points along the way overlooking the lake. And, because the hike mostly follows the water, there’s an excellent chance you’ll see some wildlife like deer.

The trail is ADA accessible, but note that it has sections of natural dirt surface. If you use a wheelchair or other mobility device, you may need some assistance in these sections of trail. Dogs and runners are welcome on the trail’s paved sections, but the unpaved sections are strictly for hiking.

For those who want a bit more of a challenge, continue on to Ganier Ridge Trail. You’ll head a series of bluffs to Ganier Ridge, where panoramic views await (especially in winter!). There are two access points from Radnor Lake Trail, forming a loop, and it will add about two miles to your total distance.

Note that the trail to Ganier Ridge is unpaved, so both dogs and running are prohibited on this section.

Due to its proximity to Nashville proper, Radnor Lake State Park gets quite busy all year. To avoid heavy crowds, try to get an early start or hike on weekdays.

4. Greeter Falls Trail – Savage Gulf State Natural Area

  • Length: 0.8-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 262 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate

Located between Chattanooga and Nashville on the western side of the Cumberland Plateau, Savage Gulf State Natural Area is just gorgeous.

Surprisingly rugged canyons and cliffs offer a stark contrast to the gently rolling hills of the Smokies, further east.

Greeter Falls is not only one of the easiest waterfall hikes in this area (and maybe the entire state!), but it also offers serious bang for the buck. In this short loop, you’ll see two impressive waterfalls!

Upper Falls is a 15-foot cascade, while Lower Falls flows 50 feet into a swimming hole below. Like most waterfalls, both have little water in the fall and winter.

However, one of the things that makes this one of the best winter hikes in Tennessee is that Upper Falls often freezes, at least partially.

You may also see some brave souls taking a cold plunge swim in the pool at the base of Lower Falls!

If you generally stick with “easy” hikes, don’t fear this one. Although it’s rated moderate, that’s mostly due to the narrow spiral staircase and some uneven roots to navigate. Luckily, these sections are short!

Local tip: if you come back in the spring and early summer, a couple of spur trails lead to even more waterfalls! With just a few extra minutes, you can also see Boardtree Falls and

5. Stone Door Trail – Savage Gulf State Natural Area

  • Length: 0.9 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 167 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy

Another short and sweet hike in the Savage Gulf area, this one leads to what is widely considered one of the best views in all of Tennessee.

The stone door itself is an enormous crack in the rock, 10 feet wide and 100 feet deep. It serves as the “doorway” down to the gorge below, and really does look like a door left open.

The trail takes you to a point where you look down at the stone door, but you can get down to the opening fairly easily. Doing so adds a bit of an exciting scramble and is one of the things that makes this one of the best winter hikes in Tennessee!

Don’t miss the short stop at Laurel Gulf Overlook, just 0.2 miles into the hike. This first part of the Stone Door trail is paved and wheelchair-accessible, up to the overlook. Without any leaves on the trees, this view is even better in the winter!

Best Winter Hikes in East Tennessee

Winter scene in East Tennessee
A beautiful winter hike near Knoxville

6. Emory Gap Falls Trail – Frozen Head State Park

  • Length: 1.4 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 413 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy

The name of this state park suggests that it’s home to some of the best winter hikes in Tennessee.

Indeed, Frozen Head State Park provides a serene setting for hiking in the winter, with several waterfalls.

Despite the name, however, none of them freeze that we’re aware of!

Start out at the trailhead for Panther Branch. Along the trail, you’ll cross several small, scenic wooden bridges over creeks and streams.

Before reaching Emory Gap Falls, you’ll first come to smaller Debord Falls about a half-mile in.

The trail is very well-maintained and mostly wide and flat. Not until the last half-mile stretch to Emory Gap does it get a bit more challenging.

Here, you’ll tackle two gentle switchbacks and some exposed roots.

One you get to the main waterfall, scramble around some and find the best photo ops. It’s popular year-round with nature photographers. In the winter, with the view less obstructed, it’s easy to see why!

7. Raven Rock – Roan Mountain State Park

  • Length: 1.5-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 515 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate (AllTrails) to difficult (official park website)

For a challenging but relatively short hike, hit Raven Rock Trail near Johnson City.

This particular hike is a favorite of locals (like us!), largely because it’s somewhat tricky to find. Hint: the trailhead is right behind the main park office.

The trail ascends, rather quickly, to the top of Heaton Ridge. About halfway through the loop, you can also stop at Raven Rock Overlook for panoramic views.

You can hike the loop in either direction. To be honest, it’s steep and tough either way, but many people say going counter-clockwise is slightly less steep. Regardless of which direction you do it in, this hike takes you basically straight up, then straight down.

Best Winter Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Winter roads in the Smoky Mountains may be icy for driving… better to go hiking!

While GSMNP is open and mostly accessible year-round, it’s important to note that it has extremely varied terrain and elevation.

Roads, including Clingmans Dome Road and Newfound Gap Road that both access popular trails, close throughout the season due to extreme weather.

Check the park’s official website before heading out to confirm road and trail conditions.

8. Alum Cave Bluffs

  • Length: 4.8 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate

One of the most popular hikes in the national park any time of year, Alum Cave really shines in the winter.

You’ll cross several scenic log bridges, go through dense forest, and pass through Arch Rock. This natural rock arch (a rarity in the Smokies!) forms a tunnel that hikers actually walk through!

At exactly two miles in, you’ll find yourself at Inspiration Point. The views here are outstanding any time of year, with endless peaks and ridges. Shortly after leaving Inspiration Point, you’ll come to the iconic log steps up to Alum Cave.

Once you reach the cave, look for icicles! This is a highlight of the trail, one of the things that make this one of the best winter hikes in Tennessee. It’s a unique area, and HUGE. The overhang keeps everything underneath incredibly dry, but the surrounding area is one of the wettest in the world.

If you’re up for (a lot) more of a challenge, continue on to the summit of Mount Le Conte. This more than doubles your total distance and is definitely a strenuous hike, but it’s well worth it!

9. Porters Creek Trail

  • Length: 4-7 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate

Sitting at a lower elevation than many other trails in the park, Porters Creek Trail is an excellent option for the winter. Although it’s still a possibility, the road leading to the trail is less likely to close due to rain, snow, or ice.

You’ll enjoy several highlights of the Smokies: moss-covered forest, meandering creeks, and a (potentially frozen) waterfall. There are also remnants of early homesteads, and even an old cemetery along the trail!

Two miles into the trail, you’ll reach 60-foot-tall Fern Branch Falls. Depending on recent rain or snow, the cascade may be barely a trickle, or it could be frozen solid. Either way, it’s a spectacular sight nestled deep in the forest.

Many people turn around here, making for a nice easy 4-mile hike. There’s also very little elevation gain on this stretch of the trail. If you do want to continue on, keep going another 1.7 miles, where you’ll reach one of the park’s backcountry campsites (#31).

Tips for Hiking in the Winter

  • 🥾 Wear proper footwear. Trails may be icy or snow-covered in the winter. Wear sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good traction, and consider using traction devices like microspikes or trekking poles for added stability.
  • 🧥 Dress in layers. Tennessee winters can be chilly and wet…or warm and sunny. Dress in layers to stay warm and dry, starting with moisture-wicking base layers to keep sweat away from your skin. A packable jacket that’s waterproof and windproof will also protect against the elements.
  • 🐻 Watch for wildlife. With varied and relatively mild winters, wildlife remain active throughout winter in much of the state. Make plenty of noise on the trail and always keep your eyes and ears open.