Our staff member, Haley, is the most avid hiker at Hill House. When we asked her to recommend her favorite winter hike to guests for our February blog post, she had a hard time choosing. So we decided to turn them all into to a separate blog post, since winter hiking is a terrific reason all on its own to visit Asheville.
Why, you ask? The crowds have not yet descended on the city, the views are unencumbered by the dense forest tree leaves, and generally, the weather is still manageable for outdoor activities this time of year.
Plus, this season offers the lowest rates of the year here at Hill House Bed and Breakfast. So if you’ve been looking for a reason to get out of town, enjoy the winter season, see some of what Asheville has to offer, but not break the budget, this is the perfect time!
Now, let’s get to those hikes:
Favorite Asheville Winter Hike #1: Moore Cove Falls Trail
Moore Cove Falls Trail is a family-friendly walk about 3/4 mile long that takes you to an observation deck where you can view a 50-foot waterfall tucked away in a beautiful cove along the Forest Ridge Heritage Scenic Byway.
If the rocks are not icy, you can even walk behind the waterfall.
This trail is located near the John Rock hike, for reference.
This hike is dog friendly, so it’s a great one for Hill House Bed and Breakfast guests who bring their pets. We are a pet-friendly inn, with a few rooms inside the inn that allow small to medium sized dogs. Plus, our private apartment, Pisgah, located in the townhouse behind the inn, allows large dogs. So there’s no reason to leave your hike-loving best friend behind!
Favorite Asheville Winter Hike #2: Lover’s Leap Loop Trail
Lover’s Leap Loop Trail is located in Hot Springs, North Carolina, about 6 miles from downtown Asheville.
It is a 1 1/2 mile round trip hike that is also part of the Appalachian Trail, which is generally too remote for winter hikes, but is accessible year-round at this section.
This trail runs along Main Street of the town Hot Springs, so you can park downtown and start your hike there. You’ll cross the French Broad River and climb the ridge up to several rock outcrops for views across the valley and river.
When you’re finished, you can take advantage of the town’s namesake mineral springs and go for a soak!
Favorite Asheville Winter Hike #3: Lake Junaluska
If you’re looking for a flat trail with plenty of views, you can choose a 2.3 mile or 3.8 mile loop around the Lake Junaluska.
This easy, picturesque walk features views of the Great Smoky Mountains, with plenty of gazebos and benches for gazing or resting along the way.
Another point of interest along the walking trail is the Rose Walk, which includes more than 200 hybrid tea, grandiflora and floribunda roses.
The entire trail is paved, which makes Lake Junaluska a great family-friendly walk because it is easy for scooters, wheelchairs and strollers.
The trail is accessible from the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. Here is a link to the Lake Junaluska Walking Trail Guide for more information.
Favorite Asheville Winter Hike #4: Bearwallow Mountain Trail
Bearwallow Mountain trail is located just 20 minutes from the inn. It is a 2 mile roundtrip trail set aside by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy that offers views from every angle. It’s a great option for an easy hike.
If you’re looking to lengthen this hike, the Trombatore Trail is accessible from the same parking areas as Bearwallow. The Trombatore is 5 miles round trip, so combining these two hikes creates a 7 mile round trip trek.
Bearwallow Trail is located near the Hickory Nut Gorge by the city of Fairview, which boasts some breweries visitors to Asheville don’t often get a chance to enjoy. We recommend Whistle Hop Brewing Company, which features an expansive deck, and Turgua Bewing (open Thursday – Sunday), which features gluten-reduced beers.
Favorite Asheville Winter Hike #5: John Rock Trail
The John Rock Trail is located in Pisgah National Forest in the Brevard area, about 37 miles from the inn, which weaves through woodlands and features view of Looking Glass Rock to the right, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The hike itself is a 5 mile loop up to a 3,320-foot rock summit. Be sure to stop at Cedar Rock Falls on the way, which will be easy to spot. We recommend beginning your hike at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
To access the trail, take Cat Gap Loop trail from the parking lot and follow the organe blazes. After multiple log bridge crossings, you’ll come to an intersection to turn left onto 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… from here you’ll ascend to the mountain’s summit.
Hill House Bed and Breakfast Tips for Winter Hiking in Asheville
Tip # 1: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway in Winter
Many popular winter hikes are located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is sometimes closed for safety due to weather as early as November. The trails listed above are more than likely accessible because they are not located off of the Parkway. To hike along the Parkway, we recommend checking the closure map before departing, as the closed sections change daily in the winter.
Tip #2: Dress in Layers for Mountain Weather Changes
It goes without saying, but take the conventional hiking wisdom to dress in layers seriously when hiking around Asheville, as mountain weather fluctuates dramatically due to changes in elevation. The temperature in the valley where Asheville city is can sometimes be as much as 15-20 degrees warmer than higher elevations with popular hiking trails. Further, temperatures at higher elevations can be much chillier toward the end of a trail than they were at the lower elevation at the beginning of the trail. So what feels like a Spring-like sunny day when departing the inn might end up a chilly, rainy one half-way through your hike. If you’re starting out in warm weather and few layers, we recommend bringing a warmer winter jacket in a backpack for safety.
Be sure to check the weather before you head out to be prepared for quick weather changes, and keep in mind it’s also usually more windy at higher elevations than in Asheville itself. On very cold days, we recommend hiking only at lower elevations. And we recommend that you don’t hike if wind chills are near or below zero to prevent frostbite.