KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Great Smoky Mountains are a popular destination for summer hikes and holiday getaways, but there are plenty of attractions created to entertain even during the winter months. In no particular order, here are 10 free things you can do in the Great Smoky Mountains during the winter months.
Drive along Foothills Parkway – If you’re looking for a quick way to observe the scenic Smokies, you can stay warm in your car while driving along Foothills Parkway. The parkway is a 72.1-mile stretch that connects U.S. Route 129 with Interstate 40.
The section known as the “missing link” stretches 16 miles and was finished in November 2018. This section of the parkway is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the Smokies.
Cades Cove – Another attraction you can experience without leaving the comfort of your car is Cades Cove. An 11 mile, one-way loop allows visitors to get an up close look at wildlife and landscapes. White-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, turkeys, and groundhogs are among some of the most common animals that can be observed at Cades Cove.
The road is open year-round, weather permitting. Traffic through Cades Cove is the heaviest through the summer, so visiting in a less crowded winter will provide for a more peaceful experience.
The Sinks – While this is a popular swimming attraction in the summer months, the scenery is just as picturesque during the winter months. Heavy cascades pouring into “drain like” basins is what gave this attraction its’ name.
The Sinks were formed by loggers, who used dynamite to create new routes for their work.
Observe the candy-making process – The Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen gives visitors an up close look into the process of how they create their candies. The taffy stretching machine is free to the public to watch and is often referred to as “mesmerizing.”
The candy shop creates 28 flavors of taffy but is also known for its homemade fudge and pecan logs.
See the oldest cabin in Gatlinburg – For all the history lovers, you can visit the Ogle Cabin free of charge. The cabin dates back to 1807 and was just relocated from its previous location to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center.
The cabin is open to explore from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Mondays – Saturdays.
Tour a moonshine distillery – Moonshine is a major component of the Great Smoky Mountains. Sampling these moonshines comes with a small fee, but touring the distilleries is free of charge. Choose from the Ole Smoky Distillery, Sugarlands Distillery or the Tennessee Shine Company.
Take a trolley ride – The Gatlinburg Trolley is free of charge and is the most convenient way of getting around town. The trolley will drive past, and stop at all the important places around Gatlinburg.
Riding the trolley is beneficial to sightseeing all the while saving you from paying for parking.
If you are okay with exploring nature in the cold, enjoy some of the Smokies hiking trails such as: Mt. Le Conte, Charlies Bunion, Clingman’s Dome, and plenty of others that can be found at https://bit.ly/3uxAW9n.