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Backpacker Magazine – February/March 2013

Top 3: Better in Winter

What off season? Bundle up and reap the benefits of colder weather in these snowy playgrounds.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

The author above Crater Lake
The author above Crater Lake

Great Smoky Mountains NP, TN
Clingmans Dome Road
Get rare solitude at a Smokies peak.

Normally, tourists flock to Tennessee’s 6,643-foot high point like ducks on a June bug. But each winter, between December 1 and March, Clingmans Dome Road closes to cars, leaving the expansive views to the hardy few who are willing to trek 15 miles round-trip to the top. The gently winding route traverses just south of the AT, gradually gaining almost 1,600 feet en route to the peak’s lookout tower. You’ll ski or snowshoe (the track is ungroomed) through a balsam fir and spruce forest often frosted in thick rime ice, earning peeks at the rounded ridges of Deep Creek and Noland Creek valleys. On top, enjoy longer views and brighter colors than in the warmer months, thanks to less air pollution. February through March usually brings the best snow. (865-436-1200; Trip ID 2006127

The way From Gatlinburg, take US 441 south about 16 miles; park at Newfound Gap and walk .1 mile south to the gate at Clingmans Dome Rd.

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star
Mar 07, 2013

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike G
Mar 07, 2013

My buddy and I did this as a backpacking trip few years back. We decided to hop on the snow covered road since we were post holing 2 feet on the AT. Although we saw someone's ski line we did not see a single soul. Since it was a blue bird day, at the lookout tower we could see all the way to mount mitchell. It was an awesome day (minus the below 0 windchills, however the bathroom buildings made for good brief protection).


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