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Top 3: Better in Winter

What off season? Bundle up and reap the benefits of colder weather in these snowy playgrounds.
BP0313TRIP_Kwak_CraterLake2445x260.jpgThe 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; nps.gov/grsm) 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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