Snow in the Great Smoky Mountains is always a beautiful sight. It might just be the prettiest time of the year! Things just look different covered with snow. The mountains and streams that we see typically each day are transformed into something else entirely once snow covers them.
When inclement weather happens, the main roads inside the park get closed down due to snow and ice. The higher elevation passes get really slick and the park service cannot use salt on the roads because of runoff into nearby streams which could risk of damaging fragile ecosystems. Often times roads stayed closed for days until its safe to travel again. There are however places you can enjoy inside the park without risking life and limb in order to do so.
The Mountain Farm Museum sits in the beautiful Oconaluftee River valley. Here you can see Elk grazing in the fields and get an idea of what life may have been like over 150 years ago. The Mountain Farm Museum is comprised from old structures that were located inside the Smoky Mountains before the park was established. These structures were carefully disassembled and moved here for park visitors to see what a mountain farm once looked like. Visitors can explore a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, corn crib, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop to get a sense of how families may have lived over 100 years ago.
Mingus Mill sits on the the banks of Mingus Creek which is a tributary of the Oconaluftee River near Cherokee. Built in 1886 and still in operation today, this mill is a water turbine which is vastly different from the typical water wheel style gristmills. Either way, you aint lived until you have ate bread made from fresh ground cornmeal! The old Mingus Mill is an awesome sight covered in snow and ice. Some icicles hang more than 15ft high from the flume to the ground!
Luftee Baptist Church sits off the banks of the Oconaluftee River just about two miles inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is such a peaceful place in the winter. Its a beautiful old church and still has regular services on Sunday morning during the summer months. Sometimes I walk inside this time of year and just take a seat on one of the old pews. I’d would have love to heard those old preachers years ago teach the Gospel. Nothing like the feeling of an old school Baptist preacher getting the congregation fired up!
Mt. LeConte Lodge sits high on top Mt Leconte at 6593 ft in elevation. Weather here can be very drastic and change rapidly. Some of the highest recorded snowfall totals inside the park have been on Mt LeConte. Its a great hike to the top best enjoyed in winter with thoughtful planning and the right gear. The lodge is closed in winter however there is a caretaker at the lodge who is really cool to visit with. Views of the Smokies here are breathe taking. Although when it snows the roads that lead to the trail heads often close, there are several routes to the top.
Get out this winter when it snows and explore the Smoky Mountains. Trails typically remain open although some of the roads may close. Good planning can lead to some great pictures and new experiences.