Winter Hiking in the Smokies

Discover Cold Weather Hikes

Winter Hiking in the Smokies

Discover New Views During Cold Weather Hikes

When most people think of hiking, their thoughts immediately turn to a warm weather day next to a mountain stream or a brisk walk through an autumn color forest. To be sure, those hikes can be great. But what about the cold weather months? Is everyone to stay indoors from December through March? A hike in January can be among the best you’ve ever taken if you know how to do it.

Consider the benefits of a winter hike. You’ll encounter fewer hikers along the trail, so you’ll have the hike mostly to yourself. With the foliage off the trees, you’ll be able to experience views that would otherwise be blocked by leaves. A frozen waterfall is a sight to behold. A rushing cascade can be seen just about anytime, but a wall of ice is a bit more rare in the Smokies.

So if you decide that you want part of your stay in the Smokies to include a day of hiking, how do you prepare? Follow these tips for the best cold weather hike experience.

Stay Warm
Obviously when you’re taking a winter hike in January, you’ll want to keep your heat as much as possible. The term “layers” gets thrown around, but what does it really mean? Just remember three.

Base Layer
Your base layer is closest to your skin and acts to wick perspiration away from your body, If you get damp, you’ll get cold. Stay away from cotton as it holds moisture rather than moving it. Look for soft wool, synthetics like polyester, or silk.

Middle Layer
The middle layer insulates. Fluffy materials that catch the air work well. Again, wool is an excellent choice for the middle layer, as is fleece from synthetics.

Outer Layer
Some folks call this the weather layer. You’re looking to keep the rain, snow, or most likely, wind away from your inner layers. You want something waterproof that still breathes.

Snowy National Park Hiking Trails

Snowy National Park Trails

Use Your Head… and Your Feet
Most of your cooling happens high and low, so keep a warm hat on your head and warm, dry socks on your toes. Be sure to take along an extra pair of dry socks, just in case the pair you’re wearing gets wet. Again, stay away from cotton, especially for your socks.

Stay Hydrated
You might think that hydration isn’t an important issue on winter hikes, but you lose a lot more moisture than you think when you’re exerting yourself, even when it’s cold. A dehydrated body is less capable of keeping you warm.

Remember that dark comes more quickly during the winter. Get an early start so that you’re off the trail before nightfall when the temperatures will really drop.  No matter what time of year you’re hiking, let someone know where you’re going. We want everyone to come back safe and sound.

After a full day of winter hiking in the Smokies, nothing beats a comfy, cozy spot in a Carr’s cottage or Jacuzzi suite to spend the night. There you can warm up, rest up, and be ready to get up for another great day of cold weather hiking.

Smoky Mountain Wine Country

Trek the Rocky Top Wine Trail

When you’re spending a few days in Gatlinburg this month and you’re wondering what to do when it’s a bit cold outside, take the opportunity to see some of the indoor sites around the region. What could be better on a crisp December day than touring one of the many wineries in the Gatlinburg area?

Smoky Mountain Wine Country Rocky Top Wine Trail

Visit the Rocky Top Wine Trail

Five different wineries have joined forces to create the Rocky Top Wine Trail. Touring each of these facilities is the perfect way to spend a couple of days out of the cold. You can start at any one of the wineries, picking up your trail Passport when you arrive.  Locations can be visited in any order, and you’ll get a stamp for your passport at each.  When you have gotten your third stamp, you will receive a free logo wine glass. Complete the entire trail to receive a free gift.

Each of the wineries offers free wine tasting to visitors 21 and over. Be sure to have your ID handy. If you’re going to stop at a few in a single day, be sure to designate a driver for the whole excursion.

When you visit Mountain Valley Winery, Sugarland Cellars, and Hillside Winery, you can tour the cellars and tanks for a behind the scenes look at how the wine are crafted. Each winery has its own wine specialty too!

The five wineries of the Rocky Top Wine Trail:

  • Eagle Springs Winery in Kodak
  • Hillside Winery in Sevierville
  • Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville
  • Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge
  • Sugarland Cellars in Gatlinburg

All wineries are open seven days a week and are closed only on Christmas day.

If you tour one winery each day, you will have spent a great week sampling some of the best wine that the region has to offer. Certainly you’ll want to pick up a bottle or two at each location to bring back to your cabin or suite for a more in depth sampling. A bottle of wine in a cozy room at Carr’s Northside during a cold winter night? Sounds like a great vacation plan!

Annual Gatlinburg Holiday Craft Shows

Thanksgiving and Christmas Crafts Show

Thanksgiving Crafts and Christmas Crafts Show

Two Great Craft Fairs in One!

The Southern Appalachian Mountain region is known for its skilled artists and craftsmen. And nowhere else will you find a more concentrated group of these artisans than in the Arts and Crafts Community of Gatlinburg TN. In the eight-mile loop just outside of town, you can find everything from pottery to woodcarving to fine jewelry. Over 120 working artists have set up shop in the community, demonstrating and selling their creations to visitors from all over the world.

The Smoky Mountain Arts and Crafts Shows bring all of those craftsmen together in a one-stop showplace. Consider these two back-to-back shows at the Gatlinburg Convention Center a preview of the myriad offerings available around the Loop. Tour the show to find your favorites, then spend a day traveling through the Loop visiting the store locations and dining at one of the many wonderful restaurants, like Three Jimmy’s Restaurant near the beginning of the Loop.

The first of the two shows is designated the Thanksgiving show and runs from Tuesday, November 24th to Sunday, November 29th. The Christmas craft show will immediately follow, running from Monday, November 30th to Sunday, December 6th. The hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free to both shows.

Between the shows and the Loop, there’s plenty to fill up a weekend. Plan to stay at Carr’s Northside conveniently located to both the Convention Center and to the Arts and Crafts Community off of Hwy 321 N. From there you can park, check in to your room, and walk to the trolley route that can easily take you to both the show at the Convention Center and to the Arts and Crafts Community. After you’ve found just the right thing to buy (or a whole pile of things!), ride the trolley back to Carr’s and relax in your comfy cottage or cabin before heading back out on to the Parkway to discover all that Winter Magic has to offer.

Carvers Apple Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant

Autumn Means Apples

Carvers Apple House and Farm Market

Open 8 am – 8 pm

Pumpkin spice gets all the attention these days, but the true flavor of autumn is apple. As fall approaches, the apples come rolling in by the bushel, giving us apple cider, caramel apples, apple pies, baked apples, or for one of the simplest pleasures in life, a crisp, juicy apple with a satisfying crunch eaten fresh. The mountains of east Tennessee enjoy a perfect climate for apple orchards, so apples abound. When you come to stay at Carr’s Northside Cottages this fall, be sure to check out Carver’s Apple Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant in Cosby.

Taking the scenic drive from Gatlinburg to Cosby along US 321 is the perfect way to experience the best that autumn has to offer. You will cruise along the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, taking in all the color of the changing leaves, ending up at Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant.

At Carver’s you can visit Stacy’s Candy Store to satisfy whatever sweet-tooth isn’t appeased by the rest of the scrumptious goodies available at the produce area, like jellies, jams, juice, and preserves. Fried apple pies are a must! The Applehouse Restaurant serves down-home country goodness, especially the fried chicken to go along with their apple fritters.

Carvers Applehouse Restaurant, Cosby TN

Read Fantastic Restaurant Reviews

The real stars at Carvers, though, are the apples themselves. Dozens of varieties are stacked by the bushel just waiting for you to grab them up, take them home, and make them into something delicious. Pay attention to the giant sign that displays the myriad varieties and when they typically come ripe. You just might want to come back when a favorite apple will be freshly picked. Pick up a bag or two of apples before you head out to enjoy the Cosby entrance to the National Park, a quieter and less crowded spot.

Before you get back to Carr’s, stop in at Alewine Pottery in the Arts and Crafts Community off of US 321. There you’ll find an apple baker just perfect for your fresh bag of apples. Once you get back to your cottage, you can core your apple and place it on the baker, fill it with butter, sugar and cinnamon, and pop it in the microwave.  In just a few minutes, you’ll savor an easy baked apple. In just a few minutes you’ll make enough for everyone. Be sure to save some apples for later!

Brairwood Ranch Safari

Auto Tour a Safari near The Smokies

So you find yourself in East Tennessee staying at Carr’s Northside Cottages in Gatlinburg, but suddenly you want to visit six continents all at once. What are you to do? Does any Gatlinburg attraction offer such a wide-flung possibility? Certainly one of the Ripley’s attractions might fit the bill, but what if you want to see something real, something live? A spot over in Bybee, TN is just the place you want to go.

Briarwood Ranch Safari Park Auto Tour

See King Julian!

At Briarwood Ranch Safari, you can see animals from six continents (Antarctica being the notable exception, as recreating a snowy desert wasteland in the lush hills of Tennessee would be a bit of a stretch). On the four-mile safari tour, you can drive your own vehicle or you can opt for the open-air wagon for an even more up-close-and-personal experience. As you make your way around, with feed bucket in hand of course, you’ll be visited by animals from all over the world, like the axis deer and fallow deer. If you’re interested in beasts that hail from Africa, turn your attention to the camel or the zebra. And the denizens aren’t limited to the foot-footed kind, either. Both emu and ostrich roam the park.

You really haven’t lived until a bison has stuck his massive muzzle in and stretched out a long purple tongue to get some delicious feed. The kids will love seeing the elk with its majestic antlers sidle right up to the wagon. Everywhere you drive in the park, you’ll see exotic animals dotting the scenic landscape. Drive through as many times as you like; you’re sure to spot something different each time. Just be sure to be out before the park closes!

To get to Briarwood Ranch Safari from Carr’s Northside Cottages, you’ll want to take the scenic drive along the edge of the National Park through Cosby. It’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time in the quieter parts of the Smokies. The drive will take about an hour, so take your time and enjoy the scenery. Making a day out of it will create vacation memories that you won’t soon forget.

Briarwood Ranch Safari Park
Web Site | Purchase Tickets
255 Briar Thicket Road, Bybee TN 37713
Sunday:  12-5 pm
Monday – Saturday:  10 am – 5 pm
*Last tour begins one hour before close

Forbidden Caverns

Smoky Mountain Excursion

Great Excursion for Family Reunions, Youth Groups and Individuals

Smoky Mountains Underground Attraction

Anywhere you visit in East Tennessee, the earth below your feet is riddled with caves–thousands of them–extending for mile upon mile deep in the stony layers. Most of these caverns have never been seen, and probably never will be. Others, though, have been used by people for thousands of years for storage, shelter, and of course, moonshining far from the prying eyes of the authorities. Many of the caves have been opened to the public and make for a great excursion during your vacation stay at Carr’s Northside Cottages.

Smoky Mountains Underground Attraction

Lighted Grotto

Located in Sevierville TN, Forbidden Caverns makes for a perfect day trip either to beat the summer heat (temperatures in the cave remain at a comfortable 58 degrees year-round) or to take advantage of the pleasant autumnal weather for a day out and about. From Carr’s, you can travel the bigger highways through Pigeon Forge and Sevierville (a 45 minute trip without traffic) or you can opt for the more scenic route along the edge of the National Park on US 321 (around an hour of beautiful country driving).

The cave itself is a well-lighted affair with music accompaniment to your tour. In some ways, the cave tour is more like a combination natural wonder/theater light-show. Expect to spend an hour walking through the spectacular formations and features, all with fanciful names like Valley of the Moon or Ledge of the Gargoyle. You’ll also see a replica moonshine still, as the cave has been used in the past for distilling because of the privacy and ready supply of clean, clear water.

If you’ve never visited a cave, be aware that you’ll want to wear some trustworthy footwear that you won’t mind getting slightly damp. A trip during the summer means taking along a jacket, which seems strange when the sun is beating down, but the cool cave feels even colder when the temperatures outside are soaring.

Tours begin at 10 a.m., with the last tour leaving at 5 p.m. Forbidden Caverns is open April through November, Monday through Saturday. Plan to make a whole day out of your excursion, with a picnic lunch either on the way at the Cosby entrance to the National Park, or on the way back.  Visit the cavern web site for a sneak peek!

Gatlinburg Day Trip

Worth the Drive from Carrs!

Forbidden Caverns
April – November
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day
Closed December – March
455 Blowing Cave Road
Sevierville TN 37876
(865) 453-5972





Mini Golf Course Gatlinburg Attractions

No Tee Times Necessary

Folks who vacation at Carr’s Northside Cottages enjoy the many opportunities for family time that are possible both onsite and around town. When you and your kids have splashed around in the pool as much as you can and are looking to spend a few hours in family-friendly competition, you might consider a few rounds of mini-golf. Gatlinburg boasts several options to satisfy everyone’s inner putter, but these three offer something a bit unique.

Gatlinburg Hillbilly Mini Golf

Yep… That’s an Outhouse

Hillbilly Golf has been around forever. If you came to Gatlinburg as a kid, you probably played this course that bills itself as the “World’s Most Unusual,” and for good reason. Would anyone else build a golf course on the side of a mountain? That’s part of the charm of the place. You ride the incline 300 feet straight up the mountain (a treat for the kids before the golf even begins) to the two 18-hole courses full of “mountaineer hazards.” Along the way, you’ll knock your ball past Appalachian-themed farm equipment and moonshine stills, which seem to be everywhere these days. A round of mini-golf here will teach restraint: if you hit the ball too hard, off the mountain it’ll go.

Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf also offers a country theme, but in a completely different way. Playing off of Tennessee hero Davy Crockett, the two 18-hole courses are nicely laid out and easy to navigate. Plenty of animated animal characters add to the experience as you putt putt your way through. You might not feel like the king of the wild frontier when you finish, but the place is charming and is great fun for adults and kids alike. If you’re also planning to visit the Aquarium, you can combine your miniature golf and the aquarium as part of a package deal.

Gatlinburg outdoor and indoor mini golf

1 Indoor Course, 2 Outdoor Courses

Fort Fun’s Old Gatlinburg Golf & Games offers a little bit of everything, sort of a one-stop-shop for family fun. Play mini-golf, then laser tag, or bumper cars, or gem mining. Everyone in the family will find something to do here. The two outdoor courses offer opportunities to learn a little area history at each hole. Both the Old Town Square course and the Old Mountain Trail course will teach you a little bit as you play. The nine-hole indoor mini golf course is open rain or shine and uses a undersea theme in blacklight.

After you’ve putted around town, you can roll on back to Carr’s for a little rest and relaxation before you swing out to more adventure.

Gatlinburg Old Growth Forest Tour

Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Trail

Within a few short minutes of the hustle and bustle, stop and go of the Parkway in Gatlinburg, you can drive through one of the most beautiful areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is an absolute must during your vacation at Carr’s Northside Cottages.

Roaring Fork Nature Trail Drive and Hikes

Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

From the downtown Parkway, you will enter the trail from stoplight #8 at Airport Rd. The 5.5-mile one-way road ends less than ½ a mile from Carr’s Northside Cottages. The driving trail is open from May 1 – November 30, 2015.

If the weather cooperates, plan to take your drive after a good rain. The streams and waterfalls will be at their best when Gatlinburg has gotten a good soak. Rather than putting a damper on a vacation, this time some rain will greatly enhance the experience!

Take the opportunity to learn a little bit about real mountain culture when you tour the Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead. This self-guided nature trail will offer a glimpse of two key attributes of the Smokies: the beauty of the developed forest and the simple ingenuity of the Appalachian farmer.

Bud Ogle Log Cabin and Farmstead

Noah “Bud” Ogle Log Cabin

If you’re still in the mood for walking after the nature trail, you can tackle two great hikes along the driving trail. You can stop at the Rainbow Falls trailhead, 5.4-mile moderately strenuous hike. The Grotto Falls hike, further along on the driving trail, is also worth the walk. While easier than the Rainbow Falls trails, you’ll still want to be prepared for this moderate 3 mile round trip hike. If you choose either of the treks, be sure to wear appropriate footgear and take along water and snacks.

Of course, Roaring Fork can also be enjoyed as a quiet, leisurely drive through some old growth forest. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to pull off of the road to admire the scenery and to take lots of photos. You can see log cabins, gristmills, and other historic buildings.

That’s part of the appeal of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail: you can approach in a way that suits your needs. Drive through as much as you want or get out and explore at every opportunity. You can always come back another day to see anything you might have missed the first time through.

Save a Bundle with Ripley’s Attractions

Big Savings on Gatlinburg Fun

If you’re looking for activities to keep the whole family busy during your visit to Carr’s Northside Cottages, you’ll be able to fill up a whole week with trips to all of the Ripley’s Attractions. You save a lot when you bundle your tickets, so plan to take in several options.

Most people will want to start with passes to Ripley’s Aquarium, and the bundle packages start there as well. The largest of the Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg, the Aquarium is indeed one of the most visited spots in the region. This 1.4 million gallon aquarium features over 10,000 denizens of the deep. Gaze in wonder as you glide along the moving walkway through the underwater tunnel; the sharks slip right over your head. Be sure to check out the new Swarm exhibit and get a free fish manicure. That’ll be a new experience! Allow for at least two hours to see all that the aquarium has to offer.

Ripleys Gatlinburg Attractions Tickets

Bundle Ripley’s Attractions for Big Savings

If the countless exotic sea creatures don’t slake your thirst for the unusual, you should head over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, home to all things weird and wonderful. Spanning 3 floors with 16 themed galleries taking up 12,500 square feet of exhibit space, the Odditorium is certain to be both educational and entertaining.

After all the walking around at the Aquarium and Odditorium, you might be ready for a sit-down. Don’t expect to relax too much at the Moving Theater, though. You’ll strap in for a thrilling 5D movie adventure with motion seats and digital effects to enjoy one of two films: Roadhoggers or Winter Wipeout. You’ve never seen a movie quite like this!

Step back to a leisurely pace as you knock a golf ball around for a bit at Davy Crockett Mini-Golf. This activity is perfect as part of a combo pack because the whole family will love the delightfully themed courses, complete with whimsical animated characters. Play one or both of the two 18-hole courses.

You can get another, even more challenging winding walk at the Mirror Maze. There’s only one way out, but the maze creates the illusion of infinite possibilities. If you get hopelessly lost, don’t worry! Search parties rescue wanderers every half hour. After you successfully exit, celebrate your victory with a candy treat from Ripley’s Candy Factory.

Which family member holds the record for the fastest time through the mirror maze? If you’re a fan of the Guinness Book of World Records, you’ll want to see the records and memorabilia at Guinness World of Records.

When evening rolls around and your energy is dipping, you need the shot of adrenaline that you’ll get when you visit the Haunted Adventure. It’s the #1 haunted house in Gatlinburg, and rightly so, featuring plenty of terrifying live actors in the 10,000 square foot spook house. On second thought, you might not want to make a haunted house your last stop of the day. You’ll want to get a good night’s sleep at Carr’s Northside Cottages before you set out for another day of adventure in Gatlinburg.

Ripleys Gatlinburg

Bundle Up to 7 Ripley’s Attractions with Ripleys Aquarium

Sweets and Treats in Downtown Gatlinburg

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Gatlinburg covers a lot of ground and you’ll get around most of it on foot. That’s a lot of walking including some of it uphill. You’ll be burning a lot of calories, right? You’re practically exercising on your vacation, so you will have earned yourself a treat or two (or three, or a few, and then some to take home to enjoy later). There’s no better place than Gatlinburg to satisfy a demanding sweet tooth. Three locations in particular will offer you everything you need in the sweets department.

Gatlinburg Fudge Shop, Icecream, Candy

Ice Cream, Apples, Fudge Oh My!

If you can’t quite decide whether you’re in the mood for ice cream or candy, Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream is your destination. Maybe it’s the middle of a summer afternoon and what you really need is a nice, cold scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. Or maybe you need a fruit snack…just get an apple covered in caramel and you’re good to go. As long as you’re eating fruit, toss a couple of chocolate covered strawberries in too. You’re practically eating health food.

After eating all that fruit, you’ll certainly have the energy to take in a couple of attractions or do some downtown shopping. Before you set out on your trek, be sure to stop at one of the two Aunt Mahalia’s Candies locations for some fudge to take along. Aunt Mahalia’s has been in the business of making delicious fudge for over 50 years; the know what they’re doing. You may want to go ahead and grab some syrup or honey while you’re at Aunt Mahalia’s so back at your Carr’s cottage or cabin you can whip up a yummy pancake breakfast.

Homemade Fudge, Saltwater Taffy Downtown Gatlinburg


Since the early 1950s, visitors to Gatlinburg have been able to take a break from strolling around the parkway by watching the candy being made at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. They have fudge too, but it’s the taffy that they’re known for. Stand mesmerized by the saltwater taffy puller and the wrapping machine as they spin and whir, then go inside and pick out a box of taffy to take home. Get some for your friends. Might as well get a box to eat later today as you make your way back to the motel.

The kids will want some of your candy of course, but they’ll need to get their own won’t they?

You’ve earned this!