5 Things to do in the Blue Ridge during the winter

Winter time is here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As a matter of fact, it’s snowing as I write this.  The leaves are gone, but so are the crowds.

The months of January – March are a great time to visit the Blue Ridge mountains due to the better views, reduced costs, and there being far less people here.  Winter here in the Blue Ridge is a great time for a quick weekend getaway or an even longer vacation getaway.

One of the great things about visiting the Blue Ridge in the winter is the snow.  I know, I know, some of you are saying: We don’t want snow!  But the great thing about seeing the Blue Ridge with snow is that you see a unique view, that generally only locals and skiers get to see.  The best part is that in the majority of the areas, snow is fairly rare, and even when it does snow, it doesn’t stay long.

Here are 5 things to do in the Blue Ridge during the winter:

Skiing and Snow Boarding in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Of course the most popular thing to do in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the winter is skiing and snowboarding.  There are a number of ski resorts in the area that are popular with skiers from all over the world:

Cataloochee Skiing
Photo by Thomas A. Wolff

Visit Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Winter
Photo by Zen Sutherland

Winter is a great time to visit Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC.  During the summer, the house is often very crowded and very hot, but during the winter Biltmore is nice and warm, and  very few people are visiting.  The only exception to this is in December, when Biltmore is decorated for Christmas.  While absolutely stunning, the crowds are heavy.  But once January roles around, the crowds subside significantly.

Biltmore has a number of green houses as well, so don’t think you won’t be able to see all of the wonderful plant life either.  Touring the green houses is one of our personal favorite things to do.  An added advantage is that the main green house, The Conservatory is probably one of the warmest places in the Blue Ridge during the winter, with it’s indoor tropical temperatures.

Who knows, you might even get a little bit of snow, and Biltmore surrounded by a light coat of fresh snow is stunning to behold and makes for some very unique and beautiful photos.

The best part?  Biltmore admission tickets are the lowest all year, beginning at only $39.00 each!  Also, rates at the Biltmore Inn are often at 50% of the normal prime time cost.

Spas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Grove Park Inn Spa Pool
Main Spa pool at the Grove Park Inn

The Blue Ridge mountains are full of wonderful and scenic and luxurious spas.  Here are just a few of them.

If you know of a particular spa in the Blue Ridge Mountains that you like or have heard good things about, let us know and we’ll get it added to the list.

Waterfalls & Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Frozen Looking Glass FallsWaterfalls??  Yes, Waterfalls and even hiking in the winter.

With freezing and cold temperatures, waterfalls often partially or fully freeze up, making for an absolutely gorgeous and unique setting and unique photographs.   I mean everyone has picture of looking glass falls, but how many have a photo of it in the winter, like he one to the right?  Read our full-guide to our top NC waterfalls for places you can visit to get those frozen photos.  All of these waterfalls are easy to access and stunning to see during the winter.

Winter time, while a bit chilly, is also a great time to take a hike.  Why?  Because the leaves are off the trees, and views that can’t normally be scene are fully visible in the winter.   The best part of hiking in the winter for me?  NO BUGS!  Just be sure to check local park websites to be sure the trails are open.  If trails are dangerous due to snow and ice, the park services will close the trails for your safety.

Take a scenic drive

Winter Blue Ridge Parkway
Photo by BlueRidgeKitties

The Blue Ridge Parkway, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Shenandoah National Park and many other national parks are generally “open” in the winter.  I put open in quotes for a couple of reasons:

  • They are open, but most visitors centers and facilities are closed.
  • Roads may not always be open, so make sure you check the park service websites.  Roads can and will be closed due to snow or ice conditions.
  • Parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway are always closed during the winter

Baring any closures, the roads through our national and state parks can offer views not normally scene during the summer, due to foliage being off the trees.   Also, the ice formations on the rock walls around the roads are beautiful to look at and photograph.

You can also just explore a few back roads.  As photographers, we love to visit The Parkway and National Parks, but we love even more exploring new back roads.   We’ve seen some very unique places, views, and buildings by asking ourselves “I wonder where that road leads?” and saying “Let’s find out”.   Some of the most popular photos on our Facebook page are photos taken on back roads.  Here’s just one example:

Snowy Back Road

Final Tips:

Some final tips for visiting the Blue Ridge during the winter, and in particular when doing outdoor activities.

  • Wear appropriate clothing and dress in layers.  This includes: A good pair of waterproof boots, long johns, ski pants, jacket, and a good pair of extreme weather gloves.
  • Avoid wearing cotton.  Instead, wear “moisture wicking” clothing designed for outdoor use.
  • Weather can change very quickly here, especially at higher elevations – so wear layers, so you can remove and add clothing as needed.
  • Make sure you know where you are going, or bring a GPS – Snow can often hide the trail and make determining your direction more difficult.
  • Make sure one or more people know where you are going and when you should be back home.
  • Use hiking poles and wear micro spikes on your hiking boots for traction on ice.

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