Last year, we made the bold claim that cold-weather hiking is some of the best hiking.
While many Chattanoogans need no motivation for hiking in the cold, Experience Chattanooga guides Ryan + Hope provided some good ones anyway— and despite the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had lately, we’re mentally preparing for the return to high-40s next week.
- Waterfalls are often their biggest in the winter, and frozen waterfalls are especially beautiful
- Fewer people hike in colder months — take those embarrassing self timer pics, nobody else is around
- Visibility is often clearer from lookout points
- Fewer bugs + less humidity
Our winter hiking tips:
- Check Prentice Cooper State Forest’s website before you go if you plan to hike there — several roads are closed during the winter due to weather conditions.
- Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes — they’ll keep you warmer, provide better support and balance, and some are even waterproof, so that inevitable step in the water won’t ruin your hike. Four Bridges + The Gear Closet often offer affordable options.
- If you haven’t hiked in temperatures below 30 degrees before and aren’t completely comfortable, go with a guide or group first — like the Chattanooga Hiking Club, Tennessee State Parks guided hikes, or Experience Chattanooga.
Our winter hiking recs:
- Fiery Gizzard Trail | We recommend starting at the Foster Falls end for beautiful waterfall views + hiking until you want to turn back — in total, the out + back trail is over 16 miles.
- Laurel-Snow Trail | With foliage out of the way, the views on this 6.1 mile trail are even better in the winter.
- Lula Lake Classic Loop | Lula Lake Land Trust will be open next weekend, Jan. 8-9, for visitors to enter with a $15 fee. The classic loop will take hikers through waterfall, lake, and scenic overlooks.
- Snoopers Rock Trail | Prentice Cooper’s trails are well-maintained throughout the winter, making them easily accessible, easy to navigate, and dry.