Hiking the Southern States in the Winter

This winter we traded our snow boots for our hiking shoes. At least three to five times a week you will find us hiking along a new trail in the Southern States.  Join us to learn why Hiking is a great way to get to know a state plus hiking tips.

When my husband was planning our traveling sabbatical, he was planning how long to stay at a city by how many hikes he wanted to go on. Link to Traveling Sabbatical Blog. I knew we would go hiking, but didn’t think hiking, biking or walking would be an almost daily thing.  

all trails
All Trails App

How to find hikes

Ask the locals what their favorite hikes are.   For us this was easy.  The locals were the people we stayed with at Airbnb’s, or we would stop at the city visitor center and asked them for recommended hikes.  Someone usually produced a map that had hikes on it with marked trails.

Another way to find hiking trails is in the App called All trails.   Just input the city you want and it comes up with the hikes in the area.  We have also found some biking and walking and state parks with our Trip Advisor App.   

Dress Warm
Snoopers Rock

Hiking Tips

Plan your hikes according to the weather.  In the winter in the South, the weather can be chilly.  We have hiked in the middle 30s up to the 60s the month of January.  If it’s a colder day we only plan shorter hikes. The perfect temperatures to hike are 50-70 degrees.  

Make sure you wear your hat and gloves if hiking in the 30s and 40s. I also wear some warmer flexible lined pants and my wool socks, since I tend to get cold. I am happy to see the ground and hike instead of wearing my snow boots or stay indoors. The golden time of hiking in the winter is at 3 pm.   On a cloudy day the sun has usually come out by then and it is the high temp for the day.

Wear hiking shoes you can get wet or muddy.  Since the south gets rain. There were many hikes where it had rained the day before and the paths were wet making its own river on the trail.  Lots of mud out there on the trails when it rains many days a week. The trails are covered with fallen leaves and they tend to be wet too if they haven’t had more than a day to dry out.

Follow your maps or signs.  My husband says I would get lost if I didn’t go with him.  Sometimes the signs and maps can be a bit confusing.   Notice directions can be displayed in various ways.

Hiking Signs

Choose hikes you can do.  You know you.  Don’t pick a hard hike if you can only do easy or moderate hikes. Look at how long the hikes are. Is it two miles or five miles?   I can do an easy two-mile hike faster than a moderate or hard two-mile hike.  

When we hiked the Cloudland Canyon it was a five-mile moderate hike and we did it in 2.5 hours.  If you like to stop a lot or take pictures you will have to take that into account for time.   Remember you can turn around and don’t have to do the whole hike.

Bring some water and snacks with you.   Hike before lunch or after lunch that way you only need to bring a snack and water with you. Nuts are lightweight and are a good snack to give you extra high calories for added energy and protein. It’s okay to eat a handful of nuts a day.  

Big Soddy
Big Soddy

Why I love hiking

I love the scenery such as a canyon, waterfall or an overlook. I love taking pictures or videos and stopping to rest. I enjoy being out on a beautiful sunny day with no snow and the birds chirping in the morning.     

I also love the fact that when I am hiking I am burning many calories.   Our exercise app sportractive tells us how many miles we have hiked and how many calories we burned. 

Our five-mile moderate hike showed we burned 1,600 Kcals.   If that is so, I have a lot of eating to do or I can look at it as weight loss if I only eat my nut bar as extra calories for the day. Better yet, I can have some chocolate.   An hour hike said we used up 400 calories.   Each hike will be different.

I love knowing I am using many muscles, and joints to hike.  I am strengthening my core, legs, feet, buttocks and even my arms.  The reason I say arms is because one hike was so wet and to avoid the mud I walked on the edge of the path and hung on to trees.   My arms got a work out that day.  

My Chiropractor and I were having a conversation about hiking and why it’s so good for the body.  He said, “when you go to the gym you are exercising your pretty muscles, the ones you notice”.  “When hiking, you are exercising the forgotten muscles that your body needs to have exercised too.”   I feel more in shape with my cardio,  and improved muscle and joint fitness when I hike.


Another Reason to love hiking is it clears the brain, gives you great ideas and helps you think a little differently. Plus, the air and dirt are good for the brain and the immune system.  

Finally, the last reason I love hiking is I get to spend time with people while I hike.  We can talk and walk and enjoy time together and make some great memories. I can also have great conversations with God on a quiet hike.

Tennessee River
Tennessee River

 Hikes and Bikes by States

These are hikes that we have been on in the past 6 weeks. There are many more options not listed.

South Carolina Biking or Walking

In Hilton Head, South Carolina you can bike on the Beach. This was my first experience biking on the beach and I loved it!

In Greenville, South Carolina you can bike or walk up to 20 miles on the Stump Rabbit Trail from Downtown to small towns in the area.

Biking on Beach

Virginia Hikes:

Sounders-Monticello Trail near Charlottesville, VA.  This trail is 4 miles round trip and runs up to the Monticello.  Many people were running this trail since it was Easy.

Hiking around downtown and universities can be considered an easy Walk/Hike.   We hiked the downtowns and universities of Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Remember they have steep hills you need to walk up and down. These can be a 2-4 mile workout too.

TRail at Monticello
Trail at Monticello

North Carolina Hikes

Pisgah Forest Trail leading to Looking Glass Rock.  This is a 5.4-mile hike round trip and I would call it moderate to Hard. Mainly because there was so much water and mud to avoid after a day of rain.

The hikes we did not go on were in the Dupont Forest in North Carolina. We just ran out of time, but I am told this is the forest where they filmed the Hunger Games movie.

looking glass
looking glass overlook

Tennessee Hikes- 

Downtown walks of Knoxville, Chatanooga, and Nashville. These can give you 2-5 miles of downtown walking.  The concrete may make your feet more tired than a hike in the woods.

We hiked at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and went on two hikes. A short one called Laurel Falls Trail and was over 2.6 miles long on an almost paved trail.    The next one was called Chimney Tops Trail was Hard with a 2000 foot elevation climb and was 3.25 trail crossing rivers on bridges 4 times. 

There a many more trails at the National Park, but the weather and time shortened our hikes. This is the only national park you can get in free.  Believe it, because it is true.

Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls

LJAMS nature center in Knoxville has some decent hiking trails and biking trails.   We hiked over 3 miles combining a few trails in the park.

Raccoon Mountain near Chatanooga is a Tennessee Valley Authority Pumped storage plant reservoir and they have multiple trails around the area on the mountain that can be hiked or biked.   When I say bike, I say mountain biking, which is not my kind of biking.  It rained so we didn’t get in any hiking here, but we check out the Visitor Center.

We also hiked at an easy walk of 1 mile round trip to the Snoopers Rock which has an overlook of the Tennessee River. 

Lookout mountain in Chatanooga boasts many hikes.   We chose a hike that starts at the Cravens house to the Sunset Rock area that overlooks the city.  This hike was 3 miles roundtrip and was moderate. I couldn’t believe how many people were running it.  My husband said I would be dead if I ran it.  True!  Another one mile round trip moderate hike is Glenfall on lookout mountain.

using our App
Using our App on Stringers Ridge

Stringers Ridge Park is in Chatanooga and this one has a variety of trails from easy to hard.  We just hiked a couple of them in an hour.   This one is in town so many people come after work to hike it on a nice winter day.

Signal Mountain has a few hikes to offer and we ventured out to Rainbow Lake Wilderness to see a waterfall, a Fabulous lookout, and a swinging bridge to cross the river.

Big Soddy Creek near Chatanooga is an easy walk in the park. We only walked ¾ of a mile but one can easily walk up to 2 miles mostly next to the river. My husband called this the city slicker walk. This one is one you don’t want to miss. The water is an aqua blue.

Swinging Bridge at Rainbow Wilderness

State Parks of Tennessee

Tennessee can boast it Free State Parks.

We also walked an easy 2 miles at the Norris Dam State Park as they have some trails near the river.

Harrison Bay State Park on Lake Chickamauga is a 4-mile loop hike, fairly Easy with views of the Lake.

Chickamauga Creek Hike which is associated with the  Cumberland State Park and Is a 4.6 miles round trip and features waterfalls, overlooks of the gorge and offers a variety of terrain to become moderate to difficult.

South of the Nashville area is Long Hunter State Park with an easy 2-mile loop that is a pretty walk around the lake.  

The people of Tennessee love to hike, or trail run or walk their dogs.   The weekends find the trails very busy in the winter.

Harrison Bay
Harrison Bay State Park Hike
Cloudland Canyon
Cloudland Canyon

Georgia Hikes

Cloudland Canyon State Park Hikes 5-mile hike loop with canyon views and waterfalls. You need to pay $5 for day use at this State Park

Alabama Hiking and Biking

It rained many days in Alabama so our hiking was cut short.   We Hiked at Guntersville State Park which is part of the Reservoir. This State Park is amazing and has 36 miles of trails to hike.  

Madison County Nature Park near Huntsville offers a 1.5-mile hike on a lake on Green Mountain.   This has pretty views with a covered bridge.

We biked in Athens, Alabama on a rail to a trail for 11.5 miles round trip.  Since it had rained many days we had washouts on the trail as well as a fallen tree we had to walk our bikes over.


My Top Favorites

There are many more hiking areas that we did not even touch.  Use the Apps or ask the locals about Hikes and don’t forget to get to state parks. Here are my top favorite Hikes or Bikes we went on in the past month in random order.  

  1. Cloudland Canyon, in Georgia.
  2. Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
  3. Biking on the shore of Hilton Head Beach
  4. LJAMS Nature Center in Knoxville, TN
  5. Big Soddy Creek near Chatanooga, TN
  6. Chickamauga Creek Hike in TN

Enjoy hiking this winter when you go on vacation. Trade in the snow boots for hiking shoes.  Even if you can get away from the snow tundra just for a week.   Just do it!

As we continue our travels I will post the rest of our hiking and biking in a future blog. Where are your favorite places to hike in the Southern States?


3 thoughts on “Hiking the Southern States in the Winter”

  1. Two of my favorite Hiking areas in Orange County are;
    1. Silverado Canyon, Starts from Maple Springs Visitor Center on Silverado Canyon Road in the city of Silverado, CA
    2. Limestone Canyon Regional Park, Red Rock Canyon Trail Starts from Foothill Ranch Marketplace in Foothill Ranch, CA

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