We all too often see North Carolinians hibernate during the winter months. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely slow down quite a bit in the winter, but there is some great things to do and see during the colder season and we can’t wait to venture out of our nest. Try something new this season and we even have some recommendations for you!
Thomas and I fell in love with Snowshoeing out in California around Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. Being back in NC made us miss the easy access and the full winter season of sneaking off to the mountains almost every weekend to summit Castle Peak in our snowshoes on top of 15 feet of snow. Being back in NC with a little one has made it difficult to trek in the snow again, but we’ve heard that it isn’t impossible to snowshoe here. After some digging, it seems there are quite the trails to explore in NC.
Elk Knob State Park, just north of Boone, keeps the park open after extreme winter weather for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. For those wanting to ease into the sport, check out Sugar Mountain Resort outside of Banner Elk for guided tours throughout the season.
The easiest way to get out all year long, hiking! In the winter, it definitely has a different feel. Often a lot more quiet with way less crowds, hiking can be so serene in the colder months. Where wildflowers used to bloom, it’s a bit brown and monochromatic. With the absence of all the foliage, you hear and see more than any other time of year. Your go-to hike will be a different experience in the winter.
Some popular winter hikes include DuPont State Recreation Forest, Linville Gorge, Dry Falls, Pilot Mountain State Park, and Mount Mitchell. Closer to the Piedmont, check out Triangle Land Conservancy properties like Horton Grove (one of the Gear Up family’s favorite hikes).
Believe it or not, you’re not just limited to an indoor climbing gym during these colder months. There’s plenty of fun to be had at almost any outdoor crag you decide to go to. You can easily stay warm by layering up properly whether you’re on the wall or not. Are you waiting your turn or belaying? You can throw on the biggest and warmest jackets you like, just make sure your harness still fits if you’re belaying. Are you the climber? Well, needless to say, climbing can be pretty physical and you’ll warm up in no time once you start your ascent. One more extra tip: check which routes are primarily south-facing. That means the sun will be hitting that route the longest giving it plenty of time to warm you and the rock up!
Pilot Mountain State Park, Crowders Mountain, and Linville Gorge are just some of the highlights NC has to offer. Check out Mountain Project for more climbing areas around the state and sometimes it’ll even let you know when the sun hits certain walls so you can plan your warmth accordingly.
Winter is one of my absolute favorite seasons to paddle. The views are completely different, the water is way less crowded, and the water can be a little calmer. Even on a grey day, you can see so many different things than you normally would in the middle of the summer paddling. However, do your research before hitting the water by checking the winds and conditions. Cold and wet can become quite dangerous; though, layering up and looking at the weather can make for such a wonderful paddle.
The Roanoke River is stunning during the winter, especially the Devil’s Gut area. You can even backcountry camp along the Roanoke and sleep on platforms. If you’re looking for something closer to Raleigh, check out Lake Johnson or Shearon Harris Lake.
This is one of those activities that can definitely be played year-round. The winter season is nice because most people generally don’t want to brave the cold; which means most courses will have significantly less people on them. If you layer up properly you won’t have a single issue staying warm, especially since you’re continuously walking for a few miles throughout the course. Toss some handwarmers in your disc bag if your hands get too cold and throw some gloves on in between chucking discs to help out too!
Honestly, is there anything better than getting inside with some hot beverages and a good stew to warm up after a day out in the cold? So, fellow North Carolinian, take some time to adventure this winter season. We’ll see you out there!