A Smokies Christmas
The temperatures may be dropping across the mountains of Western North Carolina, but Haywood County is glistening with authentic, local activities available all winter long. Whether it’s outdoor adventures you seek or cozy, indoor enjoyment, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in the winter wonderland of the North Carolina Smokies.
Hit the Slopes at one of the longest-running ski areas in the Southeast.
To kick off of the frosty fun, Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley has officially opened it’s for its 55th season. The ski area, whose slopes are located at elevations of 4,660–5,400 feet, continues to be one of the first to open the area every winter and one of the last to close, offering one of the longest-running snow sport seasons in the Southeast. The ski area offers 18 slopes, a terrain park and even snow tubing for those who prefer to sit and slide.
Choose n’ cut the perfect Christmas tree.
Create a timeless tradition with your family at one of Haywood County’s choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms. Nestled among the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, these farms attract visitors both near and far in search of the perfect Christmas tree. The county is home to five locally owned and operated farms specializing in North Carolina Fraser firs. Tree-seekers search the mountainside for the ideal Christmas tree or choose a pre-cut tree of their liking. Prices start around $45 and increase based on height. Other holiday necessities can be purchased onsite, such as fresh hand-made wreaths and garland.
Warm up with a winter hike.
While some winter days in the North Carolina Smokies can be quite chilly, you will still find a number of milder days that are perfect for an outdoor adventure. Winter hiking is enjoyable this time of year, with long range views thanks to the fallen leaves and less crowds on the trails. While the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountain National Park can often be subject to road closures during winter months, there are still plenty of local hikes which can be accessed via other roads.
Two local favorites are Purchase Knob and the Sam’s Summits Loop Trail. Both trails can be accessed year round, offer incredible views and scenery. You can also pick up a free illustrated hiking guides for both at a Haywood County Visitor Center.
When the sun goes down …
There is nothing like capping off an awesome day of winter adventure with a delicious local meal and great evening entertainment. Take your pick from mountain-style barbecue and traditional Americana fares to authentic Italian, tasty Thai fusion and a variety of other choices. After dinner, treat your kids to a night of roller skating and games at the Smoky Mountain Sk8teway or grab some locally made ice cream and catch a movie at the historic Strand at 38 Main theater.
Craft beer drinkers will love exploring the county’s four breweries, most often accompanied by a number of talented local bands and musicians. Wine connoisseurs can enjoy a vast collection of wine from around the world while listening to smooth standards at the Classic Wine Seller.
All Through the Town
Save the date for WinterFest Smoky Style February 26–28 at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. This signature winter event will feature sled dog demonstrations, a sanctioned dog International Weight Pull Association competition and timber sports demonstrations that debuted last year. The 2016 event will offer local musical entertainment, along with additional exhibits such as outdoor survival demonstrations, ways to enjoy the nearby national parks in the wintertime and storytelling.
Photo Credits: Tree farm and snowboard photos courtesy of Haywood County TDA; Sam’s Summit by Ken Czarnomski.