Winter Creeks and Peaks


  • Dedicated winter itinerary
  • The most serene season for hiking
  • Sweeping views from the Appalachian Trail
  • Scenic, warmer backcountry camps
  • 2 of the Park's most beautiful waterfalls
  • Wildlife viewing opportunities


On our Winter Creeks and Peaks backpacking trip we combine the best of two worlds - big Smoky Mountain views and beautiful creekside hiking - in the year's most peaceful season. The historically rich route we follow was used originally by early Native Americans, then settlers, loggers, and livestock herders after them. We'll retrace their collective footsteps on a rejuvenating and adventurous Appalachian adventure.
We begin our trip hiking up a majestic mountain creek, whose cascades and scenery are some of the best in the Park. We’ll continue on for the next three days past fascinating historical sites, along a variety of charming streams and rivers, past two spectacular waterfalls, up to a historic fire-tower (2 towers on a 4 day itinerary) with awe-inspiring views and finally back to our starting point.
Don't miss this classic winter-specific Smoky Mountains backpacking adventure! Give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) to book your trip or learn more today!
Click here to have a detailed PDF information packet emailed to you, or request a reservation today. You can also call us at 800-715-HIKE.


Winter in the Great Smoky Mountains

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Shuttle to the trailhead: 1-hour drive from Asheville
Hiking Mileage: 5.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1250 feet

On this multi-day Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip we depart the Big Creek Campground and soon start to enjoy creek views and cascades. First we come to the "Midnight Hole" deep pool and Mouse Creek Falls, two classic Smoky Mountain water features. After these falls, our journey grows quieter, with wonderful solitude, as we pass historic logging sites on our way to our first night's base camp at Lower Walnut Bottoms. We'll set up camp, enjoy a hearty backcountry feast, take a short night hike and turn in for a peaceful night of sleep with the soft murmuring of the creek as our backdrop.

Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 10.4 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1970 feet

This day starts with a delicious hearty Appalachian breakfast prepared by your guide. Then we’ll head off from camp with just daypacks up the Low Gap Trail. This old historic path brings us by old agriculture sites and the Dan Gunter homesite on our way to the famed Appalachian Trail. Here we will turn North on this legendary trail to what most consider the best views in the park, the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower. This tower, the only rock one of it's kind in the park, was built by local laborers and the CCC in the 1930's. After lunch in this magical spot we will head back to our base camp at Lower Walnut Bottoms for another quiet night in this warmer low elevation campsite.

Day 3 (4-day Itinerary Only)

Hiking Mileage: 11.6 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2820 feet

This is the most challenging hike, and arguably the most fulfilling, of the 4-day trip. We start our climb by Swallow Creek, a crystal clear mountain creek. We'll enjoy hiking near the creek, but soon leave it to climb up to Pretty Hollow Gap and our junction with the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail. After some fantastic high country trekking through Spruce and Fir trees we come to the Mt. Sterling summit and Fire Tower. We'll soak up sweeping views of the Smokies Crest and especially Mt. Guyot (the Park's 2nd highest peak). After enjoying the views from the highest point of our trip, at 5,820 feet, we’ll hike back down to the warmer lower elevation of our basecamp at Big Creek. We top off this extraordinary day with a large fire and a celebratory dinner.

Final Day

Hiking Mileage: 5.3 miles
Elevation Loss: 1250 feet
Shuttle to Asheville: 1-hour drive

The last day of our Smoky Mountains adventure starts with a final nutritious breakfast prepared by your guide. Afterwards we will hike down the Big Creek Trail to our shuttle. A short drive will bring us back to our starting point in Asheville, NC and end our Appalachian winter hiking experience.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary park restrictions, campsite availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Great Smoky Mountains hiking guide
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Asheville, North Carolina to the trailhead and back
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.

Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone

What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent, lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? Simply click here and complete the form to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 48 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

You will meet your guide and group at the Holiday Inn in downtown Asheville (standard rooms are $99-$140 for our guests, 828-225-5550) for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. We're happy to give you a ride to this meeting if you're not staying at the Holiday Inn. Your guide will then pick you up the next morning for transport to the trailhead. For Private Great Smoky Mountains Tours your guide can meet you at any hotel in Asheville at an agreed upon time.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on Smoky Mountains backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum group size of 6 guests and 1 or 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 10 and older to join private tours, with final approval on a case by case basis
  • specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in the Great Smoky Mountains

The weather in the Great Smoky Mountains varies greatly by time of year. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures in for low elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
Low Elev
High Elev
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