Although North Carolina is in the Southern United States, a region known for its warm weather, several small towns in North Carolina's mountains come alive in the winter. These small towns are transformed into winter wonderlands of skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. During the winter, outdoor enthusiasts delight in exploring snow-covered mountain peaks, hopping aboard scenic train rides through the Great Smoky Mountains, and attending annual polar plunges in the state's towns. From hitting the only black diamond slope in the state on Sugar Mountain to taking a tranquil winter stroll along Lake Tomahawk, several small North Carolina towns provide winter adventures for all visitors.
With an average snowfall of 84 inches, the small town of Beech Mountain transforms into a winter wonderland when cold weather sets in. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and at an elevation of 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain is the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the two terrain snowboard parks, snow tube park, and 17 skiing slopes at the Beech Mountain Resort. The town itself offers incredible sledding adventures on the Beech Mountain Sledding Hill. Visitors can also cross-country ski and snowshoe along the town's many trails in the Pisgah National Forest. For experienced snowshoers, a trip to the mountain peak's Emerald Outback Trail Park is a must. With seven trails, several of them moderate and challenging, the park offers an exhilarating snowshoeing experience.
Blowing Rock is perched along the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina's High Country. As the name suggests, the town is named for a large rock that traps blowing wind from Johns River Gorge below. In the winter, visitors can walk the 0.5-mile trail at the Blowing Rock and visit Santa in December. For those looking for outdoor sports, the town is home to Appalachian Ski Mountain, with black diamond slopes, bunny slopes, and night skiing. Visitors also enjoy ice skating at the Appalachian Ice Arena, with views of ski slopes and the Blue Ridge Mountains on either side.
Weather permitting, nature lovers can also hike the 1.6-mile Glen Burney Trail to view the falls along New Year's Creek. For an exciting winter adventure, attend the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest in January. The festival features ice sculpture carving, hayrides, and a polar plunge into Chetola Lake.
Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Banner Elk is a winter paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Home to Sugar Mountain, the town transforms into a skiing haven during the winter. Sugar Mountain Resort offers slopes for beginners and experts, including the state's only double black diamond slope. Outdoor lovers can also ice skate, snow-tube, and take a snowshoe-guided tour on Sugar Mountain. In December, visitors can attend Sugarfest, a weekend of live music and fireworks, along with a hot chocolate and whipped cream bar. For a unique winter adventure, take a thrilling ride nearby on Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, North Carolina's only alpine coaster.
During the winter, nature lovers can hike along the town's Greenway Trail System to view the beautiful Elk River. For a more strenuous hike, hike the 7.6-mile round trip on Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park with 360-degree views at Calloway Peak.
With five entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is a hub for winter adventures. The park offers nature lovers leafless and clear views of the area at the peak of Lonesome Pine Overlook Trail. Another stunning winter hike is along the Deep Creek Trail. Known for its three cascading waterfalls, hikers can view the fall on the 2.5-mile waterfall loop.
One of the most anticipated events of the winter season in Bryson City is the round-trip Polar Express Train Ride, which departs from the historic Bryson City Depot. Although the Polar Express Train Ride is only available for a few weeks during the winter season, guests can hop aboard a scenic train ride along the Tuckasegee River throughout the winter on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad views. During the winter, travelers can also stroll along the tranquil banks of the river.
Boasting North Carolina's first ski area, the Cataloochee Ski Area, Maggie Valley beckons cold weather enthusiasts. The ski area is a great place for beginners and intermediate skiers and provides breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains from the summit of Moody Top. For nature lovers willing to brave the snow and cold, the town is situated near several hiking trails. Visitors can hike the Soco Falls trail to view the frozen double waterfalls, as well as smaller falls only visible when the leaves have fallen. Hikers can also take the Mountains to Sea Trail in the Plott Balsams mountain range from Soco Gap to Waterrock Knob. Located at 6,292 feet, Waterrock Knob offers stunning views of the sunrise, sunset, and surrounding mountains.
Black Mountain is located a short 25-minute drive from Asheville. The town welcomes visitors to explore the mountain range the town is named after, the Black Mountains, which offers winter adventures against a beautiful backdrop. In December, visitors enjoy the annual Circle of Lights festival following the town's holiday parade at Lake Tomahawk. The lake boasts a scenic .55-mile loop with views of the Seven Sisters mountain range. Consisting of seven peaks, the 3.5 miles of mountains lead to the stunning Graybeard Mountain. In the winter, nature lovers can hike or snowshoe the challenging 9.5-mile Graybeard Mountain Loop Trail to view the snow-covered mountain peaks. For an easier trail, take a tranquil walk on the town's River Loop Trail along the Swannanoa River.
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the charming town of Burnsville offers scenic outdoor adventures in the winter. The town is home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River in the United States, Mount Mitchell. For those willing to brave the snow and cold, ascending the 6,684-foot summit provides 360-degree views of frosted vistas up to 85 miles away. There are also several hiking trails for winter enthusiasts to explore at Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina's first state park. For a unique cold-weather experience, visitors can ice climb Celo Knob in the Black Mountains. Since the weather has to be just right for ice climbing, taking a guided tour with a reputable company, such as Fox Mountain Guides, is recommended.
A Winter Wonderland Awaits
These small towns in North Carolina provide winter activities for all to enjoy. From ice climbing in the Black Mountains and snowshoeing in Banner Elk to experiencing the polar plunge at the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest, these small towns in North Carolina come alive in winter. Whether hitting the slopes or simply enjoying a serene walk of snow-capped mountains, visitors enjoy exploring each town's winter wonderland.