Romantic Winter Hikes Near Charlotte

Hiking in the winter offers several advantages over other seasons ~ leafless trees afford much better views, there are no bugs to bite, the crowds are minimal, and cooler temps prevail. While there are specific precautions to take for winter hiking (see below), we think the buddy system makes hiking the perfect romantic outdoor activity for a clear, reasonably mild day. Need a little motivation to head out on a cold day? Check out the instagram posts from our sources below as well as the lovely shots by @fairfortunephoto and you’ll be packing your backpack today.

We checked out ROMANTICASHEVILLE.COM for Mark’s recommendations on the best nearby hikes for winter. If you’re lucky you’ll even see a frozen waterfall.

Here are a few that are suited to most hikers, and are doable as a day trip from the QC.

Dupont State Forest

Distance from CLT: About a 2 hour drive.

Located between Brevard and Hendersonville, with many waterfalls and over 80 trails, Dupont State Forest has a lower elevation, so milder temps, and a 3 mile hike that takes you past 3 different falls.

Bearwallow Mountain

Distance from CLT: About a 2 hour drive.

An easy 1 mile hike to a bald summit with amazing views. Do Bearwallow and head to Asheville for lunch.

Gorges State Park

Distance from CLT: About a 2.6 hour drive.

Near Sapphire NC, Gorges State Park has paved roads, parking areas, trails, primitive campsites and a couple of picnic shelters. A wheelchair-accessible overlook has views across Jocassee Gorge and the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is no admission fee. Check in at the Visitor Center to get a map and find out about any trail closures. Romantic Asheville recommends the three-mile round-trip hike to Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls on the Horsepasture River just outside the park in Pisgah National Forest.

Whiteside Mountain

Distance from CLT: About a 3 hour drive.

Near Cashiers in the Nantahala National Forest, Whiteside Mountain offers a “moderate” (per RomanticAsheville) two-mile loop trail takes you on top of sheer 750-ft. high cliffs with outstanding views to the east, south and west. Beginning each year in January peregrines nest on the mountain’s rock ledges, and climbing routes near nesting sites are closed during nesting. Be sure to check the maps at the parking lot for closures.

Winter Hiking Safety

Check the Temps

Experts recommend no hiking when the wind chill is below 0 as any skin that is exposed to freezing temperatures and cold wind can quickly get frostbite. While there are definitely hikers who will go out in below zero temps as long as they’re fully covered, this is not us.

Layer Up, but Not with Cotton

Layers are key, as the goal is to stay warm of course but also to avoid getting too sweaty. Your base layer needs to be either wool or synthetic, definitely NOT cotton, which takes a long time to dry out and does not wick perspiration away from your skin. This goes for your socks too. Wool socks are perfect for winter hiking.

Don’t forget a hat & gloves, plus a spare for both

You absolutely need both a hat and a pair of gloves. Plus a face mask or gator to keep the delicate skin on your face from any extremes in temp. If you can bring a spare cap & gloves tucked in your pack, you’ll be thankful if yours get wet or lost.

Sunscreen and Sunglasses too

The sun’s glare can still burn you, no matter the temps, and make it tough to see. Sunglasses can help block some wind too if that kicks in.

Remember the shorter winter hours

It will get darker sooner, and you don’t want to be out there navigating after the sun goes down. Most of these hikes are short, but bringing along a headlamp is recommended to be on the safe side.

Keep anything with batteries, like your phone, near your body heat.

Batteries die much more quickly when they are cold. Keep your phone, your headlamp and even your snacks and your water bottle near the warmth of your body to prevent freezing. And bring extra batteries.

More from REI on winter hiking safety here, and the TEN ESSENTIALS they reco you bring to be on the safe side.

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This article was written by one of the many QC women who contribute to our website. They are out and about and around Charlotte digging up the latest & best scoop 🙂

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