(WJHL) – While sunny summer days offer plenty of outdoor opportunities, camping in the winter can be very rewarding for prepared adventurers. News Channel 11 has compiled a few of the region’s best camping spots if you’re open to a cozy night in an otherwise chilly environment.
Disclaimer: Winter camping can be challenging and dangerous for those inexperienced with the outdoors. Before beginning any camping trip, ensure you are prepared with equipment that fits the weather and share your plans with others.
1. Roan Mountain
Roan Mountain is one of the most scenic areas in the Tri-Cities and is a summer favorite for visitors from around the world. Its iconic balds bring a little slice of tundra to the Appalachias, and bold campers might try braving the high winds that scour them during the night.
If you’re not interested in the balds, you can pick one of the mountain’s shelters to bed down for the night. The Stan Murray Appalachian Trail Shelter will keep you off the ground, but the open face doesn’t do much against any wind. The Overmountain Shelter is an old barn and offers a little more protection from the elements.
Roan Mountain is the most challenging location on this list and is not for the inexperienced. Temperatures on Roan’s peaks plunge well below those found at lower altitudes and wind chill pulls relative temperatures down even further. Check the weather forecast before you venture out, and prepare for unexpected cold snaps.
2. Nolichucky Gorge
The sound of a roaring river is just as relaxing in the wintertime, and Nolichucky Gorge Campground has the perfect spot to take it in. Riverside campsites place you right next to the water of the Nolichucky River. Rustic cabins with heat are also available for a more comfortable stay.
3. Laurel Falls
This waterfall is nestled into Carter County, Tennessee, and is a good hike from the trailhead in Hampton. There’s not much space to sleep at the actual site of the falls, but there’s an excellent site next to Laurel Fork on the way and an AT shelter halfway to the falls.
4. Grayson Highlands
These mountains offer another set of balds to hike, and herds of wild ponies make regular appearances in the area. Parking at Massie Gap and hiking up to areas like Big Pinnacle and Mount Rogers will show you some amazing sights, but high-altitude temperatures mean you need to come prepared.
5. Beauty Spot
This site is just a bit of a hike from a parking lot on Rock Creek Road but offers a wonderful view of the area. If Beauty Spot Gap Road is open, you can drive straight to a gravel lot to the peak. Wind is high in this spot as well, so some hiking on the nearby AT to find a more sheltered spot might be a good idea.