5 Amazing Winter Hikes for Families Near Greenville

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Does your family love to go hiking? If you are looking for hiking near Greenville this winter, you’ve come to the right spot! Kidding Around contributor Jackie is telling readers where to go hiking around Greenville this winter and what to bring.

For even more hiking suggestions see our Full Guide to Hiking in Greenville.

Taking your kiddos on a hike in winter may seem like a crazy feat, but if the unpredictable upstate weather is in your favor it can be one of the best times to go. Cooler temperatures bring broader views, a change of scenery, less sweat, and fewer bugs. It makes hiking the tougher trails just a bit easier and also allows you to choose hikes that offer a view, rather than a water feature, as a payoff – something you wouldn’t opt for in the summer months. Get your camera ready and read on for a list of tips to help you and your little troops make the most of your adventure.

For important tips on recreating responsibly, please see this story on the seven Leave No Trace principles.

What to see

There may be an absence of lush greenery or fall color splendor you see in other seasons, but that doesn’t mean that hiking in winter is drab. In fact, you can expect to see things as you haven’t before. Fewer (or no) leaves on deciduous trees means that you can see through them for a view usually hidden. Expect to walk through a forest which feels much more open, and expect more lookout stops and panoramic mountain views, even from the valley trails. What you won’t see many of? Bugs. And snakes (usually).

Check out this beautiful photo taken from a forest trail in winter. You can see straight through the trees. This view is totally missed in warmer months.

Where to go for a winter hike in Greenville, SC

Choosing a hike is a fun task in winter. Since you won’t likely be playing in the water, you can choose trails which require more of a hike without the water attraction. For example, Raven Cliff Falls. Or choose a hike which is more strenuous than your usual picks. Top of Table Rock, anyone? Or maybe a dry mountaintop route usually shrouded in humidity. With cooler temperatures, it will be a more pleasant trek than at other times of year. Alternatively, you may want to revisit your favorite hikes and compare the changes. We enjoy a few of the same trails year-round at Paris Mountain and my kids have fun pointing out the seasonal changes as we go along our familiar route. “Look at all the bird nests way up high in the empty trees!”

What to bring on a winter hike

It can be tempting to take less water or provisions during a cooler hike, but this is not advised. Treat each hike with the caution and preparation it deserves, taking more than enough food and water, and never leaving behind your first-aid or emergency supplies. You may never use the amount of water you bring (I recently finished a day-hike with my kids and still had four liters of water on my back) but it is as they say: better to be safe than sorry. In addition to your regular provisions, be sure to pack chapstick, hand warmers, and an emergency blanket. A great winter staple to entice the littles to keep pushing on? Pack in a thermos of hot cocoa and they’ll surprise you with their determination. Or serve up the White Witch’s Hot Vanilla (from Chronicles of Narnia) in the crisp forest air. Recipes for Hot Vanilla can be found online or in The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook (uses a bit of cornstarch as a thickener and a dusting of nutmeg instead of cinnamon – my kids LOVE this recipe). Bonus: cook up some Turkish Delight and they’ll hike with you anywhere.

What to wear for a cool weather hike

Layers, layers, layers. Start with close-fitting thin base layers (tanks or tees), layer with long sleeves, then fleece, and finally a light or heavy jacket depending on the weather. Layers can be taken off or piled back on as needed during the hike. And they will need to be shed at certain points (uphill) and pulled on again (during a snack break). Layering makes it a breeze. Don’t forget hats, gloves, and wool socks for everyone. And speaking of breezes, when planning your hike pay close attention to the wind chill or “feels like” temperature of your destination. Plan for a colder hike than forecasted. That wind can make all the difference between a gorgeous hike and a miserable munchkin troop. We recently went to the top of Black Balsam Knob where the actual temperatures were in the upper twenties and the winds were gusting over 20mph. The hike was incredible! We experienced the thrill of clouds billowing through us and then lifting for blue skies, depositing a phenomenon called hard rime all over the trail. But we were FRIGID ourselves. My hair even had ice! Let’s just say, that was one of our prettiest and shortest hikes yet.

A note on Unpredictability

The SC winter weather can vary greatly from sunny and mild, to chilly, to downright cold (like our frosty hike). There have even been hikes this January where my boys have been shirtless with their feet in the creek under a 78-degree sky! Watch the forecast for a mild window.

Our favorite winter hikes near Greenville

Raven Cliff Falls

Great because you can see a whole lot further and you can’t play in the falls anyway. The waterfall is a long distance away from the overlook, you may want to bring binoculars.

Raven Cliff Falls at Caesars Head State Park
Raven Cliff Falls at Caesars Head

Paris Mountain

See a familiar trail in a whole new light. Compare the change in season. Enjoy seeing far through the trees.

Sulpher Springs Trail at Paris Mountain

Jones Gap

Either enjoy the easy trail along the Saluda or head up the strenuous trail to Rainbow Falls. It is much easier (yet still a challenge!) to climb the steps in cooler weather and still enjoy a lunch by the cascading falls. *Check the website for trail closures as ice and cold temperatures may cause seasonal closures.

Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap

Table Rock State Park

In winter, head up a more strenuous trail for an incredible view. The hike to the top of Table Rock is tough, but more do-able with cooler temps and the right provisions if you think your troops can manage. There is no water feature at the top, but the panoramic view is a huge pay-off. If the temps are below freezing though, I would not recommend going to the top since the steps to Governors Rock will be frozen over. Instead, hike the Carrick Creek loop.

Top of Table Rock in January

Hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The BRP is mostly closed during winter but you can actually walk those parts that are closed, which is really fun. Get a map and find intersections of the Parkway where you can park your car and then just walk the road. Or head to Pisgah Forest in Brevard, NC (near the BRP) and hike to Moore Cove Falls or on the Coontree Loop Trail.

Hiking the closed BRP

Blue Wall Preserve

Blue Wall Preserve is a beautiful, easy hike near Landrum, SC. It even passes by a pretty little waterfall. You’ll get a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Escarpment as it rises up above the ponds. Park in the lot and not on the street. The 2.7 mile trail is down and back with the option of taking a loop to view the waterfall around the backside of the second pond. This trail is free to use.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls in the winter are a whole other experience than other times of year because you can just see so much more around them. I love waterfalls any time of year really but I like being able to see the falls from a bit further away. Our big waterfall list can help you decide where to go.

What’s your favorite winter hike?

About the Author
Jackie Vest is a writer and at-home-mom of two energetic little boys. She enjoys adventuring around the beautiful Upstate, the hilarity of kiddo-raising, outdoor fitness with friends, and her Favorite 5 C’s: cooking, crafting, camping, coffee, and chocolate. You can connect with her via her blog at: JackieVest.com.

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