Winter is one of my favorite times to stay at Owl’s Hoot Chalet or Hideaway on the Creek ( in Townsend for several reasons:

  • The Peaceful Side of the Smokies gets even more peaceful with fewer tourists and traffic.
  • The winter landscape offers stunning views through leafless trees and opportunities for snowy mountaintops.
  • You can explore area museums and shops without the spring, summer, and fall crowds.
  • Because Owl’s Hoot Chalet and Hideaway on the Creek are located just off Hwy 321 via a level road and driveway, you can easily get to the chalet, even in inclement weather.
  • And best of all, you can warm yourself by a tranquil fire with a toasty cup of hot chocolate.

Here are my top five ideas for things to do to enjoy a fun, relaxing, wintry Smoky Mountain getaway.

5. Take a hike or nature walk

Winter in the Smokies

There’s more to see during winter, when the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along trails and reveals stone walls, chimneys, foundations, old homesteads, and other treats to explore. With more than 800 miles of trails, the options are virtually limitless. One of the best hikes my husband Rob and I experienced was Abram’s Falls on a weekday in January. We had the trail and the falls to ourselves! Not sure if you can withstand the cold for a long hike? Check out one of the many shorter, easier nature walks, perhaps near Tremont in Townsend. Look for the many hiking books and other area resource books in our cabins to help you plan.

4. Drive through the Foothills Parkway

See natural beauty in its winter cloak of fog or snow. Don’t forget your camera! While the road to Cades Cove is closed for tunnel repair in January and February, be sure to check out the now-open “missing link” between Walland and Wears Valley. With the leaves down, on a clear day you can see all of Townsend; and if you’re not directionally challenged like me, you can even figure out where Hideaway on the Creek and Owl’s Hoot Chalet are. Hint: look for the red roofs of the Visitors Center and then look to the right!  

3. Explore the history of Townsend and Cades Cove

Start at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, where you’ll discover the cultural heritage of East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains region. The interactive museum features gallery exhibits, educational programs, and demonstrations of the diverse cultures of Townsend and Tuckaleechee Cove. Next, stop by The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend. Note that in December through March, the museum is open by appointment only, but the grounds and outdoor exhibits are always available. Finally, venture into Maryville to The Cades Cove Museum at the Thompson-Brown House. On a personal note, one of my first jobs was a clerical job at the Smoky Mountains Visitors Center, when it was housed in the Thompson-Brown House. On another personal note: my stepdad Chick Hendren was one of the founders of the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum, as well as its first honorary conductor.

2. Shop in Townsend’s unique stores and art galleries

When the weather outside is frightful, the fearless go shopping! Check out Townsend’s Little River Outfitters (; Apple Valley Mountain Village (; Wood ‘n Strings Dulcimer Shop (; The Chocolate Bar (; Tennessee Sally’s Handmade Arts, Crafts, and Gifts (; Dogwood Mall (; and Townsend Artisan Gallery ( Do check online for occasional seasonal closings. With so many options right in Townsend, why bother going to Pigeon Forge?

1.Curl up by the fire with a good book

Winter is one of my favorite seasons at Owl’s Hoot Chalet and Hideaway on the Creek ( because I don’t have to leave the comfort of the couch if I don’t want to. We provide firewood so you can enjoy a warm, cozy day indoors reading one of the hundreds of books and magazines that are available. Take a virtual tour of the Smokies by reading some of the many resource books on Smoky Mountain hiking, wildflowers, history, birds, and local folklore. Kids can stay entertained with the many games, puzzles, kids’ books, and DVDs.

Tips: Do plan ahead for meals! Some restaurants close during part of the winter season. If your favorite place is closed, you might want to venture a little farther: Try Hillbilly’s Pancake House in Wear’s Valley for breakfast, or one of the many Maryville restaurants for lunch and dinner: (Sullivan’s and Aubrey’s are among our local favorites). Another tip: read to the end to find our winter special!

What are your favorite winter memories in the Smokies? Give us your ideas in the comments below!

For help with planning your winter vacation, see the following resources:

Cades Cove:


Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center:

The Cades Cove Museum at the Thompson-Brown House:

Smokies Cabins:  – Mention this blog post for 15% off our already discounted off-season rates!

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