I am looking into the possibility of visiting these highpoints in the second week of December with my wife and 6 month old son. The weather conditions will most likely dictate whether each of the highpoints are accessible and I won't do anything that would put my wife or son in danger. I have a 4x4 SUV so minor snowfall shouldn't be a problem.
I would appreciate hearing from anyone that has tried to visit any of these highpoints in December. Are the roads to any of these highpoints closed on a specific date regardless of the amount of snow?
Any information or suggestions that you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Ky HP:Va 160 from Appalachia, Va to Cumberland Ky is plowed. I do not think the road is plowed over to the HP. Its about 1.5 miles from 160 to HP.
Va HP:If you want to come in from Elk Garden,Whitetop Rd (Va 600) is plowed. Its a pretty good road from exit 35 to US 58 though the state has one section that is being improved. This section is about 2 miles long, its outside Knonnarock, at the base of Iron Mt. Va 600 over Iron Mt is steep on both sides. I have driven this road in snow and never had trouble in my Passat.
If you want to come in from Grayson Highlands SP, Va 16 and 58 are plowed well and the state tries to keep the park open. This is on the south side of Mt Rogers.
If you hike up from Grindstone, Va 603 is also plowed well. Va 603 connects Va 16 and US 58, on the north side of Mt Rogers.
NC HP: Access will be the Blue Ridge Parkway, either out of Asheville or NC 80 (Buck Creek Gap) In bad weather the parkway from Asheville is gated. The NPS tries to keep the parkway plowed from NC 80 to the turn off to the state park. In years past when the parkway is closed from Buck Creek Gap, access was via South Toe Road; however this was washed out last year in the hurricanes and will not open until next year.
TN HP:Clingmans Done Road closes December 1. Its about 8 miles on the AT from Newfound Gap to the summit. Take 6 point crampons, you may need them. Also a headlamp and bivy supplies. Have fun.
1. TN HP- You mentioned that Clingman Dome Road is closed on December 1. Is the road closed regardless of the amount of snow? Also, you said that it is an 8 mile hike on the AT from Newfound Gap. How far would the hike in be from the gate at Clingmans Dome Road?
2. NC HP- If the parkway is gated from Ashville, what is the shortes hike in to the HP?
3. WV HP- Do you happen to have any information about the best winter access to the WV HP and/or how well the roads are maintained?
Thanks so much for you insight. It is greatly appreciated.
Several years ago I hiked up the AT and back by the road in March. The road is gated from November to April 1 no matter conditions. There was no snow then and probably a hundred people were walking up the road. It's about 8 miles one way by either the road or trail.
The BRParkway could be closed in either or both directions from the turnoff for the state park. Since parts of the parkway are cut into the ground & since there is often run-off, that run-off can run across the road and freeze. So even if that part of the state hasn't had snow, you might still encounter road closures. I certainly did in late Dec 2001. Good maps, showing small county roads are a big help in that situation.
I called GSMNP 3 times about the legality of biking up the paved road from Newfound Gap to the TN HP after the road is closed to cars. Once they said it was legal, once they weren't sure and once they said not legal. If it were snow & ice free, it would be much more doable on a bike (and a quick coast to get back) than hiking.
I've never been stopped from hiking in the Blacks in winter. The parkway is almost always closed on the Asheville side in winter, because of all the ice from water trickling over the tunnel entrances. The parkway from NC 80 has 3 tunnels? and is almost always plowed and gets sun from southern exposure. If it is closed, the shortest hike is Mt Mitchell trail from Black Mt CG to the summit, almost 6 miles one way. If there is 6" in the valley there will be a pile up high and you will need snowshoes. (I been in the valley and its partly cloudy no wind, up on the ridge there was 4-6", almost blizzard conditions.) The trail can be very icy up high, you may need 6 points.
I think in WVa the road up Spruce Knob is dirt and gated. I think its 9? miles to summit, but can be X-C skied.
You may be able to ski up Clingmans Dome Rd, but it also gets southern exposure. The bike is a good idea.
You can take a look at my website for trip reports and pictures of most of those highpoints in the winter. Also note that conditions vary widely from year to year and should be seen as a point of reference only.