While seeking out beautiful fall color and sipping hot apple cider by a bonfire may be the only thing on your mind right now, we guarantee that after the last leaf falls you’ll be kicking yourself for not already planning your winter holiday getaway. It is never too early to start making holiday travel plans and trust me, the earlier you plan, the better. That favorite little cabin you booked last year may already be taken if you wait too long, so consider this your official “nudge” from your friends here in Haywood County.
We know better than anyone that the towns of Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, Canton, and Clyde are all popular spots to spend the holidays for many reasons. We will share just a few of those but invite you to come and explore a few more of those reasons firsthand. Haywood County offers an abundance of year-round adventures, making it the perfect spot to stay and play this holiday season. We also offer tons of cozy accommodations so whether you are traveling with the extended family in tow or just a romantic holiday escape for the two of you, we have a place for you. Start planning now by either downloading a visitor guide or we will send you one for free!
Ski, Snowboard, and Snow Tube at Catalooochee Ski Area
Typically open by November 1st or before, Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley aims to offer the longest running ski season each year. Located at around 5,000 feet in elevation, the ski area offers a variety of slopes and trails perfect for novices, veterans and everyone in between. Because of it’s variety of snow sport opportunities, Cataloochee Ski Area is a popular getaway for friends and families to enjoy the fresh air and breathtaking views of the NC Smokies in the wintertime.
With 18 slopes and trails, Cataloochee Ski Area offers mountains of fun for everyone. Beginners can get a feel for things on a couple of smooth, gentle slopes (classes and private lessons are also available). The more adventurous and skilled ones can head up to 5,400 feet and take on the Upper “Omigosh” trail or check out the ramps, rails and boxes at the Cat Cage Terrain Park. After a day on the slopes, relax in the lodge and enjoy a tasty bite to eat, a warm beverage, or even a frosty brew. Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, the surrounding views are magical and make for the perfect holiday backdrop.
For those who aren’t quiet ready to take on the slopes buckled into a pair of skis or a snowboard, head down the mountain to enjoy an easier, yet exciting form of snow fun. Tube World offers snow tubing and is a great activity that the entire family can enjoy together.
To plan your visit and check out the latest ski report, head over to cataloochee.com. Got kids? Here’s a tip on getting the the most bang for you buck – Check out kidsskifree.com for a great promotional offer.
Choose and Cut the perfect Christmas Tree
There is nothing quite like the beauty and fresh scent of a real Christmas tree in the middle of your living room. Sure, you could pull the old boxed tree out of the closet or pick up a pre-cut tree at the local tree lot, but there is no holiday tradition quite like the quest for the perfect “choose n’ cut” Christmas tree.
Every year, families from all over trek to Haywood County to find the grandest tree of all and when you spend a holiday getaway in the NC Smokies, you can experience that same tradition. The fertile soil of Haywood County is home to five Christmas tree farms specializing in North Carolina Fraser Firs. You can also stock up on a variety of fresh decor like garland and wreaths to decorate your home with. If you’re short on time, several of the farms offer a selection of pre-cut trees but they never skimp on tradition. Many of them offer hot cider and other seasonal treats to make sure you take away plenty of memories with your beautiful tree.
Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm
446 Boyd Farm Rd., Waynesville NC 28785
828-926-888 or www.boydmountainchristmastreefarm.com
Dutch Cove Christmas Tree Farm
280 Setzer Dr., Canton NC 28716
Mehaffey Tree Farm
24 Corner Dr., Waynesville NC 28786
828-926-1324 or mehaffeytreefarm.com
Nesbitt Christmas Tree Farm
333 Sunset Ridge Rd., Clyde NC 28721
WNC Christmas Trees
2436 Jonathan Creek Rd, Waynesville NC 29785
828-926-3224 or wnclandscaping.com
Photo – Ken Czarnomski
Experience the Joys of Winter Hiking
If you think hiking is only a warm-weather hobby, you are missing out on a grand adventure! Hiking in the winter offers a unique experience that you don’t get to enjoy when the leaves are on the trees. It’s a great way to spend some extra time during your holiday vacation, especially when you are rolling in guilt after that third helping of mashed potatoes and gravy!
For starters, while the NC Smokies do receive an average amount of winter weather, the majority of the days are not blanketed with snow, leaving hiking trails wide open for exploration. With the leaves off of the trees, the long range views are remarkable and perfect for beautiful photo opportunities. You won’t have bugs to swat at and favorite hiking areas are much less crowded, giving you the peaceful serenity all hikers seek.
Winter hiking does require a little more planning and preparation like dressing in warm layers, keeping an eye on the weather, making sure certain trails are open, and starting earlier in the day to avoid hiking out in the dark. But with the right information and gear, we know winter hiking will become a new holiday tradition for you and your family.
There are several trails that still remain accessible even when the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park close due to inclement weather. Two trails we highly suggest are the Purchase Knob Trail and the Sam’s Summit Loop Trail. Free, illustrated hiking guides are available at the Haywood County Visitor Center at 1110 Soco Rd. in Maggie Valley, so stop by and pick up these guides to start your winter hiking adventure!