The Blue Ridge offers unique pleasures for hikers in winter. While many facilities are closed, the trails are uncrowded and well maintained, bathrooms are available, and Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway are much less traveled than in other seasons. With proper preparation, hiking or driving along the ridge can be a pleasant get-away or mini-vacation. This blog focuses on preparations you should make for winter hiking, based on my experience both here and in northern New England.
Sneads Farm Trail is a pleasant short hike suitable for families, with no challenging climbs. It is difficult to find as the trail head is a quarter mile up a gated access road, but it is worth seeking out. It takes you to the remains of the evocative Snead family homestead and from there along the east side of Dickey Ridge to where the rock crest descends to let the trail cross to end on the Dickey Ridge Trail, which takes you back to your starting point, all through the second-growth woodland. Be sure to keep a sharp eye out for birds, animals and, in season, wildflowers.
Compton Gap parking lot on Skyline Drive is the starting point for two short hikes and one long one. This article focuses on the short hikes. The Compton Peak walk starts with a mile climb up a gentle grade on the Appalachian Trail to a cross trail. Going right on this takes you to a lookout to the west. Going left takes you to a large rock formation on the east side. The other walk starts with a short stroll north on the Dickey Ridge Trail to a crossing path. Going left takes you to the Fort Windham Rocks, which has a nice view from the top of the rocks. Going right takes you to a small spring part way down the east side of the ridge.