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  1. #1
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    Default Foothills Trail in Early December?

    Anyone in the Southeast Appalachians area:

    I'm thinking of doing the Foothills Trail sometime in the next year, but my wanderlust is kicking in and I'm really thinking of doing it over my winter break (mid-December). I'm a little nervous about going in such cold temperatures, so I had some questions.

    1.) Has anyone actually done this trail in the winter? I've heard its really water-logged, is it icy/dangerous? Is the trail high and cold or mainly low and in the forest?

    2.) For anyone in the region, how cold does it get in this area? I guess comparable areas are anywhere in NC and TN, VA, GA...idk, any advice you have

    3.) Whats the most essential gear for me to winterize? Obviously a warm sleeping bag, gloves, hat, down jackets and the lot, but does anyone have any tips for staying warm? I'm not a fan of the cold... but I'll do it for nature.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by little_champ View Post
    Anyone in the Southeast Appalachians area:

    I'm thinking of doing the Foothills Trail sometime in the next year, but my wanderlust is kicking in and I'm really thinking of doing it over my winter break (mid-December). I'm a little nervous about going in such cold temperatures, so I had some questions.

    1.) Has anyone actually done this trail in the winter? I've heard its really water-logged, is it icy/dangerous? Is the trail high and cold or mainly low and in the forest?

    2.) For anyone in the region, how cold does it get in this area? I guess comparable areas are anywhere in NC and TN, VA, GA...idk, any advice you have

    3.) Whats the most essential gear for me to winterize? Obviously a warm sleeping bag, gloves, hat, down jackets and the lot, but does anyone have any tips for staying warm? I'm not a fan of the cold... but I'll do it for nature.
    One late Jan my wanderlust was kicking in too. Heck going all the way to FL as if the Florida Trail is the only possible trail to winter hike in the southeast to mid south is nonsense so I eliminated it for something closer to home. My sis lives in Greenville/Greer SC so she shuttled me to the TH. I was in need of restoring my sanity from too much civilization. This was my second Foothills Tr thru. I had done one previous in spring when the Oconee Bells( a white flowering plant, somewhat rare) were in bloom. I have since done a third Foothills Tr thru in fall. Fall is my preferred time.

    I forget my exact early-mid Feb start date but I went east to west/southwest. I actually started in Mountain Bridge Wilderness at the Falls Crk Falls TH with 14+ inches of wet newly fallen snow at the TH to extend the Foothills Tr hike and "see what I could see." My sis thought I was crazy. By the third day there was no more snow anywhere and day time highs were a hiking reasonable 45-60* but still cold at night. This is typical in this area of SC where snow doesn't linger long. This is not like the higher elevations of the AT or some areas of NC. Underfoot ice can linger though. Especially being careful around iced up waterfalls and trail construction(wooden steps), wet leaves on grades, is essential when ice exists. If you're ready for some camping in freezing weather favorable weather windows of thru-hike duration on this sub 100 mile trail can be had in nearly any month. On one mid Nov hike that included much of the Foothills Tr but was not one of the the thrus experienced I would say the weather was ideal for hiking. 40-65* day time highs, 25*to 5o* nights.

    I cowboy/bivy camped all of but one night using a 15* Marmot Helium and Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight WR bivy. On the first night, according to my watch thermometer, it got down to 6*. It was a fitful night's sleep. I went through Jones Gap SP and Ceasar's Head SP on my way to the Foothills Tr proper.

    It is not a ridge line trail with exposure.

    The trail is wet in the sense 1) it has many waterfalls, some quite magnificent, to take in which IMO are best viewed during leaf off, this is also why I prefer mid fall for the greater views 2) portions of it go through a temperate rainforest but most of the rain will not be falling as rain in Dec

    You'll have the trail to yourself as one doing a thru in mid Dec. You'll see a few folks near Table Rock SP or Caesars Head SP if you use that alternate Foothills Tr TH starting terminus.

    Bring your hat/balaclava, gloves, warm socks, Goosefeet Down Booties, something warm to drink in camp, and some chemical heat packs for hand and feet. Don't cowboy like I do. Take your tent.

    With some prep and favorable weather window great hike for early Dec.


    Enjoy the waterfalls and river crossings on bridges.

  3. #3
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    I have backpacked it in the winter (not December). There's a decent chance you will have lovely 50 and 60 degree temperatures during the days and sub 30 degree temperatures at night. There's also a decent chance you'll have 30 and 40 degree day temps and 10 to 20 degree night temps. P
    Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
    Bring any winter clothing that will keep you alove. Bring an appropriate sleeping bag and shelter. Don't take chances. Stay dry. I even brought a pair of those ice cleats that you fit over your boots. They are cheap and light and I strapped them to the outside of my pack. I did not need them.
    There is indeed a lot of water but I cannot think of anything that will be dangerous during "normal" SC weather. Of course if some frozen precipitation comes then all bets are off. Keep an eye on the forecast as your hike date approaches.
    None of this is meant to scare you from doing the hike. I would say the chances are that you'll experience a great hike. Just be ready if the weather goes bad.

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    I thru hiked the Foothills Trail in early February 2015. The days were on the cool side (I think in the 40s) and nights were quite cold. The last night was easily the coldest I have ever spent outdoors and probably in the mid teens based on the weather info I looked up after the hike. I was hiking around 20 miles per day and using up all available daylight. In December you would have even less daylight so that is a factor to consider. I met only a couple of backpackers and a few day hikers (mostly near Table Rock SP) over the entire thru hike so you'll probably have the trail to yourself. The Foothills Trail is a great trail ... I intend to get back down there at some point and start at Caesars Head State Park.

    Like Dogwood I had a Marmot 15F for my sleeping bag and I was pretty cold. I now have a zPacks 10F quilt that I would take if I thru hike the Foothills Trail again in winter.

  5. #5
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    I've hiked the Foothills Trail (in summer and fall and spring) and grew up nearby in the "upstate" of South Carolina.

    Mid-December weather can be just about anything, with the exception of snow. Very little chance of snow then. More likely to have shorts and t-shirts weather for day time and chilly at night. The highest mountain in SC is just over 3,000 feet, so you won't really be at high elevations, which could otherwise affect temps dramatically.

    Main thing is pay close attention to forecast for the days you wish to hike.

    It's a fantastic gem of a trail. Not all that easy, either.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

    www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker

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  6. #6
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    I planned to go last Dec but got pushed back till April.....I prefer the cooler weather...sounds like a great time to me....


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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