Photos by Marty Silver.
Outdoor enthusiasts willing to brave the colder climate for a trek through Warriors' Path State Park might be happily surprised by the opportunities presented in the winter months.
Warriors' Path, a 950-acre state park named for the Great Cherokee War and Trading Path and situated along the shores of the Patrick Henry Reservoir and Holston River in Kingsport, is open year-round, offering its visitors many of the same activities in the wintertime as in the warmer seasons.
Due to less human traffic in the winter, however, the diverse species of wildlife indigenous to East Tennessee are easier to spot in their natural habitats along the park's many trails.
“Of course, the park is a busy place year-round, but somewhat less so during the wintertime,” Warriors' Path park naturalist Marty Silver said. “That's why our park's wildlife populations are a bit less shy and skittish during the winter. This makes it a perfect time for 'critter' watching, including bird watching. We have miles of hiking trails that are open year-round, and the views are even better when the leaves are down.”
With winter comes snow and a new opportunity to witness nature at its finest.
“We've already had a few light snowfalls, and the snow reveals some fascinating stories,” Silver said with enthusiasm. “Some very bedraggled 'possum tracks - you could see how he was trying to shake the snow off his feet and dragging his cold damp tail in the snow. Tracks and scent around the Red Fox dens, showing us that the new 'young'uns' are growing quickly. We're also hearing some very vocal Great Horned Owls- winter is nesting season for these resident birds.”
Along with the sights and sounds of the park's woodlands and fields in the winter, Warriors' Path has sports activities and events available on their grounds for guests of all ages. Silver said the park's nationally-renowned mountain bike trail system is open to cyclists and hikers all year long, including in the winter.
The Boundless Playground - the only one of its like at any Tennessee State Park - is not only open but a little less busy on most winter days, Silver said, offering kids “of all ages and abilities” a full range of activities for fun and exercise.
Warriors' Path's golf course (also recognized nationwide) and disc golf course, both of which are open as winter weather permits, are not as busy either. This often results in a swifter game for players.
In addition, Silver explained, “a surprising number of campers brave the winter weather to enjoy our campground and, with the new online reservation system, it's easier than ever to get your favorite campsite.”
Warriors' Path hosts seasonal and educational events for the community at large, too. The park's yearly winter event, the Winter Garden Seminar - the 25th annual morning seminar just occurred on Jan. 25 - features a different guest speaker each year, focusing on a topic about gardening “with nature in mind.” Silver said past topics have included Butterfly Gardening, Gardening for the Birds, Growing & Propagating Native Ferns and Planning for Native Wildflowers.
The nature education program at Warriors' Path, including park field trips and school visits, extends to area schools throughout the region.
“We serve tens of thousands of school children each school year,” Silver said.
Warriors' Path offers bundled-up patrons a variety of out-of doors diversions in the winter season just as it does the other three seasons of the year, and no matter a person's activity of choice, they're sure to enjoy the experience whether snow or sun.
Silver said one of his favorite parts of winter at Warriors' Path State Park is “seeing families together braving the cold and wind to enjoy a brisk outdoor walk or a glimpse of park wildlife.”
Warriors' Path State Park is located at 490 Hemlock Road in Kingsport. It is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., every day. For more information, call 423-239-8531.