Smoky Mountains Hiking Guide and Trail Suggestions
Smoky Mountains, also called the Great Smoky Mountains, are a mountain range in the southeastern United States. It rises along the Tennessee-North Carolina border and is a sub range of the Appalachian Mountains. The Great Smokies is renowned as the home to awe-inspiring landscape of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Locals and tourists seek Smoky mountains hiking for the fun of it and for the adventure it entails.
Smoky mountains hiking is an experience in itself and one of the best organized tours in the world. You’ll be treated to a scenic and majestic sight and you’ll witness the rich flora and the spectacular fauna in action. Aside from that, hiking is a great form of exercise so you are practically shooting two birds with one stone. It’s an experience every hiking enthusiast look forward to.
Smoky Mountains Hiking Guide: Trail Suggestions
Choosing which trail to hike for your Smoky mountains hiking trip can be a daunting task for hikers. To narrow down your options, ask yourself first about your priorities. Do you want endless views, waterfalls, or old-growth forests? How much time do you have for the trip? What is your hiking ability and the rest in your hiking group? Once these questions are answered, then you can decide which trail to hike.
The following are the most popular trail suggestions for your Smoky mountains hiking adventure.
1. Porters Creek
This is about 4 miles hike where you can get to stroll along streams, forests, and the spectacular Fern Branch Falls. If you try this Smoky mountains hiking trip when it’s spring, you’ll be treated to blossoming wildflowers and forest floors which are carpeted with violets, bloodroots, and hepaticas, among others. This hike is recommended for newbies to the hiking world.
2. Andrews Bald
This trail is an easy one to hike and is highly suggested for first time hikers. It’s 1.7 miles long and the total elevation gain for the roundtrip hike is 900 feet. It’s the perfect place for when you want to also enjoy a picnic while on your Smoky mountains hiking trip.
3. Charles Bunion
This is suggested for hikers whose hiking ability is moderate. Hikers will climb around 1640 feet during this Smoky mountains hiking trip. You’ll be treated to the stunning views of the Tennessee side of the Smokies.
4. Gregory Bald
Gregory Bald is suggested for the adventure seeking hikers who’ve been able to hike couple of times already and for seasoned hikers only. This is because Gregory Bald is going to be a strenuous hike. It’s famous for stunning views of azaleas from mid to late June. You’ll also be able to get a view of the Fontana Lake and Cades Cove as you climb around 3000 feet and trek 5.6 miles during this Smoky mountains hiking trip.
5. Rocky Top
Rocky Top is another strenuous hike for around 13 miles and more than 3600 feet in elevation gain. If possible, hike Rocky Top during the spring so that you can witness the beauty of Spence Field as it showcases the picturesque mountain laurel. You can expect the hillsides to be covered with soft pink and white flowers during this season. For this Smoky mountains hiking trip, you can also get a panoramic view of Cades Cove, Townsend, Maryville, and Fontana Lake.
6. Mt. Cammerer
If you’ve chosen this trail for your Smoky mountains hiking adventure, be sure to hike on a day when the skies are clear so you can get the most spectacular view from the Stone Fire Tower, which was built way back in the late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp. This is another strenuous hike where you’ll climb for 2.500 feet.
Aside from these six trails, other popular hikes to all hikers of varying abilities are the Alum Cave Bluffs, Rainbow Falls, and Chimney Tops. Whichever you choose to hike for your group, maximize your Smoky mountains hiking trip by taking the time to properly plan the hiking trip.
Smoky Mountains Hiking Guide: Safety Tips
As in every adventure, your safety must be prioritized above all. When you’re hiking, there is a chance for you to face thunderstorms, lightning, dangerous wildlife, surprise snowstorm, and other hazards. You have to pay close attention to your surrounding because of this. To help you get started, here are the top tips for a safe and fun Smoky mountains hiking adventure.
1. Inform your family or friends.
Before you go for your Smoky mountains hiking trip, be sure to leave your hiking itinerary to your family, friends, roommate, and neighbor, whoever you have in mind. Just make sure at least one or two persons know where you are, when you left, and when you are expected to return. If in case you don’t return by the time you should have been home already, have them call the Great Smoky Mountain Park office at (865) 436-1230.
2. NEVER hike alone.
Smoky mountains hiking is a feat, especially for beginners. But whether you are a beginner or a seasoned hiker, it’s best that you hike with a group. During group hiking, hike only as fast as the slowest hiker of the group. Do not hike too fast or too slow. Stay within your hiking party’s perimeter and if you’re hiking with children, be sure to keep your eyes on them at all times.
3. Hike early.
Start the Smoky mountains hiking trip as early as possible. By starting the hike early, you have enough time to explore, you don’t rush in the whole hiking experience, and you also have time to head back to early so you can finish the hike before the dark. Do not ever try to hike during the night.
4. Stay within the designated hiking trail.
Do not go anywhere where you aren’t supposed to go. Do not hike too quickly. Just stay within the pace of your hiking group during your Smoky mountains hiking trip.
5. Check the weather forecast.
Before you head out, check on the weather forecast. Know what the temperature for the day is going to be so you know which hiking gear to bring with you during your Smoky mountains hiking trip. Know if there’s a chance for lightning and if the weather prediction isn’t good, then postpone your hiking trip.
6. Do not rely on technology.
Most cellphone, no matter how they’re advanced, won’t work in the mountains. There are also times when GPS aren’t reliable so do not depend heavily on technology to save you. Rescue isn’t always certain when you’re in the backcountry areas so take accountability of your own safety during your Smoky mountains hiking trip. Carry a park trail map and be sure you know how to read it and bring a flashlight with you.
7. Do not pack too heavy.
Carry only the essentials in your backpack and that includes waterproof matches or any type of emergency fire starter, a small first aid kit, and a water bottle. You’ll never know what will happen during the Smoky mountains hiking trip so you better be prepared. Know what to do during emergencies and know which hospitals and clinics are nearest.
8. Bring a hiking stick or trekking pole.
These two make the Smoky mountains hiking trip a little easier on your legs by reducing the strain when you are hiking up or down
slopes. They help you become stable when hiking on wet or icy trails. Also, you can wear boots that will provide you with good ankle support. It is also advisable to use crampons or other kinds of traction devices for your boots when hiking during the winter months. When you are crossing a stream which is more than ankle-deep, wear your boots so your feet are protected and use your hiking stick or trekking pole to help you avoid slipping. Do not cross any rain-swollen stream at any point.
9. Never approached animals in the wild.
Though it may be tempting, you should never attempt to disturb the animals in the wild. Do not try to feed them. They’re in the wild because they can feed themselves. Around 1500 black bears live in the Smokies and as with any wild animal, their behavior can be unpredictable. Your hiking guide will brief you about the do’s and don’t’s if ever you encounter one during your hike. Also, there are poisonous snakes in the Smoky mountains. While they’re rare, you should still be careful about where you step on and what you touch with your hands. If you are going to your Smoky mountains hiking trip with children, make sure they understand this very well.
10. Keep yourself hydrated.
Water is the best liquid to consume during your Smoky mountains hiking adventure. Soda and alcohol will dehydrate you so don’t attempt to drink them. Save them for drinking at home. You can also consume snacks like power bars, fruit bars, bagels, and fruits so your energy level is maintained. Always carry sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap, and a pair of sunglasses so you can be protected from heat, especially if you’re hiking during the summer months.
Things to Pack for Smoky Mountains Hiking
There aren’t any convenience stores or gas stations inside the Smoky Mountains National Park which means that you have to carry every you need with you during the your Smoky mountains hiking trip. Some people have a tendency to over pack in an effort to not miss anything but over packing can be more of a disadvantage than an advantage for you. So to help you carry only the right items, we’ve complied the following list for you.
· First aid kit
· Hand-warming jackets
· High protein snacks
· Extra water
· Extra socks
· Multi-tool knife
· GPS or hiking map
When To Go For Smoky Mountains Hiking Adventure
Approximately 10 million people hike the Smoky mountains per year. Depending on your preferences in hiking (whether you prefer to hike in solitude or in busy trails), you can go for your Smoky mountains hiking adventure at different months of the year.
The most popular hiking season in the Smokies is during mid-summer to October. Go for your Smoky mountains hiking trip during these months of you’re looking to hike with more people around and if you don’t mind hiking in busy and crowded trails.
On the other hand, go for your Smoky mountains hiking adventure when it’s off-season so you can avoid the crowds and get a feel of the nature more.
Go On a Smoky Mountains Hiking Trip Now
Indeed, the Great Smoky Mountains is an experience in itself. Smoky mountains hiking is such a life-changing and unforgettable experience that you can share with your group of friends, family, or even colleagues at work. The deep forests, waterfalls, biodiversity, and sweeping views are worth all the effort you put in the climb.
Plan your Smoky mountains hiking trip now with your group and climb the Smokies before the year ends!
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