Fontana to Hot Springs for Christmas

9:43 p.m. on July 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I am planning on hiking from Fontana Dam to Hot Springs, NC during my Christmas vacation. I will start on the 17th and should be done by Christmas Eve. That means that I will have to do 16 miles per day, not a problem. A friend and his wife also want to come along, however, neither of them are true backpackers. His wife has never even seen the mountains. What can I can to help them to get ready for this trip? Also, if anyone has any advice, knowledge is power.

10:58 a.m. on July 6, 2012 (EDT)
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 Welcome to Trailspace! 

Based on what you have stated I would be highly dubious about the possibility of someone who has never backpacked in the mountains being able to complete that trek in that time frame. I've done all of the AT that you are describing and 16 miles per day is ambitious to the point of not being fun for most people given that terrain.

They have some time to get ready as far as cardiovascular training etc…I would suggest starting with 30 minutes per day (every day) of intense cardio (not able to easily talk while exercising) and incrementing the duration by 10 percent every two weeks.

Aside from physical condition you have all the gear considerations and cold weather factors: the Trailspace search engine will be most useful I think. Start by searching for the ten essentials, then perhaps cold weather camping. (Others may chime in with some good links, I’m in a hurry right now)

The Smokies could potentially have several feet of snow in December in which case 16 miles per day is highly unlikely even for those in the best of shape and best equipped.

I don’t know your experience level of course but personally this would not be the trip to take a newbie on for me. But it is an awesome route! You’ll get to some of the best of the AT like Spence Field, Rocky Top, Charlies Bunion, The Sawteeth, and MaxPatch. If you haven’t done it before be aware that the Smokies are more rugged than most realize or plan for.


12:30 p.m. on July 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi Flamingo.  Welcome to Trailspace!

Anything is possible, but not all things are enjoyable!  If your guests followed an ambitious training schedule, the trip you describe would be possible. As far as training, cardio and strength training are important, but the best way to prepare for backpacking is by backpacking.  Starting with a lot of day hikes, working up to some weekend trips of similar mileage.  Of course, they would need to outfit themselves too. I think the central question here is how much fun you and your guests are likely to have.  There's no shame in hiking fewer miles (at least for me!), and this section has a lot of lovely places to camp, even between shelters.

9:54 p.m. on July 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks guys for the info. I think I might take them up to Shenandoah around the end of October instead. I know there are a bunch of good hikes up there. Old Rag, Camp Hoover, and then there is one that goes by three waterfalls. Can't remember the name of the last one but it is very nice. The colors will be in blaze at that time as well.

June 18, 2018
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