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Smoky Mountain Backcountry Trip Help

6:43 p.m. on March 13, 2010 (EST)
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Hello everyone, new to the site and happy to be here! Wish I had heard about it before!!

I have been backpacking for about 8 years now, and have been to the Smoky Mountains 3 times... each time I have pretty much done the same thing, Forney Creek to Clingmans Dome, and then different ways down.

I am looking for something a bit more different this year. My friend and I leave in about a month so there is plenty of time to take in suggestions and plan our trip!

What we are looking for is a 6 day trip anywhere from 40 - 60 miles. We will be arriving in the Smoky's around April 19th...

We would love to include as many waterfalls as possible, and we love fording through water. Being that it is spring, it would be pretty cool to see blooming flowers and the such. We are not to interested in summits, although getting high with some openings is always welcome (Silers Bald, Derrick Knob were pretty darn cool).

If anyone has any suggestions for trails that includes these ideas I would really really appreciate it!


Thanks,


Jim

6:50 p.m. on March 13, 2010 (EST)
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just realized i should have put this in trip planning!!


Sorry, if a MOD could move it over I would appreciate it!


~Jim

7:45 p.m. on March 14, 2010 (EDT)
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If you like fording streams, a good loop would involve Eagle Creek (15 crossings) and Hazel Creek (13 crossings, I believe). A possible route would include going over Thunderhead. The down side is that in a month the place will be crawling with through hikers, so the shelters will be crowded. If you want to use a shelter, make reservations well in advance (30 days max). You could probably work out an itinerary that doesn't use the shelters if you drop down on side trails to other camp sites. With 6 days that is should be easy to do.

I don't think you will see much in the way of waterfalls on this route, but it fits most of your criteria.

8:03 p.m. on March 14, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome jbellon80!

Chumango,

It's been a while since I've been in the GSMNP, do you happen to know if they still issue the cross country permits?

10:35 p.m. on March 14, 2010 (EDT)
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By cross country, do you mean traveling off trail? If so, I am not aware of the need for such a permit for hiking, I have never bothered with them. But I have heard of them for camping off trail when not at a designated camp site. From what I have heard, they are rarely given, and you basically have to be part of some official work of some kind to get approval to camp outside of designated spots. You can stealth camp and risk a hefty fine, but there are a lot of areas where the chance of being discovered is essentially nil.

11:09 p.m. on March 14, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes Chumango, off trail.

As best I remember, they used to offer a cross country permit that allowed you to camp outside of designated camping sites.

The back-country permit allowed you to camp in designated camping sites.

You had to apply for the cross country permit from a designated Ranger, I happened to know one as a friend of our family. Unless things have changed, you are quite correct on stealth camping, lot of square miles there, not enough Rangers.

In the past several years I've just backpacked in Cherokee NP, Pisgah, and others instead of GSMNP. Fond memories, but a lot of rules, fines, etc.

I follow the rules where I'm at, I just try to find a place that allows what I wish to do, you know.

10:54 p.m. on March 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Big Creek is about a 17 mile loop.

Gabes Mountain has a waterfall on it and connects to other trails for a longer multi-day trip.

Abrams falls also might be a thought.

It all depends if you want 6 straight days of hiking without any driving or if you might consider several shorter hikes. Have you considered a section hike of the A. T. in the Smoky's?

4:51 p.m. on March 16, 2010 (EDT)
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If you like fording streams, a good loop would involve Eagle Creek (15 crossings) and Hazel Creek (13 crossings, I believe). A possible route would include going over Thunderhead. The down side is that in a month the place will be crawling with through hikers, so the shelters will be crowded. If you want to use a shelter, make reservations well in advance (30 days max). You could probably work out an itinerary that doesn't use the shelters if you drop down on side trails to other camp sites. With 6 days that is should be easy to do.

I don't think you will see much in the way of waterfalls on this route, but it fits most of your criteria.

thanks for the info, going to check those out!! And we will most likely not use the shelters, those get rather annoying when there are a ton of people up there! I like it being quiet!!

4:53 p.m. on March 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Big Creek is about a 17 mile loop.

Gabes Mountain has a waterfall on it and connects to other trails for a longer multi-day trip.

Abrams falls also might be a thought.

It all depends if you want 6 straight days of hiking without any driving or if you might consider several shorter hikes. Have you considered a section hike of the A. T. in the Smoky's?


No, never did consider a section of the AT. I've always wanted to do the entire thing, I just dont have the time or the money to do it! And the AT wont really give us any river "hiking"


I wouldn't be against day hiking, I normally do that at Rocky Mountain NP, haven't even considered it for SMNP... although I think my buddy wants to backcountry (this will basically be his first big trip of more than 3 days).

5:55 p.m. on March 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Some time you'll have to do something different and go on the AT on the east side of the park. It stays up higher and has more views, plus it is in the spruce/fir forest. Just do it after the through hikers are thinned out.

Start at LeConte, then take the Boulevard to the AT. Follow the AT to Snake Den Ridge, and then out at Cosby Campground. That is a very nice section and worth doing. No stream crossings to speak of, but good views and a nice forest. I like it more than the western side.

There are a number of waterfalls you can get to in a day hike, you can find them on the park web site.

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm

If you do a loop involving Big Creek, you can hike past Mouse Creek Falls and the Midnight Hole (an excellent swimming hole with its own small waterfall, although it would be a tad cold in April). Go up Mt Sterling, around to Laurel Gap, then down to Big Creek. The Gunter Fork trail that drops down to Big Creek has 5 stream crossings, and it can be challenging if the water is running high. There is a sign at top and bottom (I have seen both, but I have not taken the trail) that say the trail is impassable if the water is high. So this route would involve some stream crossings, a peak, and a waterfall or two. But all the campsites involved require reservations, so make them ahead of time. At least none of these will have through hikers in a month. This would not take 6 days, so you could add to this or do another trip in another part of the park. An alternate plan might be needed if there has been a lot of rain.

5:36 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Chest Nut Br - Lower Cammerer Tr - Gabes Mtn - Old Settlers - Grapeyard
- Trillium Gap - Boulevard - AT and back to Big Creek


I had someone suggest this to me, any thoughts? It is kind of lengthy on the AT, but seems like it will incorporate some fun things!


Thoughts?

5:37 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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whoops, i was logged into my buddies account!!

April 17, 2014
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