Great Smoky Mountains National Park

11:49 a.m. on March 1, 2011 (EST)
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My friends have graciously elected me the planner of the trip...lucky me.

I am seeking advice of some more experienced trip planners, especially those who have packed through the smokies, whether on the AT or just the park.

My first question, of many to come, is about the campsites. I am noticing that they have reserveable, and non-reserveable campsites. This makes me raise an eyebrow, and ask why. So I come to my Trailspace buddies for answers. This also makes me wonder about the quality of these non-reserveable campsites. Is there water and toilets available at these sites, etc. Their website did not give details that I saw.

My second question is about water availablity. Is this a situation where my water pump will be getting a workout, or is there potable water regularly spaced throughout the park.

As always, thanks!

7:54 p.m. on March 1, 2011 (EST)
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Lat- The rule at GSMNP is you have to call one month in advace for a backcountry permit and make a reservation for all campsites or shelters and "most" backcountry campsites.  The shelters along the AT are the exception to thruhikers only.That is self registration before entering the GSMNP. To be considered a thruhiker its hiking 50 miles prior to GSMNP and 50 miles after GSNMP. That was the deal made by congress for the AT. But you still have to have a permit period or big ticket..As for water sources that I can give you are the one's along the AT at GSMNP. But I would recomending calling GSMNP and talk to a ranger.You have to call them to make a reservation anyway. The website doesn't list much.. But if you are on the AT at a Shelter Yes your water pump is going to get a workout...

8:17 p.m. on March 1, 2011 (EST)
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We are not doing the AT. I am plotting a path of my own, to suit what our group wants to see or do, and we're going from there. The path I was looking at uses mostly the non-reservation campsites.

I checked on the trail map they have on their website, and it says to treat all water found in the park, so I am just going to have to take their word for it and pump away.

8:32 p.m. on March 1, 2011 (EST)
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Lat -better to plot your own course alot of fun that way. But you have to get permits and they could answer more of your question about Toilets ect ect. water is by stream. creek and a contained water collection device. You might want to ask about Bear conditions and whats required for that as well. Have a great trip you and your party....

5:20 p.m. on March 6, 2011 (EST)
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We are not doing the AT. I am plotting a path of my own, to suit what our group wants to see or do, and we're going from there. The path I was looking at uses mostly the non-reservation campsites.

I checked on the trail map they have on their website, and it says to treat all water found in the park, so I am just going to have to take their word for it and pump away.

 

Filter all water here and do not drink water if it is unfiltered.  I had 2 friends end up w/ ghardia (sp?) simply from biting their nails.

Non-reservation is first come first serve I believe, and if you exceed the max allowed you can be ticketed (I believe) so always make sure that you have a few backup plans.


If you are looking for some good trails send me a PM, I've hiked down there plenty of times and am pretty familiar with many of the trails!

 

~jim

11:26 p.m. on March 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Jim,

 

I am planning to go to GSM this spring and am looking for some tips and suggestions!  Can you help?

 

Bob

1:44 p.m. on March 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Jim,

I dont think there is a PM option. What trails do you suggest?

4:36 p.m. on April 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Mt Leconte!  My favorite is to setup a shuttle, hike UP via Rainbow Falls and DOWN via Alum Cave.  This can be done as a day hike or overnight staying at the shelters.  At the summit is the lodge as well but reservations are long filled for this year.  You can however get a lunch there by reservation.

 

Another favorite is Chimney Rocks which ends with a scramble up a steep rocky outcrop.  Not for the faint of heart but no technical gear required either.  You just crawl right up!

 

I'm headed up next Thursday myself and looking forward to exploring the Catalooche section in depth.

12:55 a.m. on April 10, 2011 (EDT)
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Where can I acquire maps of the park? They have a trial map that they provide, which is nice, but I am also interested in a topo map.

10:51 a.m. on April 10, 2011 (EDT)
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There are numerous sources of topographic maps, some can be acquired online, (downloaded & saved to file, or printed) and some can be ordered and sent to you by mail. The USGS website map store offers both digital map scan downloads & full size printed paper 7.5 minute topographic quads mailed to you.

You can also buy software for your computer such as Nat Geo Topo! that includes topo maps for various regions, you can pick the area you want and print them out.

Here is a link to a site I ran across the other day:

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/nphtml/gsmhome.html#grid

At the top, click on 'Topographic Quadrangle Maps' then click on the section of GSMNP you need a map of. Their are several download options.

 

 

11:22 p.m. on May 22, 2011 (EDT)
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As a kid I loved to stay at Balsam Mountain Campground. I went with my aunt and grandmother.  It was primitive back then no electric anywhere even at the ranger's station, no hot water in the showers, but I loved it. My aunt had one of those old canvas tents with the aluminum frame on the outside and a white gas coleman stove.

Balsam is at 5300 feet and is really nice and cool in the summer. I remember that there were some trails to hike on and there were bears.  Didn't get to see a bear but my cousin did when he went camping with his grandmother and grandfather.

10:35 a.m. on June 2, 2011 (EDT)
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I just came from a backpacking trip at the Smoky Mountains from may 5th to the 15th.  The campsites there are very well kept, they have wires to hang your foods and whatever else you want to keep away from the bears and other hungry/nosy animals.  There are no bathrooms at the campsites, all the ones I stayed at were primitive sites so make sure you bring all your toiletries and do your duties away from water sources. There are plenty of streams all through the hiking trails, and all the sites I stayed at had an accessible water source, I never spent over two hours without crossing some sort of stream so as long as you bring a good filter and other water purification methods you will be fine. 
If you haven't hiked through mountains before  beware that most of the time you will either be going up or down a slope, here in Florida I can hike 12 miles without a problem, at the Smokys 6 miles with my backpack climbing up the mountain left me with sore legs all night, plan accordingly!
Like everyone said, the best thing to do to plan your stay is to call the ranger and ask what sites are available, make sure you have a map in front of you, I did that and the lady on the phone was super helpful, when I got there I went to the ranger at Sugarlands and they printed out my permit.

By the way, at the end of the trip plan to have a swim at the Midnight Hole, it's near the Big Creek campgrounds, marvelous place you will love it!  Great way to end an adventure for me and my companions.  Let us know how your trip went!

6:22 p.m. on June 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Check these folks out for seemingly great info (http://www.awalkinthewoods.com/pages/wd_whatoffer.htm). According to their site they specialize in the smokies. I am not endorsing them at all but I am considering using them for a shuttle from New Found Gap in the smokies to Knoxville at the conclusion of an upcoming AT section hike...good luck and please post any beta once you return!

Vr

BlackPacker

12:08 p.m. on July 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I have looked at their site a few times. They will do trip planning for you for a small per person fee. I was considering using this service and letting them sweat out the details. 

If I do use them I will be sure to report back. 

1:02 p.m. on July 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Latitude918,

 

I've hiked most of the trails in the Smokies (I go almost every weekend as work permits). If you need any specific answers let me know.

 

Check out my last 5 trip reports in the Trip Reports Forum section if you want a sneak peek...

 

Patrick

October 22, 2014
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