3 days 2 nights on the AT in GA or NC/TN

12:34 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Am dropping of my teen-age son in Atlanta then the rest of us (me, wife, 8 yo son, 17 yo daughter and her 16 yo friend) are going to hike a little of the AT.

The plan is to get a hotel near where we want to start the AT and start in the morning.  We have enough time to spend 3 days 2 nights on the trail. What I need help with is finding a spot where we can either park at both ends, park at one end and get a shuttle back to our cars or a shuttle to and from both ends.

Areas around Gatlinburg TN would be a plus. My wife's 96 yo grandmother has been wanting to go to Gatlinburg.  She and the Mother-in-law could meet us there and shuttle us.  Info on very strenuous areas to avoid would be a help.  Actually any info at all is helpful.

8:02 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Most of the AT through the Smokies is strenuous but starting at Newfound Gap and going either direction would probably lend itself to the most conveniences (while being central to Gatlinburg). The biggest issue will be miles per day based on your time-frame. From Newfound to Cosby is very doable but means at least two long hiking days; one option is to leave a car in the hiker parking lot at Cosby Campground and then get shuttled to Newfound gap. Day 1 would take you North on the AT from Newfound Gap to Pecks Corner (this would be 10 miles), bring you by Charlie’s Bunion, and the saw tooth ridges which are both quite beautiful in good weather. On Day 2 you could either shoot for Tri-Corner knob (5.3 miles) or go farther for Cosby Knob (12.5). Stopping at Tri-Corner would leave 9 miles out on day 3 (via Snake Den Ridge trail), while stopping at Cosby Knob would leave 3.5 miles out via Low Gap trail.

Starting at Newfound Gap is the only way I can think of to access the AT in the GSMNP without a strenuous climb. If these miles are too much for you crew to have fun with you may want to consider an alternate type of trip: you could do a loop hike from the Cade Cove campground (leaving your car at either the campground or the paved motor loop entrance) up to Russell Field via Anthony Creek on Day 1 (5.1 miles with considerable elevation gain), Day 2 go north on the AT to Spence field (3 miles with fairly level ridge top hiking), try for Rocky Top (a pretty big climb but worth it), otherwise spend the balance of Day 2 checking out the North end of Spence field (wonderful views). Day three would be a 5.2 hike back via Bote Mountain / Anthony Creek.

There are many other options. Did you have a mileage limit in mind?

9:20 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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How about starting at Clingman's dome and heading North? Also I'm open to any area in GA or NC/TN it does not have to be near Gaitlinburg.  I do like the idea of getting to see Charlie's Bunion.

10:07 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Absolutely…you could start at Clingmans Dome parking area with another car at Newfound Gap: day 1 check out the Clingmans Area for a while before heading North on the AT to Mt Collins Shelter for the night (about 4 miles of relatively easy trail). Day 2 hike out to Charlie’s Bunion, and back track slightly to stay at Icewater Spring Shelter that night (making a roughly 8 mile day), Day 3 would be about 3.5 miles back out to Newfound (a nice stop over would be to go see the Jump-Off overlook ; the Jump-Off trail starts a short ways up the Boulevard trail).  

10:18 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Another really nice section you could do in that time frame is the AT through the Roan Highlands; Leave one car at Carver’s Gap and start the hike from 19E near the city of Roan Mountain. You could spend the first night at either Doll Flats or Bradley Gap, the second at Overmountain and finish with the spectacular views from the balds.

If interested in this section, I can e-mail you a PDF of the trail data and some phone numbers for local shuttles in that area.

7:48 a.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey guys...I've enjoyed all your suggestions for him.  I want to do the AT in that area as well.  I'm not sure I could do that many miles with all the elevation changes :(  But hey its a goal to work towards I guess...ha  Need to find some folks willing to go with me, my kids could never make that trip.  Ocalacomputerguy~whatever way you guys decided to go I hope you had a blast!

8:25 a.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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@ Patman I did the same for leadbetter? Sent him a PDf of my trail guide of all of Ga<NC and Tennesee and then sent him my maps I was no longer useing from an outfitter...Good call on the area because of the companions and he will like the views and easier to keep them occupied and enjoy..Not a Fan of Gatlinburg because it's touristy, Went the other direction to Cherokee NC. Liked it was smaller and camped to save some dough..

2:34 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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@blmaxcey Haven't gone yet. 

We are probably going to start at Clingman's Dome and hike to Charle's Bunion unless somebody comes up with something way better. 

I think it will be a good intro hike for everybody.  The touristy Gatlinburg will actually be a plus. 

Last year we took a big trip. Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Yosemite, back to Vegas, then home. Wonderful trip.  Everybody from my 8 year old son to the 96 year old Grandmother-in-law loved it. It had a nice mix of outdoors and touristy city stuff.

This year we are cutting back on the expenses. So we'll hike the AT and visit Gatlinburg.

@Patman Any maps of the area would be very much appreciated.

3:24 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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I just sent two maps to your gmail account. Feel free to ask any more questions you would like...


Happy Trails!



3:27 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Oh yeah,


There is also a regional road map from the parks website here:



I don't know if it's any good, you may be better off with mapquest or such for roads.

I'm headed out tonight for a four day excursion myself but will be back monday.... 

12:29 a.m. on July 16, 2011 (EDT)
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We've decided on the Clingman's Dome to Charles Bunion and I've got a couple of questions.

1. What's the parking like a Clingman's Dome an Newfound Gap?

2. Can you point me to a site with the rules for this section?

3. Do I need to worry about hanging my packs/food?

4. How's the water this year?

5. Anything else I should know?

Also, depending on how the crew likes hiking, what would be a good day hike?

1:30 a.m. on July 16, 2011 (EDT)
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ocala- Newfound gaps parking is good. Yes you have to HANG your food period if you camp. They have already had bear issue's this season.Also  you need to get your permits..here's if you plan on camping or useing any shelters over night..865 436-1231 or 865 436-1297. It's a big fine you wouldn't want and they were checking when I went thru..the backcountry reservation office are those numbers and they can answer all the questions. I would call early and keep trying..

12:03 p.m. on July 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Clingmans Dome parking can fill up at peak times (as Denis alluded Newfound gap parking lot is huge and has never been an issue for me). I’ve had to circle Clingmans parking lot before to get a spot on good weather days. Of course early or late arrivals will mitigate that issue. On those busy days that place gets a lot of visitors day hiking up to the observation tower; consequently the flow of folks in and out is good and patience will be rewarded.

Your two main sources will be the spring at Mt Collins shelter (two hundred yards beyond the shelter) and the spring at Icewater Spring shelter (location will be obvious). This is a well used route so I would definitely recommend filtering or treating the water to be safe. Ice water spring is reliable; I would ask the park to be sure about the Mt Collins source (though I’ve never seen it dry).

There aren’t any special rules other than the park rules that apply anywhere else. I would at least glance through the main park website stuff: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm

I’ll also reiterate what Denis said: you have to hang your food (or use a canister). In addition to hanging food, I’m always careful to remove any attractive smelling substances from any gear that I keep with me. For example, also hang your soap, toothpaste, sunscreen lotion etc…

If you can at all do your overnights on week nights, I highly recommend that. One of the downsides to hiking such an accessible and beautiful area is that everyone else wants to do it too. Weekends can get pretty crowded at times on the AT in the park.

I don’t know if the following is appropriate for your crew (disregard if not) but when I bring folks that aren’t used to hiking to the Smokies, I start with setting expectations and an appeal to controlling attitude: these mountains are quite rugged and even short trips can be physically taxing. While it actually is a walk in the park, it’s not really a “walk in the park”.

Also, depending on the crew in question, don’t plan on more than 1 to 1.5 miles per hour when mapping your days.

Be sure to bring rain gear even if there in so no cloud in sight (changes quickly).

As far as day hikes, you really can’t go wrong picking randomly but here are some suggestions:

The Little River trail from the Elkmont campground: easy wide trail that parallels the river for 2.4 miles.

Chimney Tops : A highly used very steep trail (2 miles of up), that leads to a great view and potentially scary rock peak. Kids usually love it.

Grotto Falls from the Roaring Fork Motor nature trail: a beautiful water fall, short hike.

A tough but fun day hike is Ramsey Cascades (8 miles round trip); up hill for 4 miles to the cascades.

Sorry for writing a book here but I hope you have a great time!


6:57 p.m. on July 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Excellent book Pat.  Thanks for the pointers. I was reading the rules and regs and you can't use tents at the shelters and was looking forward to using my new tents. 

I was looking at the Roan Mountain route and was toying with changing to that one.  Possibly making it a 4 day 3 night to make it easier, especially if I've got a bug-out point or two. 

Another option is an overnight somewhere else with a nice camping spot.

1:05 a.m. on July 22, 2011 (EDT)
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Ocala and crew,

Hope I'm not too late to contribute in time for your trip.  I took a crew of young folks up that way some years ago.  They seemed to really enjoy simply staying at the Elkmont tent-camping area (it's near Gatlinburg, you can use your new tents, got a fire-ring to tell stories around, and rough enough for the tenderer-foots among the crew).  You can day-trip from there to Charlie's Bunion (picture provided) and Clingman's on the AT, treck up (though a bit rugged for the 8 year old) to the "backpacker's hotel" on Mount LeConte (built in the 1930s, they'd see the Llamas there that they use to haul supplies) plus see Chimney Tops, all on that north side of the park.  Need reservations:  877-444-6777.  If you still need a back-country experience, you could arrange a good one with the help of one of the rangers at your Elkmont "base-camp."  Oh, and Grandma' might like the Roaring Forks Motor Trail that starts near Gatlinburg and would give her a fabulous view of the wilderness-effect.  Anyway, I'm starting to sound like an advertisement.  hope you all have a great time in that absolutely gorgeous part of the earth!

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