Hiking the Appalachian Trail though the Smokey Mountains seems to be one of the biggest concerns for most hikers. There are only a few places where one can get off the trail at a road crossing on the AT. Those places include Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap. The road to Clingmans Dome is closed during the winter.
Heading north through the Smoky Mountains the shelters are spaced from start to end at the following distances from each other;
0.0 Fontana Dam
11.3 Mollies Ridge Shelter
2.5 Russell Field Shelter
2.9 Spence Field Shelter
6.3 Derrick Knob Shelter
5.5 Silers Bald Shelter
1.7 Double Springs Shelter
6.3 Mt Collins Shelter
At 2.5 miles north of Mt Collins you can hitch into Gatlinburg, TN and resupply
7.5 Icewater Spring Shelter
7.4 Pecks Corner Shelter
5.2 Tri-Corner Knob Shelter
7.7 Crosby Knob Shelter
7.1 Davenport Gap Shelter
As you can see the biggest mile is between Fontana Dam and Mollies Ridge Shelter. There is a campsite about halfway between the two. Other than that the mileages are very short between shelters.
Bears are a concern through the Smoky Mountains. Many of hikers have gone through and never seen a bear. There is away the story that is told about a bear that had grabbed another personís pack or food bag during the night. This does happen on a rare occasion and this is why it is highly recommend and mandatory that you hang you food bag at night. If you can hang you pack, do that also.
What do I do if I See a Bear?
Bears in the park are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat bear encounters with extreme caution and follow these guidelines:
If you see a bear remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.)-you're too close. Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don't run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.
If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting, try changing your direction. If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground. If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it. Act aggressively and try to intimidate the bear. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. Don't run and don't turn away from the bear. Don't leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.
Most injuries from black bear attacks are minor and result from a bear attempting to get at people's food. If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you're physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and slowly back away.
If the bear shows no interest in your food and you're physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available object--the bear may consider you as prey! Help protect others, report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears!
Snow and weather:
Snow is the other major concern. The snow in the Smoky Mountain changes from year to year. It depends on how bad the winter was and how warm it is leading up to when you start and sometime that has no relevance either. The Smoky Mountains are also known for freak unexpected snow storms for no reason at all. There is not good rule of thumb on how soon you can start without hitting snow. If youíre hiking into March and April or earlier you can expect to run into some snow. You should always bring your cold weather hiking gear at least into May.
Back country permits:
You are required to fill out a back country permit when hiker through the Smoky Mountains. The permits are easy to fill out and there is no charge. North bound thru hikers can do this at the Fontana Dam Visitors center. There is a box on the outside wall on the back side of the building. South bound thru hikers can get them in Hot Springs, NC when passing through at the Bluff Mountain Outfitters.
Section hikers are required to make reservations at the shelters. There are four spaces set aside in each shelter for thru hikers, once these are full then additional thru hikers are required to tent in the area of the shelter unless there is free space in the shelter. All hikers must hang their food bags on the bear cables at the shelters.
Authorized camping areas:
The only authorized places to camp in the Smokey Mountains on the Appalachian Trail are at the shelters. If the shelter is full then you can set up your tent at the shelter but only at the shelter.
No pets are allowed in the Smokey Mountains
. If you have a dog or a pet you need to make arrangements for kenneling before entering the Smoky Mountains.
At the time of this article (3/14/1212) there where three places that would work with hikers to kennel there pets and work on shuttling them.
Rippling Water Kennel
Will pickup and kennel your dog for up to one week.
Reservations and cavcination records required. Owners David and Peggy Roderick.
Loving Care Kennels
3779 Tinker Hollow Road, Pigeon Forge. TN. 37863
Will pick up your dog at Fontana Dam and return it to Davenport Gap. Will also deliver mail drops at time of pickup.
Call two days in advance.