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  1. #1
    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    Default Best section for week long October hike

    My boyfriend and I are planning on heading out to the AT for a section hike in early/mid October. The question is...where to go! We'll be traveling via car from South-central Wisconsin. Here's our criteria:

    1. We're looking for somewhere around 75-100 miles/5-6 days. 15mpd sounds about right.

    2. I'm a wuss and I don't want to be cold on my vacation. So I'm ruling out the New England area for that reason. Plus it would be a longer drive than the Southern part.

    3. Some sort of varied terrain would be nice, not just hiking through the green tunnel. Obviously pretty vistas, etc, are good. I know the green tunnel can't be avoided, but we don't want to be entirely closed in the woods for the whole time.

    4. Solitude on the AT is probably a laugh, but less people is always better. We'll be hiking Sunday-Friday, so I'm hoping with it being during the week, that will help with wherever we are.


    I've never been on the AT, but I've read a zillion trail journals over the years to have some ideas. Right now my tentative idea is to drive to Damascus, VA, take a shuttle out to Atkins, and hike back to Damascus. That's about 75 miles and will include Grayson Highlands and ponies. I also thought about doing the whole Georgia section. Any other ideas or thoughts to sway me one way or the other? Definitely open to hearing about other sections too.

  2. #2
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    Grayson Highlands is great, but the superb scenery really exists for about 15 miles. A lot of the rest is green tunnel.

    If you want 75 miles or so of superb scenery in the southern Appalachians, you ought to consider either Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Fontana Dam to Daventport Gap) or the Roan Highlands (Erwin to Hampton, Tennessee).

    You ought to know that early to mid October can be exquisitely lovely in the southern Appalachians, with warm days and cool nights. But it's possible to have very cold temperatures, high winds, cold rain, and snow or ice. Those conditions are the exception, even at 6,000 feet, but not all that exceptional.

    I live in Georgia and love the Georgia section of the AT, in part because I love the forest and the green tunnel. Georgia is quintessential green tunnel with relatively few views. Early to mid October is prior to leaf season, although you'll be in on the beginning of things.

    The trail shouldn't be really crowded on weekdays in October.

  3. #3
    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    My issue with the Smokies is that we have no interest in staying at the shelters, nor do we want to be constricted to a certain number of miles per day between shelters. Otherwise that probably would have been on the list.

    How long is the "good" scenery through the Roan Highlands?

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    GSMNP 900 Miler HooKooDooKu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpottedCow View Post
    My issue with the Smokies is that we have no interest in staying at the shelters...
    There's a lot more to the Smokies that the AT. If you're looking for some variety, GSMNP can certainly provide it.
    BUT... you do have to reserve each camps site for a specific night... so you do have to do a certain number of planned miles each day.

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    Registered User tagg's Avatar
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    I did Shenandoah NP last October, and it was beautiful. It's about the mileage you're looking for and not too cold yet in October. If you've never been on the AT before, it gives you freedom to experiment without ruining your trip because there are a lot of resupply/bailout options. It won't meet your solitude criteria in October, but I only saw a lot of people at the waysides and campgrounds. The trail itself wasn't that crowded, and you could easily avoid people by exploring some of the side trails and loops available throughout the park.
    -tagg

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    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    Thanks, Tagg. Too many people in Shenandoah/not remote enough for our tastes and I'm not worried about needing to bail. We're experienced backpackers having done a bunch of stuff out West and at home, we just haven't traveled East yet!

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    I love the A.T. but its not the best for solitude in October. If you are willing to entertain another trail check out the Foothills trail http://foothillstrail.org The trail is the right length for a 5 to 6 day hike it does not have shelters hence less people than the A.T.
    The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd.
    The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.
    Albert Einstein

  8. #8
    Registered User tagg's Avatar
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    Gotcha, I couldn't tell how experienced you are. If you're interested in GA, I also did that section one October, and I didn't see many people at all. But definitely more of a green tunnel. Southern to central VA seemed to have more varied terrain (ridge walking, wooded trail, and pasture walks), but I couldn't speak to the crowds because I did most of those miles in the spring.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpottedCow View Post
    Thanks, Tagg. Too many people in Shenandoah/not remote enough for our tastes and I'm not worried about needing to bail. We're experienced backpackers having done a bunch of stuff out West and at home, we just haven't traveled East yet!
    -tagg

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    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    No worries! I understand there's not going to be complete solitude out there (I mean, yeah, it IS the AT), but we'd still like to get out to some less accessible places. I'm open to other suggestions outside of the AT, but I've been wanting to backpack part of the AT for a very long time, so that draw to the trail is always there.

  10. #10
    Registered User tagg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpottedCow View Post
    No worries! I understand there's not going to be complete solitude out there (I mean, yeah, it IS the AT), but we'd still like to get out to some less accessible places. I'm open to other suggestions outside of the AT, but I've been wanting to backpack part of the AT for a very long time, so that draw to the trail is always there.
    If you're open to other trails, then I'll chime in one more time by suggesting a section of the BMT. Very similar to the AT in terms of terrain, but you won't see anybody. I've done sections of the BMT in the fall when I didn't see a single other hiker for 3-4 days. It feels remote, but it's accessible. Good luck!
    -tagg

  11. #11
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    You definitely want the Roan Highlands then (unless you happen to catch the weather at a really bad time, turning really cold or wet).

    Starting at Uncle Johnny's Hostel in Erwin, Tenn., it's about 73 miles to Dennis Cover Road or about 82 miles to Boots of Hostel near the major highway in Hampton, Tenn.

    You'll have lots of great views/scenery from near the start (Beauty Spot and Unaka Mountain), especially through the middle section (Roan Mountain to Hump Mountain is magnificent), and occasionally through the last 30 miles (including Laurel Creek and Falls).

    Me and my boys have done the AT from Springer through the Grayson Highlands. My favorite stretch thus far is the Roan Highlands. My youngest (20) son's favorite is the Grayson Highlands, with Roan a close second. My oldest (22) son's favorite is every section, I think.

  12. #12

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    Hot Springs to Erwin is one of my favorite sections of the AT. The only problem is water maybe a little scarce and it could be chilly even in early Oct since you'll be at fairly high elevation most of the time.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  13. #13
    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    You definitely want the Roan Highlands then (unless you happen to catch the weather at a really bad time, turning really cold or wet).

    Starting at Uncle Johnny's Hostel in Erwin, Tenn., it's about 73 miles to Dennis Cover Road or about 82 miles to Boots of Hostel near the major highway in Hampton, Tenn.
    Excellent, thanks for the info. I will look into this section. Know of any shuttles/places to leave a car for a week?

  14. #14
    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    I see Uncle Johnny's Hostel does parking and shuttles. Would you recommend parking there and hiking SOBO, or parking further North and then going NOBO?

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    To be honest, I haven't been impressed with Uncle Johnny's at all. I won't say any more, other than the only thing I'd do there is park. But there are lots of good quarters and shuttles all through that section, including the famous lady in Erwin (I forget her name, because I've never met her; Miss Janet???), Bob Peoples at Kincora on Dennis Cove Road, the folks at Boots Off Hostel near Hampton, Tennessee; there's a pretty famous hostel on Highway 19E just north of Hump Mountain; there are probably lots more.

    I prefer hiking south to north simply because I started at Springer in '07 walking north. All I can tell you is that this section, hiking south to north, is really something. You're 20 years younger than I am, so you'll probably enjoy even more than I did (my trip involved a lot of sweat at grunting).

    Look at some maps and see if you can figure out an itinerary that will put you at Overmountain Shelter to tent camp on the lovely lawn or to stay in the shelter. It's a rustic barn in a meadow beneath Little Hump Mountain. You'll have done Roan Mountain, Jane Bald and Round Bald the day before. You'll be doing Little Hump Mountain and Hump Mountain the morning after. The latter two, in my opinion, may be the prettiest stretch of trail that I've done. Depending on your mileage,you'll cross 19E later that day and eventually descend to the Elk River - one of the few time the AT path is along a river. Then, a day or two later, you walk down beside Laurel Falls and the Laurel Creek canyon. Again, it's unusual terrain for the AT in the south.

    You'll enjoy it if the weather cooperates.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpottedCow View Post
    I see Uncle Johnny's Hostel does parking and shuttles. Would you recommend parking there and hiking SOBO, or parking further North and then going NOBO?
    Uncle Johnnys doesnt shuttle. They arrange a shuttle for you with one of a few people in the area.
    Its great for parking, and getting a shower when you return.

    Staying there....ummm...lets just say I prefer the hotel in town. A few dollars more, a world nicer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Hot Springs to Erwin is one of my favorite sections of the AT. The only problem is water maybe a little scarce and it could be chilly even in early Oct since you'll be at fairly high elevation most of the time.
    Think I'm going to do this section with my son in winter starting at iron mtn gap....assume I'll shuttle from hot springs hike sobo. Think I'll do this instead of SNP....how was the terrain, can't seem to find my guide book....probably 6 days take it fairly slow with lil one.


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  18. #18
    Registered User SpottedCow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Hot Springs to Erwin is one of my favorite sections of the AT. The only problem is water maybe a little scarce and it could be chilly even in early Oct since you'll be at fairly high elevation most of the time.
    I've heard this is a nice section before. How does this compare to the Roan Highlands section?

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    If you got time start at 19E use MHH to shuttle and Inc the Roan section...only another 30 miles...


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    Registered User MkBibble's Avatar
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    Default Best section for week long October hike

    Some other ideas that I haven't seen mentioned:
    - Start at Springer and knockout all of Georgia.
    - Deep Gap NC north to Fontana. A lot of variation and three of the southern balds.

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