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  1. #1
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    Default Smokey Mt. Section Hike

    I am a "senior citizen", living in Oregon and generally hiking sections of the PCT with a few friends. I would like to do a brief section of the AT just for the experience and comparison. Last year I was in Nashville and went to the Smokey Mt National Park, Clingman's Dome, and saw where the trail crossed through this area. I know the entire trail, through the Smokey's is about 70 miles. We generally hike about a week and go 50 - 60 miles so 70 is doable. I'm wondering if it would be best to hike the entire trial in the Smokey's, or start at Clingman's heading North and go into North Carolina a bit just to experience the trail out of the National Park. And, is this the best part of the AP to hike or are there better segments?

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    And, is this the best part of the AP to hike or are there better segments


    its one of the best, for sure.........

    if you can do the whole 70----i say go for it...

    should only take one 4-6 days to get through..

    theres a road that goes through the park that is about halfway of the AT, where one can go into town or something like that..........

  3. #3

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    Fontana to i40 crossing is agreeable one of the best..in the south. If you are wanting a little less mileage while seeing arguably the only 2 spots that trump the Smokies in the south....A 6 day trip completing the northern 30 of the Smokies, Roan Mountain from Carvers gap to 19e, and Grayson Highlands from Elk Garden to Fox Creek (or a loop), would make for an outstanding trip for sure. That would be roughly 60 miles, a good bit of driving but you would be getting to see the best of the Smokies, the Roan Balds and the Grayson Ponies all in one trip.

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    agreed with the other places Gambit mentions..

    little hump and big hump blow away any of the balds in the national park....

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    agreed with the other places Gambit mentions..

    little hump and big hump blow away any of the balds in the national park....
    Add my vote to this. If you're traveling all the way from Oregon for a one-time hike, hit the best stuff!

  6. #6
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    Are you familiar with GSMNP camping regulations? They are significantly different from the bulk of the camping regulations along the bulk of the AT.
    Within the boundaries of GSMNP, you are only allowed to camp at designated campsites/shelters. Further more, your trip length will not qualify you for a GSMNP Thru-hiker permit. You will instead have to obtain a GSMNP General hiker permit where you must obtain a reservation for each night at each campsite you intend to stay at.

    In other words, you will have to get reservations for a specific itinerary and then stick to that itinerary while in GSMNP.


    Do you have travel plans figured out?
    The closest commercial airport is Knoxville, and there isn't any sort of public transportation that can get you from Knoxville to GSMNP. Further more, the two locations where the AT enters/leaves the park are relatively remote. While there are private shuttle services that can transport you from one AT entrance/exit to the other, the remoteness makes these shuttle services relatively pricey ($$$).

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    Hiking inside GSMNP 'feels' different then outside of it. Hard to describe, but I would perhaps suggest New Found Gap North and out of the park, though you miss some of the highest hiking and shelters of the AT, you do gain the option of staying at one of the most well known, and unique hostels on the AT - Standing Bear, then get to walk right through main street of Hot Springs on the trail.

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    Personally, I think Hot Springs to Erwin is the best part of NC/TN and gives you a little bit of everything. The park is okay, but it's overcrowded and your forced to stay in shelters which can pack you in like sardines at times. It would probably be easier/cheaper to get shuttles in and out of Hot Springs/Erwin to an airport then to the ends of the Park.

    Although it would be a shame to miss Max Patch. New Found Gap to Hot Springs would be a good compromise. I like the north half of the park better myself.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Thanks to all that responded so quickly. Lots of great information that will help me plan the hike. I wasn't aware of the reservation requirement and I know from doing the John Muir that that can be a pain. And, I like the suggestions of some of the options and will explore them further. You all have been a great help to get me started.

  10. #10
    Leonidas
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    If someone wanted to do Max Patch:
    Get a shuttle to I-40 exit 451 at the Pigeon River Bridge right before Standing Bear.
    Hike through Hot Springs.
    Get a shuttle at Sam's Gap(I-26) or Stay at Nature's Inn and get a shuttle from them.
    Would give you approximately 79 miles of trail with easier pickup drop-off depending on Airport location.

    You could fly into Knoxville or Asheville, ~77 miles from Knox, ~56 from Ashe.
    AT: 274.5 mi

    Pinhoti Trail: 254 mi

    @leonidasonthetrail

  11. #11
    GSMNP 900 Miler HooKooDooKu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ferg70 View Post
    I wasn't aware of the reservation requirement and I know from doing the John Muir that that can be a pain.
    GSMNP is a totally different ball game compared to JMT. There just isn't the same level of demand... and so there's no lottery system like you will find for JMT, Grand Canyon, Mt Rainier, Yosemite, etc.

    All you have to do is 30 days before the start of your hike, make reservations online at this web site. Only the really popular campsites and shelters fill up early. But at the 30 day mark, you can usually get what ever you want unless it's a really popular spot during a really popular time.

  12. #12
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    All you have to do is 30 days before the start of your hike, make reservations online at this web site. Only the really popular campsites and shelters fill up early



    along with this-----its also possible to get a non popular site a day or so before a trip......

    or get lucky and get a popular site a day or so in advance....

    the earliest one can make a reservation is 30 days before a trip...........

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    If you hike within the Smokies - or anywhere else - you can check the ATC list or the Thru-hikers guide (or other places?) for shuttle drivers! You can also ask on this forum...

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    Fontana to i40 crossing is agreeable one of the best..in the south. If you are wanting a little less mileage while seeing arguably the only 2 spots that trump the Smokies in the south....A 6 day trip completing the northern 30 of the Smokies, Roan Mountain from Carvers gap to 19e, and Grayson Highlands from Elk Garden to Fox Creek (or a loop), would make for an outstanding trip for sure. That would be roughly 60 miles, a good bit of driving but you would be getting to see the best of the Smokies, the Roan Balds and the Grayson Ponies all in one trip.
    If you want to hit the "Best of the South" on the AT, then I agree with the plan above. This hits the best half of the Smokies and the big bald sections of NC/TN and VA.
    JMT - 2013

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    So if you have to make reservations and sleep in shelters; do you need your tent for the Smokey section?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JZS50 View Post
    So if you have to make reservations and sleep in shelters; do you need your tent for the Smokey section?
    Not everyone follows the rules. You need a plan on what you're going to do if you get to a shelter and the shelter is full because of illegal campers. Do you want to try to kick someone out of the shelter, or would you rather just go setup a tent (or tarp) near by.

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    Makes sense, so you have to make reservations at each shelter, each night ahead of time; but I assume let's say you have a bad day and can't make it to the one you reserved you just stay/camp at the one before it correct?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JZS50 View Post
    Makes sense, so you have to make reservations at each shelter, each night ahead of time; but I assume let's say you have a bad day and can't make it to the one you reserved you just stay/camp at the one before it correct?
    Unfortunately, the reservation system doesn't have the flexibility to accommodate a "bad day." The expectation is that you will adjust your hiking to fit the itinerary of shelters where you have reservations. More miles than you want? Better get up early. Not enough miles? Better find a side trail or other diversion to keep yourself occupied.

    Of course, a true emergency like a broken leg (yours or assisting someone else), violent weather, getting lost, is a bit more than a bad day. Park rangers are reasonable human beings, capable of empathy and good judgment.

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    Officially, the park service requires that you follow your itinerary... and there's no such thing as a shelter being full that you can't claim your reserved spot.
    (i.e. the park service has no official answer for what you should do if you have a reservation for a shelter and arrive to find the shelter is full).

    So we simply have to rely on illabelle's point that park rangers are reasonable.

    As long as you're doing everything reasonable within your power to follow the rules, I doubt the park rangers have going to give you grief. They have enough people flaunting the back country rules that they don't need to waste their time on someone making an attempt to follow the rules.


    On the flip side, I can say that of the dozen or so nights I've spent in GSMNP shelters, I've never seen someone FORCED to setup a tent/tarp outside of the shelter (excluding thru-hiker season in March/April). Most of the time, even if the online reservation system says a shelter is full... there's usually someone that doesn't show up. I think the only times I've been in a full shelter in GSMNP was once during the thru-hiker season and another at Mt. LeConte (a very popular shelter year-round).

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JZS50 View Post
    Makes sense, so you have to make reservations at each shelter, each night ahead of time; but I assume let's say you have a bad day and can't make it to the one you reserved you just stay/camp at the one before it correct?
    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Officially, the park service requires that you follow your itinerary... and there's no such thing as a shelter being full that you can't claim your reserved spot.
    (i.e. the park service has no official answer for what you should do if you have a reservation for a shelter and arrive to find the shelter is full).

    So we simply have to rely on illabelle's point that park rangers are reasonable.

    As long as you're doing everything reasonable within your power to follow the rules, I doubt the park rangers have going to give you grief. They have enough people flaunting the back country rules that they don't need to waste their time on someone making an attempt to follow the rules.


    On the flip side, I can say that of the dozen or so nights I've spent in GSMNP shelters, I've never seen someone FORCED to setup a tent/tarp outside of the shelter (excluding thru-hiker season in March/April). Most of the time, even if the online reservation system says a shelter is full... there's usually someone that doesn't show up. I think the only times I've been in a full shelter in GSMNP was once during the thru-hiker season and another at Mt. LeConte (a very popular shelter year-round).
    I agree with with HooKooDooKu's reply to your question.

    I'd also add that you should really plan things out so that you can make your mileage every day, and not rely on changing plans unless you have an actual emergency such as an injury. I don't know your fitness level, but the Smokies are fairly easy as far as hiking trails go in general so coming up with a reasonable itinerary shouldn't be a big deal.

    In my experience of hiking through the whole park on the AT earlier this year in May, all the shelters I had reserved were full and had overflow with the exception of 1. I didn't have any issues getting my spot, and everyone was reasonable so I doubt you'll run into any problems if you stay where you have reservations. I also never saw any of the ridge runners throughout the entire hike.
    JMT - 2013

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