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  1. #1
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    Default 3 Night AT in the Smokies

    Newbie here...

    Looking for some suggestions on a 3-4 night hike on the AT in the Smokies.

    Trying to plan something for next February.

    Thanks in advance!


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  2. #2
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    Hey there ol' Sassy! Welcome to WhiteBlaze!
    I'm concerned when I see "newbie" "AT in the Smokies" "February".
    The AT through the Smokies is at 5000-6000 ft elevation. In February it's very likely to be down in the teens or single digits at night, and there's a good chance there will be several inches of snow on the ground. Not recommended for a newbie. But maybe you're experienced, just new to WB?
    If you indeed want to hike the AT in Feb, I'd suggest starting at Newfound Gap and hike north to Davenport Gap. It's about 30 miles. There won't be many people on the trail at that time, so self-reliance will be more important than usual.

  3. #3
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    Ditto on illabelle's comments regarding conditions in the Smokies.

    I find that I usually don't start hiking in GSMNP until about March of each year... but then again, you never know when you might hit a warm spell. I've been in the Smokies at least once in January and temperatures were pretty good.
    But even when I go camping in March, I usually hike/camp at the lower elevations, saving the higher elevations for when the temperatures are hotter in the valleys.

    Are you 'set' on hiking the AT in GSMNP? Or was that just as starting point and you would be interested in hiking other parts of the park? Also, what sort of milage per day and types of elevation change are you prepared for?

  4. #4
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    DITTO to illabelle. I'll add you might want to go to the real authorities on the GSMNP. Speak with the Backcountry Rangers Office. They are very helpful.
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  5. #5
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    Newbie to WB...

    Iíve done several nights in 15 and below. Highs in 30 or below.

    But my timeline is always flexible. If the weather is crazy Iím not going to risk it.

    Just really looking for advice on possible itineraries.

    Thanks!


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  6. #6
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    Just really looking for advice on possible itineraries

    4 nights will basically get you through the whole AT in the Park....

  7. #7
    GSMNP 900 Miler HooKooDooKu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    4 nights will basically get you through the whole AT in the Park....
    ...depending upon your abilities and desired mpd.

    But again, what exactly are you looking for?
    Do you have to stay on the AT? Are you looking for views? Are you a heavy weight "convenience" camper that does 10mpd or less? Are you an "ultra light" camper that likes to do 20+mpd?

    Until I hear more, I'll throw this idea out for you...
    Park at New Found Gap.
    Day one, hike to Pecks Corner. Along the way, you'll be able to check out Charlie's Bunion.
    Day two, hike to Cosby Knob. If you like bush-wacking and have the speed, you could take an off-trail side trip to the top of Mt. Guyot (on my to-do list).
    Day three, hike out to Mt Cammerer Fire Lookout, then double back to Tricorner.
    Day four, hike to Icewater Springs.
    Day five, hike back to your car. Since it's a short day, you've got time to check out the Jumpoff near the intersection of AT/Boulevard.

  8. #8
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    -ability and desire would be 12-15mpd. Depends on how man y stops I make for photography and coffee
    -Im looking to stay on the AT, so loop would not work. This is kind of a pre-req for planning a section hike as I get older. Speaking of older this is also a b-day trip for my 40th.
    -Im fairly light. 10-15 base weight depending on weather.
    -Id love some suggestions on shuttles as well

    Thanks agin for all the advice I greatly appreciate it

  9. #9

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    Have you backpacked at 5'000+ in the winter?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    4 nights will basically get you through the whole AT in the Park....
    12 mpd would be 6 days of hiking, 5 nights.
    15 mpd would be 5 days of hiking, 4 nights.
    But she also needs to factor in fewer hours of daylight, and the likelihood of snow/ice on the trail in February.
    Clingman's Dome Rd will be closed in February. So, I'd still recommend starting at NFG and go north for 30 miles, or south for 40 miles.

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    The shuttle services I've used around GSMNP include 'A Walk In The Woods' and 'AAA Hiker Service'.
    Seems like I've heard there are other services around Hot Springs and Fontana, but I'm not personally familiar with any of them.

    In any case, that time of year, the AT has only three access points: Fontana, New Found Gap, and Davenport Gap. They are all hours away from each other, therefore any shuttle service is going to be a bit expensive (hence my prior suggestion of an out-and-back hike).

    One possibility would be to simply get a reservation at a couple of shelters, and simply see how far you go each day.
    So long as you go before the spring AT thru bubble, the shelters will likely have plenty of space. There are many spots along the AT I've been able to get cell service, and if you find you need to change your shelter reservations, you should be able to give the back country office a call at some point and get the update to your permit that you need. Now "officially", you're only allowed to change your reservations for a permit once. But so far, I've never been turned down when I've requested an additional change.

  12. #12
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    I did the north half of the Smokey's over MLK weekend about 10 years ago, Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap in a four day, three night trip.

    It was a pretty intense.

    I was less than 500 yards from Newfound Gap before I was on snow, packed snow or ice for 80% of the time until I was well down towards Davenport Gap. I used (gasp) Yak Trax for traction devices - these days I'd spring for a set of Kahtoola Microspikes. I would not recommend trying that section in mid-winter without some kind of traction device. Sections of the trail were completely iced over, and avoiding those sections would have required some very nasty post holing.

    At the time I was living in Georgia, so the wind and temperatures on the ridges was . . . tough. Lows were in the low 20's or upper teens IIRC, and at times the wind was just whipping.

    This trip was the one and only time I've had trouble with my water bottles trying to freeze up on me. The second night I'd learned my lesson, and kicked 'em to the bottom of my sleeping bag, and on the third night I figured out I'd better put something substantial between my feet and those damn icy water bottles.

    I slept pretty good on the third night, not so much the previous night.

    On the upside taking perishables wasn't a problem. I figured I was gonna be living in the middle of a giant freezer, so why not bring some 1/2 & 1/2 for my coffee?

    The other thing is the park is absolutely off the chain beautiful in the snow. Really, it's incredible.

    I wish I had done the Mt. Cammerer Loop. At the time I didn't think I could hack it, but all things considered the Loop would have been no more or no less hazardous or difficult than any other section.

    The short version is before attempting this trip at that time of year be sure you're ready to deal with some fairly difficult conditions. If you're not a strong hiker with cold weather experience you'll probably make it, but I doubt you'll like it.
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  13. #13
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    yeah, you don't have many options itinerary-wise. if it were me, I'd stick to doing one half or the other considering the short days and likely tricky tread. east or west --both are great options with some dramatic scenery. East is higher elevation and long pretty stretches of spruce-fir forest. it also has much fewer bail-out options.

    I did the west half a few February's back and it's still one of my favorite trips.

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    I just hiked the park at the end of June. Three nights. Southbound. Started at Standing Bear. Camped at Peck's Corner, Double Spring, and Mollie's Ridge. Finished at the Fontana Dam Visitor's Center where I parked about 1 pm on day 4. I wouldn't highly recommend hiking it this way--not a lot of times to smell the roses. I suspect with snow and/or ice it would be harder to do in 3 nights.


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  15. #15

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    Don't forget if a bad snow occurs,the road at Newfound Gap will close. The road at davenport gap is not any better. The d gap has a sloping road on each side.

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  16. #16
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    The out and back from NFG is the most practical for a short trip. North from the gap is a good choice too. A wide knife edge, but mostly protected with a few good vista outlooks and not nearly as bumpy as the southern end.

    It seems that March has been worse then February for snow and cold the last few seasons, but you never know. It's not so much the cold, but the dampness which often comes with it and cuts to the bone when your tired and hungry. A 10-15 pound base seems a bit on the light side for what you might encounter. What sounded like a good forecast when you left home could end up being much different up at 6,000 feet. An extra 5 pounds of insulation will be a blessing, especially if your not already well acclimated to cold.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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