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  1. #1

    Default Fontana to Smokemont. Route? Horse Camps? Shuttle?

    I'm planning a BMT foray at the beginning of October, from
    Fontana Dam to Smokemont CG. A few questions:
    1. Is it reasonable to tackle that distance in 6 days? We're a couple
    middle aged guys not interested in a death march. It appears
    to be rolling terrain until the approach into Smokemont where
    there are 2 2000' passes to get over. Seem doable? Any special
    problems to be aware of on that route? Anything I'm missing by
    staying strictly on BMT?
    2. My initial planning seems to put us in several camps that
    are "Horse and Hiker". If I'm trying to avoid excessive
    smells, flys, ... should I make an extra effort (aka miles) to
    avoid those sites and try for "Hiker Only" sites?
    3. I am hoping to use The Hike Inn as a shuttle service but they are
    having trouble with their web site. I'll call them shortly but
    in case of problems any recommendations for alternates?

    Mark

  2. #2
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    I did that section two years ago. When I got to Fontana I spent the night at the Hike Inn. I hit Smokemont on the morning of my fourth day. The Lakeshore trail is fairly easy in my opinion. You are correct that there are two climbs before then a descent into Smokemont. There is also a couple of fords around CS 62. The first one was knee high when I crossed it in early September. So yes, I think it is doable in 6 days. I parked my car at the Big Creek ranger station and had a shuttle to Reliance, TN by Fred Landy. I got his name from another shuttler who originally planned to shuttle me but could not make it.
    More walking, less talking.

  3. #3

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    I didn't like the Lakeshore trail when I hiked in Jan because the lake was way down and makes it look ugly. I walked it from Hazel crk to the tunnel. I'd suggest checking with someone who knows what lake levels might be. There were no flies nor horses in Jan; not many hikers either since government was shut down then. Option to avoid that would be an extra 5 miles to hike up Hazel Crk to Cold Spring Gap, then Bear Crk back to Forney Crk at Lakeshore. But if its wet month, its a deep ford at start of Cold Spring and may be deep crossing Forney too.

  4. #4
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    The distance seems to be in the ballpark of 50 miles. Seems doable in 6 days to me.
    Note that your path will include a 3/4 mile road walk after you pass thru the tunnel at the "Road to Nowhere". You will cross a bridge and the trailhead leading to Noland Creek trail will be on your right as the trial loops under the bridge you just crossed. Most creek crossings on Noland Creek are bridged, except for the one soilman warned you to be prepared for. CS 52 is a favorite of mine, but seems to always be a big buggy, so just be prepared if you plan to camp here.

    As for horse campsites, I would generally say don't worry about it. Most campsites for horses have horse stalls in one area, but plenty of campsites away from the horse stalls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ednotmilkman View Post
    I didn't like the Lakeshore trail when I hiked in Jan because the lake was way down and makes it look ugly.
    I hiked Lakeshore in March during 'Spring Break' and I seem to recall the lake was low then too. I wouldn't have described it as looking ugly, but once you get past the old town of Proctor (Hazel Creek intersection) the trail overall wasn't particularly interesting other than you could tell how parts of the trail is an old road bed, with at least one spot where you can see the trail turn off while the road bed winds it's way under the lake (parts of this old road were flooded by the creation of Fontana Dam).

    If you LIKE fording creeks and didn't have your heart set on staying on the BMT, you could take alternate paths that could include hiking up Hazel Creek or Forney Creek (both will have many fords). You can make your way back to Smokemont by either following the AT to Fork Ridge trail and pick up the BMT, or stay on the AT across New Found Gap, past Charlies Bunion, and Dry Sluice Gap and Bradly Fork to get to Smokemont.

  6. #6
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    I have found that, while you might see horses and riders on the trails, generally they dont stay in the backcountry........its kinda like dayhiking...


    in give or take 100 or so nights in the Park----I've only shared a camp, maybe, three times with horse people.......and there's typically enough separation between where the stalls are and where they might set up tents, and where backpackers set up tents........

    the tunnel parking lot might have some trailers in it....

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    If you need a shuttle, I can do it for 175

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    I have found that, while you might see horses and riders on the trails, generally they dont stay in the backcountry........its kinda like dayhiking...
    Generally speaking, I would agree. However Deep Creek, and parts of Noland Creek are an exception. I know I've shared CS64 with horses, but it's a large campsite with horse stalls in only one corner. So I still wouldn't concern myself with the horses.

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    64 is one of the places I have stayed that had horse people stay at it as well...

  10. #10
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Just to clarify, there are a couple of 2000 ft. climbs on that route. The "passes" are 4000 to 4500 ft. in elevation.

    TVA usually begins drawing down the lakes in the fall. Water won't be as high as in the summer but not as low as late winter. If you google 'Fontana Lake level' (of any other TVA lake) you can find graphs of lake levels currently and historically for the last two years.

    I'm also planning a multi day hike in that area possibly beginning October 5. Hopefully it will be cool enough that bugs will not be an issue. What I don't know is if the weeds will have died back any by then.

    Still exploring routes to do a big loop and mark of new trails on my map.

  11. #11

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    Iím pretty slow and was able to hike that section in 3 nights.

    Personally, I find the Lakeshore Trail to be more strenuous than elevation profiles suggest. The profiles make that section look flat and it definitely isnít. (Plus, itís sort of boring.) When hiking that section of the BMT, I over-estimated my expected miles per day and had to readjust my plans.

    Biggest challenge was fording Noland Creek..it was a very, very rainy spring and I thought I was doing to die...I met smarter people than me who wouldnít attempt it and turned around. Definitely one of the scariest things Ive done on a hike.

    Second challenge was climbing Newton Bald. For some reason, it kicked my butt. Probably cuz I ran out of fuel so didnít get coffee that morning.

    And I used Hike Inn for my shuttle...great experience. Their website is outdated, best to call.

    Have fun!

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traffic Jam View Post
    I’m pretty slow and was able to hike that section in 3 nights.

    Personally, I find the Lakeshore Trail to be more strenuous than elevation profiles suggest. The profiles make that section look flat and it definitely isn’t. (Plus, it’s sort of boring.) When hiking that section of the BMT, I over-estimated my expected miles per day and had to readjust my plans.

    Biggest challenge was fording Noland Creek..it was a very, very rainy spring and I thought I was doing to die...I met smarter people than me who wouldn’t attempt it and turned around. Definitely one of the scariest things Ive done on a hike.

    Second challenge was climbing Newton Bald. For some reason, it kicked my butt. Probably cuz I ran out of fuel so didn’t get coffee that morning.

    And I used Hike Inn for my shuttle...great experience. Their website is outdated, best to call.

    Have fun!
    Excuse my faulty memory, it was 4 nights, not three.

  13. #13

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    THANKS to everyone who helped out here. I just wanted to close the thread with a brief report.

    Although we planned to go from Fontana to Smokemont we cut it short and did only Fontana to the Tunnel.
    The trails were generally in good shape though all in all there were a lot of downed trees. There were a couple
    places where the trail had unofficially rerouted itself around those spots, and a couple minor challenges,
    but at no point was the trail impassable. We visited a cemetery or two, Proctor, etc.

    Water was plentiful, though we understand that Newton Bald (#52) was now dry. So the last water on our
    original route would have been at Deep Creek (#54). That's one reason we cut the trip a little short - we
    did not relish the idea of humping 1.5 days worth of water up 2000'. But around the lake it was hard to
    tell that there was a drought - lots of water a truly lush green landscape. It was a great hike.

    Two bears, one a little west of Forney Creek (#74). They all ran as fast as they could when they saw us.
    Lots of bear scat on the trail - there were certainly more around that we did not see. Also, lots of
    sign of wild boar but we never saw those guys either (happily).

    Campsites were all in good shape. Except for a unofficial site at the lake near #76. All were clean with no
    garbage, etc. BTW - my hats off to the NPS foks(?) that devised these bear cables. I've never
    seen something so easy to use. I didn't even need the paracord I brought -- just the bear bag itself.

    Tom from the Hike Inn shuttled us around -- great service and conversation.

    Thanks again to everyone!!

  14. #14
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    The cables are great---one of the best things the Park has done for hikers, except
    for the open hang bags....

    thats why I always suggest clipping the bag onto the cables as a redundant system...

    bears and other creatures have learned to shake the cables to get bags down..

    and with the open hook---many people get how they work wrong and end up stretching out an
    breaking cables...

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