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  1. #1
    Registered User stilllife's Avatar
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    Default Help me decide on my trip please

    I'm taking 5 beginners for an overnight end of October. I've narrowed down to these three but open for other suggestions. Trying to avoid steep grades or at least not a lot of it.



    Big Fork Ridge Trail to Caldwell Fork Trail stay at 41 then out via Rough Fork Trail

    Smokemont Loop Trail to Bradley Fork up to stay at 49 then straight out via Bradley Fork

    Thomas Divide to Indian Creek Motor Trail staying at 51 then back down Indian Creek Trail and out via stone Pile Gap

    Added Indian Creek up to 51 and then next day up to Sunkota Ridge and down the Sunkota Ridge Trail out. Has anyone stayed at 46?
    Last edited by stilllife; 09-23-2020 at 09:17.

  2. #2
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Campsite 41:
    Looks like you're planning this clock wise.
    I'd suggest counter-clock wise. There's more elevation gain going from the trailhead to the intersection with Caldwell Fork than there is going over Big Fork Ridge.
    This also allows you to stop by the house that's about a mile up Rough Fork and the Big Tree about a quarter mile before #41 on your day going INTO the woods rather than slowing your progress leaving.

    Smokemont Loop, which I would recommend, is going to add a 1,000' climb that you could skip. But skipping it would also make the in-and-out hike more boring. So I think it's the right way to do a #49 in-and-out, but it sort of directly contradicts your desire to avoid steep grades.

    You've got a 2,000' climb along Thomas Divide... and from what I recall, that climb doesn't end with any sort of "reward" like a nice view or a waterfall.


    If I may, let me suggest some alternatives...

    Do an out-and-back from Cades Cove to #17. The hills are relatively minimal (for GSMNP), you get to pass by Abarams Falls, there's some nice views of the creek along the way, and #17 is a nice campsite.
    There's also a few ways to do this as a loop using Rabbit Creek and Abrams Falls staying at #15, #16, or #17. This loop adds the "excitement" of having three Fords, especially Abrams Falls at the intersection of Hannah Mtn and Abrams Falls.

    The other thing I'm going to suggest that totally contradicts your desire to avoid steep grades is make a loop of Parson Branch Rd (3 miles), Gregory Bald, Gregory Ridge with a stay at #13. It does require a 3,000' climb, but it's a climb with the reward of views from Gregory Bald (and campsite 13 is my favorite in the park).

    {Edit}
    Now if you want something "crazy simple" but still interesting, take them to campsite #67. It's situated two-tenths of a mile off Goldmine Loop and offers the opportunity to hike thru the 1,000' long tunnel at the end of the "Road to Nowhere".
    While the hike to #67 could be as short at 1.7 miles, a way to make this hike a little more interesting is to start by hiking thru the tunnel, then hike back towards where you started along Tunnel Bypass, but not all the way, and hike Goldmine Loop counter clockwise. It's only about 3 miles to the campsite, so you could take some time to do a small side trip to the shore of Fontana Lake where Goldmine Loop ALMOST drops to the lake level (you will likely have 10' of bush whacking and then continue thru the dirt if lake levels are low). The hike out would be to continue Goldmine Loop and hike thru the tunnel a second time to return to the start. An alternate way to see the lake would be BEFORE the start of your hike, park BEFORE the last bridge before the tunnel and hike the 1 mile along Noland Creek towards campsite #66. You can do that as a simple day-hike without packs before you start the main hike thru the tunnel.
    Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 09-23-2020 at 10:14.

  3. #3
    Registered User stilllife's Avatar
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    Thanks HooKoo. I should have said we are staying in Bryson City. Although driving to the other side of the park is not out of the question.

  4. #4
    Registered User stilllife's Avatar
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    What about the Hemphill Bald loop from Polls Gap. staying at 41. That seems like a great hike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stilllife View Post
    What about the Hemphill Bald loop from Polls Gap. staying at 41. That seems like a great hike.


    fwiw----I really dug CS 41.....

    thought it was a nice site.......

    that's a pretty decent loop...


    keep in mind though, you are essentially going downhill from polls gap to 41....

    and then would have to climb back up to get to polls gap..

    its been years since ive been on those trails so i cant recall how bad the climb it, but just
    wanted to give you fair warning since you said you are taking beginners...

  6. #6

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    49 cabin flats is a great site!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by stilllife View Post
    What about the Hemphill Bald loop from Polls Gap. staying at 41. That seems like a great hike.
    I've loved the section from Hemphill Bald to Poles Gap for this loop.
    However, the full loop is something like 12 to 13 miles and it's about a 2,000' elevation difference.

    While I don't recomend for the OP, the way I've done this area (which over all was a great but grueling hike) was to park at the Cataloochee Divide trail head and hike to 41. Then the next day, do the above loop in a single day and camp at 41 a second time, then return via Cataloochee Divide.

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    Is there a convenient airport (other than Harrisburg) to the PenMar park on the A.T.? And, van service, please? Thank you, Anita Watts

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