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Thread: Crowds

  1. #1
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    Default Crowds

    Looking at a section hike starting at Fontana and heading nobo on the AT before the end of the year. Hoping someone familiar with the Smokies can enlighten me when the ďleaf seasonĒ is with crowds so I can plan around it..Thanks.

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    Most leaf peepers will be on day-hike trails or just staying in their car.
    Along the AT, the only place I'd expect it to be crowded is New Found Gap to Charlie's Bunion

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    generally leaf season (not saying they will be at peak though) from october to beginning of november...

    seems also schools (colleges as well) have a break somewhere in that time frame as well and that will add to the crowds...

    as noted-----most people will go on a short hike if that...

    but, i still would expect, especially on a weekend, to have the shelters full...

    it's really hit or miss.....

    but, between decent weather in october (in general) and people wanting to see leaves, the more popular trails can get crowded....

    along that way------anything around clingmans and then newfound will have the most crowds...

    next down would be in the general area of gregory's bald.....

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    Thanks for the info, I had you two in mind when I made this post lol.

    Iíd likely start my hike on a Tuesday and be through the Smokies prior to the weekend so I reckon that will help mitigate the crowd. My internal debate is whether or not to wait until November in order to encounter less people but sacrifice the better weather, longer days, and foliage of October..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    Thanks for the info, I had you two in mind when I made this post lol.

    I’d likely start my hike on a Tuesday and be through the Smokies prior to the weekend so I reckon that will help mitigate the crowd. My internal debate is whether or not to wait until November in order to encounter less people but sacrifice the better weather, longer days, and foliage of October..
    Ignore the people, take advantage of better weather and longer days and foliage. Along the AT once past Shuckstack, people will become non issue all the way to Spence field and then again around Clingmans dome unless they have closed the road already but I don't think they do that until November. And then again around Newfound gap up to charlies bunion. I have never altered or detoured my trips because others were going to be using the trail.
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    Typical October weather will see night time temperatures around freezing at the upper elevations. Wait until November and you might see freezing conditions at lower elevations.

    The road to Climgmans Dome doesn't close until December 1st (unless snow closes it earlier).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    Ignore the people, take advantage of better weather and longer days and foliage. Along the AT once past Shuckstack, people will become non issue all the way to Spence field and then again around Clingmans dome unless they have closed the road already but I don't think they do that until November. And then again around Newfound gap up to charlies bunion. I have never altered or detoured my trips because others were going to be using the trail.
    I thought at times the Smokies became a bit of a zoo during leaf season, just trying to avoid that. Don’t mind seeing some people of course but I’m not out there for a social experience. But what I’m hearing for the most part it’s a non-issue so I’m leaning towards late October. Thanks for the feedback.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    I thought at times the Smokies became a bit of a zoo during leaf season,...
    Parts of the Smokies WILL be a zoo... but that's mainly going to be the popular trails that day hikers use:
    i.g. Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, Rainbow Fall, Trillium Gap (to Grotto Falls), Charlies Bunion, Clingman's Dome, Andrews Bald.

    Avoid these areas and you avoid the people:
    Took a hike over Labor Day weekend.
    Parked at the primary parking lot at the Rainbow Falls trailhead (arrived shortly after 7:00am on a Saturday morning, by 7:15 the parking lot was full).
    Hiked Trillium Gap trail. Encountered NO ONE between the parking lot and the trailhead for Grotto Falls.
    Encountered hikers between the Grotto Falls trailhead and Grotto Falls.
    Beyond the falls, encountered 3 groups until we reached LeConte Lodge area.
    After lunch took Bullhead back to the car. Once we got passed LeConte Lodge, encountered 3 groups the entire length of Bullhead.

    So except for the section to Grotto Falls (on my 'list' above), we hiked to LeConte and back and only encountered 6 groups on a 15 mile loop... of LeConte.
    {OK, yeah, also encountered a few people as we walked up to the shelter where we had planned to spend the night... but we changed our minds when we saw things like A JAR OF HONEY LEFT OUT IN BEAR COUNTRY (when the bear cables weren't 20' away)... then there was the firewood and lighter fluid (at a shelter with signs saying fires are NOT permitted).

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    Years ago I was on the Rocky Top trail crew during peak color in October. I arrived at base camp which was next to the Sugarlands visitors center on Saturday afternoon. Traffic was bumper to bumper. Took me over an hour to get to camp once I got into the park. Our crew leader got stuck in traffic coming the opposite direction and parked her car and walked. We spent about a week digging side hill past the old Birch Spring shelter. Temperature was in the 80’s. Saw very few hikers on the trail. After finishing up at Birch Springs we drove to Clingmans to build a privy. It was snowing.
    More walking, less talking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soilman View Post
    Years ago I was on the Rocky Top trail crew during peak color in October. I arrived at base camp which was next to the Sugarlands visitors center on Saturday afternoon. Traffic was bumper to bumper. Took me over an hour to get to camp once I got into the park. Our crew leader got stuck in traffic coming the opposite direction and parked her car and walked. We spent about a week digging side hill past the old Birch Spring shelter. Temperature was in the 80’s. Saw very few hikers on the trail. After finishing up at Birch Springs we drove to Clingmans to build a privy. It was snowing.
    I believe someone either said or suggested that it might be crowded in October along the AT for people doing a day hike to Shuckstack Fire Tower.
    Birch Spring shelter (now campsite #113) is located about one mile beyond Shuckstack Fire Tower. So I'm not surprised that you didn't see many hikers.

    Wrong time of year for AT thru hikers (obviously excluding section hikers that might come thru any time of year).
    I've only ever used this section of trail to make a multi-night loop with either Gregory Bald (20 Mile Ranger Station to #113 to #13 and back) or Eagle Creek (Lakeshore to Eagle Creek to #97 to Mollies Ridge and back).

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    Mt. Cammerer can see a lot of day traffic on weekends, especially in leaf season.

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    @Slugg Leaf season varies from yr to yr, elev, and summer to early fall weather. Avoiding an early fall storm with high winds and/or driving or heavy rain or sharp short term temp changes this yr's peak for the AT in GSMNP and at higher GSMNP elevations will be second to third wk of Oct. However, you still may encounter leaf peppers focused on lower GSMNP elevations that leaf peak later that wander into the AT from the easily accessible AT TH's like Fontana Dam, Davenport Gap, and particularly Newfound Gap and CD. This yr with COVID some NC and TN schools are using virtual schooling so less of a definite vacation time frame when the schooling masses visit GSMNP. Personally, if I was seeking to be on the AT through GSMNP before the end of the yr, wasn't primarily seeking a leaf peeping experience, wanted to limit GSMNP AT tread competition, and desired to limit weather extremes before the yr's end I'd wait until after T Day or go between Nov 1 and before T Day with a more relaxed weather scenario. With an acceptable weather window I might choose to do the AT through GSMNP starting on Mon Nov 2 staying on trail through the Nov 3 Prez election(maybe mailing in your ballot if you're voting, only mentioning voting because many stay close to home on election day so may avoid some crowds on trail) and finish the about 70 miles maybe on Thurs or Fri at a personally leisurely pace(for me). This time frame still typically allows for some early Nov leaf peeping looking down from the higher elevations to the lower elevations.. The alternative for me is to go fast, be mainly a hiker not a camper, and night hike. I'd camp off the AT a bit down side trails to limit crowd exposure particularly in the TH mentioned areas. If prepared, crisp to cold fall GSMNP AT night hiking under clear skies even with a little ice or light snow underfoot and rime on trees and rocks is yet another wonder to embrace as the woods come to life with some species scurrying to get ready for winter and the trees/plants take on a different appreciation that can often be overlooked. However, don't overlook the possibility of warmer early to mid Nov weather windows.

    FD to Shuckstack, DG to Mt Cammerer, NFG to CD and NFG to Charlies Bunion can jam up nastily in the fall leaf peeping season on weekends. I suppose COVID will limit some but not for a whole lot of others focused on we3ekend visitation.
    Last edited by Dogwood; 09-18-2020 at 21:38.

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    I suppose COVID will limit some but not for a whole lot of others focused on we3ekend visitation.


    sadly, Covid has increase visitation to the Park....

  15. #15

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    Why go to the park in the first place? Why deal with all the BS when just north of there is some fine hiking and good views with none of the hassles?

    COVID has definitely impacted the White Mountains, the crowds here have been totally out of control all summer and now the leaves are starting to change color...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Why go to the park in the first place? Why deal with all the BS when just north of there is some fine hiking and good views with none of the hassles?

    COVID has definitely impacted the White Mountains, the crowds here have been totally out of control all summer and now the leaves are starting to change color...
    Because some people have a particular fondness for GSMNP.
    That fondness might have something to do with the fact it is a national park, it might be that they are working towards a GSMNP goal, like the 900 Miler Club or a 500 Mile ranger pin.

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    and yeah, along with those---SHHHHHHHH....

    Don't let other people know about less crowded places :P

    although, members of this site already know what they are...

    let the masses go to the Park------that will keep other places with less crowds...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Why go to the park in the first place? Why deal with all the BS when just north of there is some fine hiking and good views with none of the hassles?

    COVID has definitely impacted the White Mountains, the crowds here have been totally out of control all summer and now the leaves are starting to change color...
    Because Iíve got a long-term goal of sectioning the AT and this is the next section for me to knock out. I will end up hiking a bit north of the park on this trip as well, probably to Hot Springs. Iíve hiked around many of the areas surrounding the the park and beyond, Iíve sort of been putting this off.
    Last edited by Slugg; 09-19-2020 at 18:28.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    Because I’ve got a long-term goal of sectioning the AT and this is the next section for me to knock out. I will end up hiking a bit north of the park on this trip as well, probably to Hot Springs. I’ve hiked around many of the areas surrounding the the park and beyond, I’ve sort of been putting this off.
    Good enough reason. Once the leaves are gone, it should quiet down a lot. I would guess early November is when stick season starts down there. If you want to avoid potential full on winter weather, you can't delay much later. Having to make reservations a bit in advance doesn't allow you to plan around the weather to any great degree, but you can adjust your gear selection just before heading out.
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    To follow up, I ended up going last week. Hereís a breakdown of where I was and the crowds:
    (Tuesday) Fontana Hilton to Spence Field: saw 40+ people (and 4 horses) on trail. Shelter slightly area above capacity.
    (Wednesday) Spence Field to Mt. Collins: saw 50+ people on trail (150+ including Clingmans Dome area, which I did not go near). Shelter area under capacity.
    (Thursday) Mt. Collins to Tri-Corner Knob: saw 50+ people on trail (100+ including Newfound Gap). Shelter area over double capacity.
    (Friday) Tri-Corner Knob to Standing Bear: saw ~20 people on trail.

    I made the decision to go at the time I did instead of pushing to November due to the warmer weather, foliage, and longer days that October offers..If I had to do it again I would probably wait until November however I really enjoyed my trip and canít wait to get back in the Smokies to complete the BMT. It was truly some of the most scenic trail Iíve ever backpacked (with the caveat my backpacking is limited to the SE). The highlight for me was probably having Shuckstack Fire Tower all to myself..Honorable mention to catching the end of sunrise on Rocky Top (alone) and the stretch of trail called ďSawtoothĒ after Charles Bunion.

    Hopefully this came across as objective and not as a complaint, as I realize that Iím just another face in the crowd myself. This thread got a decent amount of views so I figured folks may be interested in what I encountered.
    Last edited by Slugg; Yesterday at 16:42.

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