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  1. #1

    Default Planning a GSMNP overnight in late April

    I am looking to for some advice for the following requirements:
    - A simple 2-day/1-night backpack, somewhere in GSMNP, mid-week, late April
    - Neither of us have ever been to this area before, so anything is on the table, although we would prefer something with minimal people
    - Not at all necessary for it to involve the AT
    - Leaving from Nashville early on Day 1, so this should be the shorter day of hiking? (Staying somewhere near the park at the end of Day 2)
    - Camp somewhere secluded (probably not a shelter?), since we'll be on a honeymoon...

    One idea (via some research) I see is to do a Rocky Top loop from Cade's Cove Campground:
    - Day 1: ~6mi to Spence Field area from Cade's Cove (via Cade's Cove Horse Trail, Anthony Creek Trail, and Bote Mountain Trail)
    - If there are some good spots to camp in this area(?), drop our packs and summit Rocky Top and maybe Thunderhead Mountain (Dinner? Sunset?)
    - Day 2: ~9mi back to Cade's Cove via the ridge, SB on the AT for 3mi to Russell Field area, then the Russell Field Trail to Anthony Creek Trail
    Any thoughts on this idea? Specifically, nice camping spots? Direction of the loop?

    Any other ideas?

    Any other gotcha's? Do we need permits? Weather/conditions? I 100% need a bear canister, right?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Have to have permit in smokies and there are bear cables to hang at the campsites and shelters.

  3. #3
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    Here's a link to get your backcountry permits, which can only be obtained during the 30-day window before use. You are only allowed to camp at shelters and official campsites. Currently CS 9 and 10 have plenty of vacancies for late April, especially mid-week. Russell Field Shelter and Spence Field Shelter still have open spots at the moment. For now you are allowed (because of COVID) to tent at the shelters, but you still have to reserve your spots. So, for example, Spence is rated for 12 occupants. Even if all are in tents, the site is still limited to 12.

    A bear canister is NOT required. As stated above, cables are provided at each backcountry site for hanging your food away from the wild creatures.

    Some other options if you want to consider them are CS 5, which you could access from outside the park and avoid the very heavy Cades Cove traffic; or maybe start from Cosby or Big Creek and visit campsite 36, 37, or 38. Note that Cosby Knob Shelter is closed due to bear activity (we were just there a week ago, and didn't see any bears at all).

    A fun campsite is #32. It's currently closed due to road work, but scheduled to reopen April 24 (so you'd think the website would let you reserve a couple of spots since that's within the 30-days??).

    Hope you have fun!

  4. #4
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    Forgot to mention, there's an old engine in the creek a little east of CS 32. Greenbriar Road is closed for repairs. Assuming it's open by then, you would walk right past it. If you came from the west, you'd need to hike a little beyond the campsite to see the engine. This campsite is named "Injun" Creek, I guess because of semi-literate poor spellers.

  5. #5

    Default

    It looks like, based on the backcountry permit website, you need to book specific sites for specific nights: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/index...PermitTypeID=1

    Does this mean that we cannot camp anywhere besides the established sites? If so, then there would be four options for the Rocky Top loop I listed above: Campsite 9, Spence Field Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, or Campsite 10.

    Also, for mileage, we are certainly capable of big days, but trying to take it a little easier for this trip (see: honeymoon). So let's say 12mi maximum per day.

    Thanks again!

  6. #6

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    Thanks, illabelle! That answers some of the logistics questions, awesome!

  7. #7

    Default

    You must camp at designated sites. Period. Getting up to the ridge generally involves some pretty steep climbs.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  8. #8

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    Yes getting to Spence field is a pretty good climb from any direction.

  9. #9
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    You might want to take a look at the Big South Fork area if you're hunting something more secluded. Rock Creek Loop trail comes to mind. It's a 9mile loop with several secluded campsites along the creek about half-way through. You'd probably have the trail to yourselves during the week.

    https://www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/permits.htm
    https://tnstateparks.com/parks/pickett

  10. #10
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    If you can handle winding roads (I mean mind dizzying winding) take the "Tail of the Dragon" over to Twenty Mile ranger station and make an over night loop out of campsite #13 just below Gregory Bald. It's a popular campsite, but ForgeCreek road is currently closed for repairs so you won't be getting Cades Cove crowds... Only those willing to drive all the way out to Twenty Mile ranger station, or people who are making longer overnight loops such that they access Gregory Bald from Hannah Mtn trail.

    Can't promise you seclusion anywhere in the smokies, especially if you are only hiking in for one night. But if you are going in the middle of the week, less chance of crowds at your campsite.
    Fortunately the reservation system will give you an idea of how many if any others are expected at your camp site (since you can only camo at designated locations and with a reservation... Getting that reservation will let you know how many others have a reservation too).

  11. #11

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    Going during the week helps. I did a loop out of cataloochie the other week and had laurel gap shelter to myself. Went in on Monday came out Tuesday. Saw only a handful of hikers.

  12. #12

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    Following up here. We did essentially end up going with the loop I outlined above, and we really enjoyed it:
    - Day 1: ~5.4mi from the Picnic Area(?) where Anthony Creek Trail starts, to Spence Field via Bote Mountain Trail. This was an awesome, steady incline on a nice trail. We dropped our packs and set up our tarp at Spence Field Shelter, then did a ~1.1mi (one-way) side quest to Rocky Top. This was a great place for dinner, sunset, and photos. A little windy, but temps in the 50s were great.
    - Day 2: ~7.9mi back to the Picnic Area(?) from Spence Field Shelter, SB on the AT for 3mi to Russell Field, then the Russell Field Trail to Anthony Creek Trail
    - Day 3: After a nice Airbnb stay outside Gatlinburg, we did a quick hike up Chimney Tops before heading back to Nashville. This was a perfect plan due to proximity to Gatlinburg.

    Notes:
    - I had no idea that GSMNP was "no-'pay". We also found the lack of signage to be really strange.
    - We should have been more prepared, but I really expected to run into a ranger or something on the way into the park, or otherwise easily find my way to the Anthony Creek TH. I also wanted to see if I could learn more info about the bear activity in the Spence Field area, as I had received an email about it a couple days prior (due to my camping reservation for Spence Field).
    - Instead, we blindly aimed for Cade's Cove and ended up in the Scenic Loop car line for two hours, haha. So, we didn't start our Day 1 hike until after 3pm.
    - After the Scenic Loop, we turned into the Picnic Area(?) where the Anthony Creek Trail starts, to see if we could find anyone who would direct us. We lucked out that it just happened to be where we wanted to go.... No signage at all to indicate that the Anthony Creek TH was hidden back here. There was ample parking here on a Tuesday-Wednesday; I assume it was fine to just park here overnight, because we didn't have any issues.

    Thanks again to everyone here for the replies!

  13. #13
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    Glad you had fun! This is a great time to be out, lots and lots of wildflowers.

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