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GSMNP, Pisgah NF, or Cherokee NF? (start 7/16)
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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
GSMNP (start 7/16) on 05/20/2009 10:39:46 MDT Print View

I'll be in the area (Lake Junaluska, NC) starting the afternoon of July 16. At this point I'm not sure how much time I'll spend. It may be just a couple days (leave Sun morning) or could be as long as a week+ (leave 25th). I want to do a loop of some kind (return to my car). Any recommendations of some decent loops I could make (especially with waterfalls, wildflowers, etc)?

Also looking for a guy or two that wouldn't mind dealing with a newbie who wants to enjoy the country he's walking through and take some pics. I'd assume 10 mpd would be reasonable. I'm handy and learn fast.

Edited by topshot on 05/27/2009 21:07:19 MDT.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
GSMNP - anyone there 7/16-25? on 05/27/2009 21:13:57 MDT Print View

Even though GSMNP will be more crowded than the national forests (and much easier to do loops), I've decided that will also make it safer for me since this will be my first major trip. I'm open to recommendations for loops I should try or tagging along with someone if they'll be there during that time.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
What to expect at GSMNP backcountry sites? on 06/06/2009 07:40:53 MDT Print View

I'm planning to only use sites that don't need reservations. Are they normally just one open area or several smaller places to pitch?

How do you know when they are full? They state "Maximum camping party size is eight persons," but I took that to mean traveling group rather than campsite capacity.

Do they have cables strung up?

They state: Toilet use must be at least 100 feet from a campsite or water source and out of sight of the trail. Human p00p must be buried in a six-inch-deep hole.

Practically speaking, does everyone just pick out their own toilet location or are there generally just a couple areas at each site people use?

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: GSMNP, Pisgah NF, or Cherokee NF? (start 7/16) on 06/06/2009 10:48:55 MDT Print View

Michael, Let me see if I can help a bit. I would suggest the GSMNP as a trip location for you. First let me recommend a few resources. The first is the National Geographic Map of the park, map # 229. The next is the "little brown book" entitled Hiking Trails of the Smokies by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. It contains a small easy to carry map of the entire park and has detailed trail descriptions of each trail and camping location. The last is Trekking the Southern Appalachians by Backpacker. Trek #12 is a 53.8 mile loop as one possibbility, but you can easily build other loops. You might want to include a loop that hits Clingman's Dome (highest point in the park along AT). A loop like this would be something like Lakeshore Trail to AT to Clingman's dome to Forney Creek trail south back to Lakeshore trail (not sure miles, but its fairly long 50-70 miles?).

Now for logistics. There is no fee for backcountry camping in the park, but you are required to camp only at designated sites. These sites are typically flat area with water access and food/bear hanging cables. There are a few sites that require advanced reservations, these are shown on the National Geographic map. Beyond those sites you can camp at any site you like. I wouldn't worry too much about max number of people, you should be able to share a site with any group. You are required to register at a Ranger station, but you can do so even if it is not open. There is a drop box for you to fill out your itinerary. There is a ranger station right after you enter the park on 441 near Cherokee.

As far as toilet...pee freely just not near streams. Poop...find your own spot away from a stream. Dig a small hole six inches deep, poo p, and bury.

Hope this helps, I'd be glad to answer any questions I can. I know figuring out hiking logistics for a new place is always a pain.

Jamie

Edited by jshortt on 06/06/2009 10:53:19 MDT.

Stephen Tynes
(stynes) - F

Locale: Atlanta, GA
A couple of options on 06/24/2009 20:40:00 MDT Print View

I'd recommend trying either Mt. Sterling or Gregory Bald in GSMNP. Both are great 3 day loops somewhere in the 18-20 mile range. Mt. Sterling has a real high country feel to it and the campsite up top is great. It does require reservations but rather than being one camping area, there are probably a half dozen small areas spread throughout the spruce and fir. There's also an old fire tower that can be climbed for some amazing views.

Gregory Bald is one of the more popular hikes. The top of the mountain is, as the name suggests, bald. It's about 15 acres with a 360 degree view of the surrounding country side. Lots of wildlife last time I was there including deer, boar, and black bear.

You can't go wrong with either of those, in my mind. Let me know if you'd like more information on either of them.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
GSMNP itinerary on 06/25/2009 05:48:13 MDT Print View

This was my basic plan to maximize waterfalls/cascades, etc. on this trip. I took off Ramsay Cascades because that day was going to be a killer - there's no simple way to take your time, get lots of pics with few people, and backcountry camp.

Day 1 (Thur - late start): Hyatt Ridge > Enloe Creek > BCS 47
Day 2: Return to car & drive to Smokemont > Bradley Fork > Cabin Flats > BCS 49
Day 3 (Sat): Bradley Fork > Chasteen Creek > BCS 48
Day 4 (Sun): Return to car & drive to Clingman's Dome > AT > Silers Bald Shelter
Day 5: Welch Ridge > 1st mile or so of Hazel Creek and back > Jonas Creek > BCS 70
Day 6: BCS 69 (maybe bushwhack up Huggins Creek)
Day 7: BCS 68
Day 8: Return to car & drive to Greenbriar Cove > Injun Creek (off trail) > BCS 32
Day 9: Grapeyard Ridge > Rhododendron Creek (off trail) > Return to car & drive to GSMI > West Prong > BCS 18
Day 10 (Sat): Backtrack West Prong > Middle Prong > Lynn Camp Prong > BCS 28
Day 11 (Sun): Backtrack to BCS 18
Day 12: Try to ford to Meadow Branch Cascade (and rinse off in the river) before long drive home