Backpacking in the southeast?
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Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Backpacking in the southeast? on 08/15/2010 18:35:04 MDT Print View

I have about two more weeks before school starts again and I want to venture out of Florida and do a 4 or 5 day backpacking trip somewhere to the north. I live in central Florida and I would like it to be no more than a 12 or 14 hour drive as I want to do it in one shot. Where is a good place to go backpacking in nearby states like Georgia or Alabama or South Carolina? Your recommendations would be appreciated. Also, if you can give me any tips about where I can park my truck while I am out, that would be very helpful.

I was thinking about hiking the southern section of the AT in the Chattahoochee Forest. Is it a nice area?

Thanks,

-Sid

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Smoky Mountains on 08/15/2010 18:46:06 MDT Print View

I'm also considering the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, I heard there is some great scenery there. What do you guys think of this option?

-Sid

Edited by Red_Fox on 08/15/2010 18:46:39 MDT.

Warren Maslowski
(CQBer) - F

Locale: Southeast
RE:Smokies on 08/15/2010 18:54:11 MDT Print View

The smokies do have some pretty great views and is definately a place you want to check out in your backpacking career

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
AT on 08/15/2010 19:13:22 MDT Print View

The AT in Georgia is very nice. You can park at Amicalola State Park Visitors Center and hike the approach trail to Springer Mountain. I would be more than happy to shuttle you forward so you can hike back to your truck. If interested PM me and we can see if we can make a schedule work.

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Re: "Backpacking in the southeast?" on 08/15/2010 20:11:04 MDT Print View

A good hike for 4-5 days would be Amicalola State Park to Neels Gap US 19-129. You could park at the Byron Reece Memorial trailhead & have the folks at Mountain Crossings- Walasi-Yi Center shuttle you to Amicalola. The total mileage is approx. 39.5 miles. The heat & humidity here have been oppressive the last couple of months & you will cover both the lowest & highest points on the GA AT so you should not try to push your daily mileage too much, IMHO.

Scott Lehr
(lehrscott4) - F

Locale: Louisville - KY
Smokies on 08/16/2010 04:27:59 MDT Print View

The Smokies is a great hike for 4-5 days if you like to cover some miles. Still quite warm even at altitude this time of year though.

Richard Rini
(rarini) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Try The Smokies on 08/16/2010 04:38:12 MDT Print View

My wife and I are form good old flat Florida as well and for short trips we typically head to the Smokies. The scenery (albeit not out west) is nice and they have an abundance of trails that you are sure to find too you’re likening. Plus it’s really not that far of a drive (depending on where your final destiny is anywhere between 10 ½ to 12 hours).

Hal Potts
(halpotts) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
Backpacking in the southeast on 08/16/2010 08:41:36 MDT Print View

I hike the Smokies frequently and just yesterday I was looking for a "beat the heat" hike for a few days. My goal was to spend 2 or 3 days out and stay at a decent elevation where it is cooler. It's super-easy to park at the large Newfound Gap parking area and hike 11 miles on the Appalachain Trail to Icewater Springs, Charlies Bunion, and Peck's Corner Shelter. The entire out-and-back hike is between 5,000 and 6,000 feet and along a ridgetop. Quite beautiful and a lot cooler than the near 100's we've been having here in Nashville lately. For a longer hike continue on towards Mt Guyot at 6,621 feet. There are also lots of great loop hikes using Big Creek campground as a base camp, where you can go out for as many days as you want and end up back at your car. And of course there is always the Mt. Le Conte triangle starting at Newfound Gap. It's really a beautiful area. I'd be happy to help you figure out any of these hikes if you want - send me a private message. The best map of that area is the Trails Illustrated map 317.

Edited by halpotts on 08/16/2010 10:10:04 MDT.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
The Smokies on 08/16/2010 10:35:07 MDT Print View

Well... I am leaning towards the smokies since it would be cooler than the Amicalola State Park. What kind of night time temperature lows should I expect? I presume I can probably get by with a little 50 degree (F) quilt this time of year?

Also, thank you to all of you who offered more help. I will be PMing you for more information once I have my mind set on where I want to go. If someone could shuttle me up the trail so I can hike back to my truck, that would be ideal.

Thanks,
-Sid

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Smoky Mountains Loop on 08/16/2010 10:58:17 MDT Print View

Ok so I've been studying the Smoky Mountains trail map and I found a possible loop that seems like it would be fun to do. I can park at Newfound Gap as Hal suggested, go down the AT southbound until I reach Benton MacKaye Trail, take the Benton MacKaye Trail eastbound until I reach the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, then take that northbound until I reach The AT again, from there I can hike back to Newfound Gap a few miles to reach my truck. This loops is about 92.2 miles according to the trail map provided by the Smoky Mountains official website. I can pull that off in 5 to 6 days. What do you guys think about this route?

-Sid

frank white
(smoky1) - F
smoky hike on 08/19/2010 12:18:04 MDT Print View

Good ole central florida. Moved from Orlando to middle Tn about 5 years ago. With the type of miles your going to do you might want to consider hiking the AT through the smokies. Its about 72 miles with great views from rocky top, thunderhead and Clingmans dome. Just remember all shelters and some campsites need reservations. Check out this site to keep up to date on campsites and shelters. Have a good hike.

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm

Hal Potts
(halpotts) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
Backpacking in the southeast on 08/23/2010 10:23:11 MDT Print View

Sanad, I'm curious to know if you did your planned Smokies hike down the AT and back up MTS trail? No doubt it's a beautiful area of the Smokies but the 17 or so miles a day would be a lot for me. Did you go on the trip? How was it?

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Ended up local on 08/23/2010 20:27:40 MDT Print View

I just got back Sunday night. Unfortunately, I actually only had one week left before school started when I thought I had two. So, I didn't really have enough time to plan and go out of state. I ended up doing a local trip here in Florida. I went from the North end of the Ocala forest at Rodman Dam all the way down to the Seminole Forest. It was about a 90 mile hike, I started Wednesday morning and got back to my truck Sunday evening. It was pretty hot but I had several springs along the way that I was able to cool down in. Anyway, it was a good trip but I really would have preferred the Smokies. I will now be doing the Smokies during labor day weekend instead. This will give me plenty of time to plan it. I have a friend that wants to come along so that will save me money on gas. Although, he hasn't done much backpacking before and I'm afraid he will slow me down. Thank you all for all the helpful advice, it will come in handy come labor day weekend. Now I will be researching all the suggestions you all made to me so I can decide which route I will take.

-Sid

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Reservations on 08/23/2010 20:30:23 MDT Print View

So about making reservations for campsites... I'm not required to camp only in designated camp sites am I? So I don't really need to make reservations unless I plan on using their camp sites, correct?

-Sid

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Reservations on 08/23/2010 21:36:16 MDT Print View

Sanad--

I believe the policy is that you would need to reserve a place in a shelter if you plan to use them. The campsites without shelters (basically those off of the AT) you fill out your permit and just let them know what campsite numbers you'll be at on what dates. Technically you are supposed to camp in the shelters or designated campsites and not stealth camp. There are often some campsites closed due to high bear activity--probably a good idea to talk to a ranger on the way in. Getting a shelter reservation this close to labor day might be tough, but there are plenty of other options. Joyce Kilmer/Citico is close by, similar scenery, and it doesn't have these restrictions.

PS--I forgot to add that you should get the NG Trails Illustrated Map 229. It clarifies all of the crazy rules. Purple campsites require reservations and black don't. Also note that lots of sites are horse campsites too. Yet another reason to get a hammock ;-)

Edited by bcamprini on 08/23/2010 22:12:37 MDT.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Re: Reservations on 08/24/2010 07:13:06 MDT Print View

"Technically you are supposed to camp in the shelters or designated campsites and not stealth camp."

Sid, this is the rule. You are supposed to camp only in the designated campsites or shelters which makes trip planning in the Smokies difficult as the sites and shelters are laid out in odd distances many times. We have stealth camped some when we just couldn't make the mileage or loops work out.

Hal Potts
(halpotts) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
"Backpacking in the southeast?" on 08/24/2010 08:51:32 MDT Print View

Sanad - It is correct that you are supposed to stay in designated backcountry campsites and some require reservations and some do not. The best thing to do is get Map 229 for the whole Park or map 317 for the Eastern half (more detail) and then you are all set to plan a route. Sites that don't require reservations are in black and sites that require reservations are in purple. Then just call the GSMNP backcountry office at 1-865-436-1231 and get your reservation number. The rangers are also helpful with any questions you may have and other current and useful information like, "that road is closed because of a rockslide."

I love the Smokies and go there a lot. Newfound Gap is a good jumping off point because it is central but it requires driving through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg which I would rather avoid if possible. My favorite starting point is Big Creek campground - quiet, secluded, only 12 campsites, no RV's, tent camping only. It's a great place to park your car and start your hike.

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Smoky Mountains Loop on 08/24/2010 18:52:44 MDT Print View

< Ok so I've been studying the Smoky Mountains trail map and I found a possible loop that seems like it would be fun to do. I can park at Newfound Gap as Hal suggested, go down the AT southbound until I reach Benton MacKaye Trail, take the Benton MacKaye Trail eastbound until I reach the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, then take that northbound until I reach The AT again, from there I can hike back to Newfound Gap a few miles to reach my truck. This loops is about 92.2 miles according to the trail map provided by the Smoky Mountains official website. I can pull that off in 5 to 6 days. What do you guys think about this route? >

I did this loop, up until the point where the Benton MacKaye comes into smokemont, where I ditched out and hitchhiked back to newfound. It's a nice loop, with varied flora and fauna, and terrain as well. Fair warning though, the Benton MacKaye is open to horse traffic, and while I was there, was in terrible condition due to that fact. The impact of horses on the trail was, in my opinion, sickening and I don't see how it's acceptable to the NPS. Between the effect of horses on the trail surface, to the trash left by the much less environmentally conscious horse enthusiasts, I was really disappointed in much of the BMT.

That being said, I still enjoyed the hike, but it would have been much, MUCH better if there had been no horses allowed in the park.

Hal Potts
(halpotts) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
Backpacking in the southeast? on 08/24/2010 22:19:50 MDT Print View

Mat, I agree completely with you on the horse trail problem in the Smokies. I always try to plan a non-horse trail route if possible but I can't always do it. The damage is astounding in some places - you end up literally walking in a trench sometimes 3 feet deep because of the shoveling effect of the horses hooves followed by fast moving water draining down the mountain. I am surprised the Park Service doesn't have a better plan. I also try to avoid the campsites that accommodate horses because they are often the ones with the trees chopped down by an overly excited young boy who wants to chop down a tree with Dad's ax. It's sad.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Smoky Mountains on 08/26/2010 12:12:05 MDT Print View

Ok, so on the official Smoky Mountains website, It says the following in the reservations section:

"If you do not plan to camp at a shelter or reserved campsite, then you only need to complete a permit. You do not need to call the Backcountry Reservation Office with your itinerary since no reservation is necessary."

So, I'm guessing these are the sites marked in black on the map that you guys were referring to. I don't understand this rule though, how do AT Thru Hikers get around it? I can imagine it would be pretty difficult for them to estimate exactly when they are going to get to the Smoky Mountains. Also, how strictly is this rule enforced if I stealth camp?

As far as my earlier proposed route, I didn't notice that the Benton MacKaye was a horse trail until now. I think I am going to avoid this trail based on what you guys have told me. Another option for me is to just stay on the AT. I can do the AT from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam. It is a shorter hike than my previously planned one at around 70 miles. The only problem here would be that I would need someone to shuttle me up to Davenport Gap from Fontana Dam so I can hike back to my truck. I should probably post this request in the "Trip Announcements" section, right?