< 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.