In the smokies hang your food in a bag from the cable system. Always worked for me without any issue. Possible you might have a rodent issue, but highly unlikely. Now the shelters are another matter completely. On a recent trip a guy brought a mouse trap and caught 6 or 7 mice in the shelter while we cooked dinner and chatted outside.
- Park at Big Creek and take big creek trail. Avoid campsite 36 and 37. Closed a lot and bear activity is an issue
- take Gunter Fork Trail. Stream crossings, but excellent secluded trail
- take balsam mountain trail to AT, then south to Tricorner Shelter.
- approx 15 miles.
- If you want more miles go north an AT to snake den trail and go to campsite 29. Adds 5 to 6 more miles
- Take AT north from Tricorner to Mt Crammer fire tower (one of the best views in park)
- continue north on AT to Chestnut branch trail and back to car.
- approx 17-18 miles.
This options is relatively easy hiking. The toughest section will be the last few miles up Gunter Fork. The second day has a few minor pulls, but mostly losing elevation all day.
Option 2: requires car shuttle
- Park at Cataloochee
- Your goal is campsite 38 Mt Sterling. You have various options with your pick of miles. All these are good trails: Palmer Creek, Pretty Hollow, Balsam Mtn, Mt Sterling, Little Cataloochee.
- Campsite 38 to Swallow Fork Trail
- Take camel gap (longer miles) or low gap (shorter miles) to AT
- North on AT to Crammer fire tower
- Continue north on AT to Chestnut branch and to Big Creek parking
This option has a little more climbing because you are climbing to Mt Sterling ridge, then to the valley and then climbing to AT. Nothing overly difficult, just remember the Smokies does believe in switchbacks.
Hope this helps. If you need more specifics let me know or ping the area expert Brad Rogers.