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Help with Smokies Trip
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Jason Mahler
(jrmahler) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Help with Smokies Trip on 02/23/2013 10:51:12 MST Print View

My brothers and I are going for a 7-8 night trip. We will drive down from Michigan on Saturday morning and start our hike late afternoon on Saturday. What I have so far:

Saturday - Start at Twentymile ranger station and hike to camp site 13 (near Gergory Bald - 6.8 miles, 3,400' elevation gain

Sunday - Hike to Spence Field Shelter - 12.5 miles, up and down hike

Monday - Hike to Siler Bald Shelter - 11.8 miles, up and down hike

Tuesday - Hike to Clingmans's dome, then down Fourney Creek Trail to Camp site 69 - 11.4 miles, 1200 gain to Clingman's, then 3900 descent

Wednesday thru Saturday - Thinking of taking the Benton MacKaye trail back to Twenty mile (~38.6 miles)

Saturday Afternoon/Night - Camp at site 93 or start driving home if done early enough. Possibly go do some day hikes (Chimney Tops, Rainbow Falls, Grotto Falls, etc) if done really early)

Sunday - Drive Home

We have never been to the smokey's (or any other mountains) and have never been out for more than 3 nights, so a lot of firsts. My concerns with the route above is if we are trying to do too many miles on the AT. We are typically good for 12-15 miles in MI, but have never done this type of elevation gain, so 12 miles may be a bit much on the front end. Also, wasn't sure how nice the Benton MacKaye Trail is along Fontana Lake with it being a horse trail and it sounds like old settlements.

Any opinions? I am open for almost anything, so don't be shy.

smokies on 02/23/2013 15:55:09 MST Print View

That portion of the BMT along the lake is not real exciting.

Sounds like you are trying to make a loop for convenience.

Lots of folks around there will shuttle you, a loop is not necessary.

Jeff at Hike Inn, or Curtis @ Standing Bear are two highly reccomended.

You are aware that now you have to make reservations for every campsite you stay at in advance, pay fee, carry printed receipt/schedule with you, and cant stray from that too, right?

Edited by livingontheroad on 02/23/2013 16:04:34 MST.

Jason Mahler
(jrmahler) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
I didn't realize on 02/23/2013 16:38:12 MST Print View

I knew that you had to reserve shelters and pink camp sites and that they were adding fees, but didn't realize that reservations would now apply to all sites. One of the things we liked about the Smokies was the ability to kind of change plans on the fly. Not a great development, but thanks for the heads up because it changes things.

Do you have any recommendations on an alternate route if the BM trail isn't that exciting?

Craig Hensley
(jchens) - F

Locale: North GA
Smokies Backcountry Permit on 02/26/2013 13:06:02 MST Print View

Yeah, all backcountry users must have a permit in the Smokies starting this year. Check out this site:

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Help with Smokies Trip on 03/01/2013 22:40:30 MST Print View

If you're only good for 15 miles in MI, you may want to tone it down a bit to start off. You might also consider doing it backwards so you start with the easy stuff.

Another idea is instead of one big loop, do several shorter loops. The Smokies was my first major trip and I did 4 loops totaling 101 miles in 10 days. That also cuts down on food weight you need to carry.

My personal recommendation would be to stay away from 70. 69 was ok and I stayed at lower 68 but upper 68 (few hundred yards higher) is next to the really big slide.

Jason Mahler
(jrmahler) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Suggestions Please on 03/09/2013 13:42:29 MST Print View

Does anybody have suggestions on a good route for someone new to the Smokies? The reason we chose the Smokies is because it is only a 10 hour drive and will allow us to hike our first big trip. We generally seek solitude, but wouldn't mind going on the AT for 2-3 days of our trip if we are getting something out of it (great views, experience, etc). We are typically good for 12-15 miles a day, but have only been in Michigan which has hills at best. Looking at starting April 13th and going for 7 nights. We basically sleep and hike and not much more.

Any help is really appreciated. This is a big park and has me running in circles a bit.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Suggestions Please on 03/09/2013 14:46:51 MST Print View

I'd still try a few smaller loops, but there are decent trails all over the park. Do check the closures page though as several in the NW side are likely still closed from storm damage. Not sure it will help but here's Part 1 of 5 of my 2009 trip loops so you can get a feel for different areas if you want to watch them all. I had focused my trip on waterfalls. With 441 being closed, it would make it much harder to get around, and the new permit system means you can no longer adjust your schedule on a whim for the formerly non-reservable sites. Smaller loops would make scheduling simpler.

FYI, you'll only have good views on a few parts of the AT, the balds, a few other high trails that have some breaks in the normal plethora of trees, and some of the Mounts like Sterling (fire tower) and Cammerer.

I don't know if you'd have a problem with late starting thru-hikers taking all the shelter space on the AT.

Also, if you've never been in the area, avoid going through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg if at all possible unless you like TONS of traffic.

Edit: I thought I'd add what I liked (or didn't) about my loops with regard to trails and sites.
- 47 is nice but very small, hence why it needed res. Trail to it was fine (my first real backpack, too)
- trail to 49 is old rail grade (many are that way) so boring except it follows the creek. Site was decent. Didn't care for 48 as much.
- I really liked the AT from Clingman's to Siler's. That section made me adjust my trip later to add more AT. Already mentioned 70 isn't good - stay at 69/68.
- trail to 32 was boring (wagon route). I took a nice abandoned trail from there along the creek back to the ranger station and hiked the road back to my car.
- Ramsey Cascade was really nice but it's an out and back.
- 18 was a really nice site but not easy to connect to others.
- Middle Prong is another rail grade. Greenbrier Ridge trail was OK after grade stopped. AT from Derrick Knob to Miry Ridge wasn't a nice - no views. 26 was OK.
- Last summer my 6 yo and I did the a loop from Big Creek - 37 is nice though the trail to it is rail grade, up the closed Gunter Fork Trail (it was overgrown) to Laurel Gap and then across to Mt Sterling and down Baxter Creek. It was a nice loop.

FWIW, I have the "Brown Bible" trail book if you have questions on any. It lists all mileages and points of interest along each trail.

Edited by topshot on 03/09/2013 17:25:14 MST.