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St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

St. Louis, MO
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St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

My girlfriend and I are planning a roadtrip to Charleston SC from St. Louis. We're planning on stopping in Nashville for a night so any recommendations around this area as well as Charleston are welcome as well. I want to find some of the best options for us to stop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a one night backpacking hike somewhere around the US-70/ US-25 route through the park. Any good trail recommendations are much appreciated.

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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1. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

The highways you mention parallel I-40 and take you several miles north of the park, they do not enter the park at all.

From Nashville you can take I-40 East to Knoxville and then take U,S. 441 south to Pigeon Forge and Galinburg. 441 is the main north-south road through the park and will give access to lots of hiking.

It would be helpful to know what sort of things you want to see---waterfalls, views, dense forest, etc. If you let us know that I think several replies will come your way.

I live not too far from Nashville and again, it wouild be helpful to know what sorts of things interest you---history, culture, clubs, country music, etc.

St. Louis, MO
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2. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

Thanks for the update. As far as hiking goes I'm open to almost anything, of course waterfalls and views are great, I've never been east of St. Louis and have always heard great things about this park in particular, I just want to get a taste of the very best of this landscape that I can access somewhat easily off of our route. We will be arriving in the area on a tuesday evening, so I was thinking about camping that night and beginning a hike wed., camping that night, and hiking out thursday to continue on to Charleston.

As far as Nashville goes, we will only be staying for one night on a Monday, and will be looking for an area too get a good feeling of the city, have dinner and visit some bars.

Cullowhee, North...
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3. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

If you want a good one night trip try walking up to Mt. leconte from the Alum Cave trail and stay in the backpack shelter up there and then head across the Boulevard to the AT and walk south out to Newfound Gap. Grab a local or a tourist to give you a ride back to your car at Alum Cave. Alot of folks including myself have picked up hikers at the gap and shuttled them down to another trailhead or parking area. If I had to pick just one night a trek up Mt. LeConte would be it. Good luck.

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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4. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

In Nashville, go to Second Avenue in the downtown area. Some upscale restaurants, some good restaurnts, lots of country music clubs and bars. Good parking after rush hour. This is the center of much of the action for visitors to Nashville who want music and bars. Safe area at any reasonable hour.

The Alum Cave trail is five miles to the top of the mountain, a little further to the shelter. This is a steep trail. The route back down the Boulevard and AT to Newfoundgap is eight miles. This is a good hike if you are up for the climb and doing a total of 13-14 miles.

If you feel you are not in condition for climbing you should investigate a couple of long day hikes. Are you interested in that at all or is an overnight on the trail definitely your goal?

vcv
Tennessee
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5. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

For a peaceful outdoor hour or two in Nashville, visit Radnor Lake, which has several walking trails; you won't believe you're near the city.

nashville
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6. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

when are you guys gonna be in the park? do you have a mileage limit for your backcountry hike?

St. Louis, MO
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7. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

Hey thanks for all the help so far everyone. The alum cave trail sounds like a definite option, however I'm not looking to stay in a shelter. Any other suggestions of trails with great views or forests are still very welcome. A challenging hike that is worth it will not be a problem, as long as it can be done in a day and a half.

nashville
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8. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

I don't blame you... I've never liked the shelters, especially when there's a bunch of campers.

This is a fun hike.... start at the Anthony Creek Trailhead and pack up to backcountry site #9 and set up camp. After you set up, pack a daypack and head up to Spence Field (neat meadow with panoramic views... assuming it's not cloudy of course). From there take a left on the Appalachian Trail and head 1.2 miles to an open grassy/rocky clearing with the best views in the park, IMO. The peak is called Rocky Top. After you soak in the views, head back to camp.

this would make your total mileage on Day 1 a little over 10 miles, and just 3 miles on Day 2. But you're only carrying a heavy pack for the first 3 miles or so.

Anthony Creek Trail isn't that great, but you'll love that section of the AT. The upper section for Bote Mountain Trail is really nice, too.

Chattanooga...
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9. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

I'm assuming you know that I-40 just east of the TN/NC line is closed; the US-70/US-25 you mentioned is one of the official detours around that problem. Last I heard I-40 is still expected to be open by the end of this month, so I'm going to propose two options depending on whether you're coming before or after I-40 is reopened. That said, how do you feel about driving winding, and sometimes bumpy, dirt backroads?

Coming in fairly early on a Tuesday you may have a pretty good chance of getting one of the 12 spaces at Big Creek campground, where there are no reservations. You'd get off I-40 at the last TN exit currently open (451), then drive only about 3 miles to the campground. Or if I-40 is open, you could take NC exit 20, then work back around to the Cataloochee campground, which has 27 spaces, but again doesn't take reservations. This would involve some of the dirt roads mentioned. Or if you wanted to play it safe, you could get a reservation at Cosby campground, which is huge.

Now for the hike. From Mt Sterling Gap take the Mt Sterling Trail to... yep, Mt Sterling, and campsite 38. It requires a reservation; reservation procedures and registration procedures on the day of the hike are described in the Backcountry Camping section of the park website, but we can give you some more help if needed. Anyway, Mt Sterling Trail is 2.7 miles long and climbs 1800 feet in the first 2.3 miles; it's a tough climb, but mercifully short. The actual campsites, there are 3, are at the base of an old fire lookout tower that gives spectacular views if you're OK with climbing towers. It's spruce/fir country, with that wonderful clean crisp smell and the gentle sigh of the breeze in the trees, although the breeze atop the tower is usually anything but gentle!

The dirt road (Mt Sterling Rd or sometimes called old NC-284) that connects Big Creek and Cataloochee is about 18 miles long, with Mt Sterling Gap and the trailhead roughly halfway. If you stay at Big Creek or Cosby and I-40 is still closed, this can be your detour, and maybe you can work in a visit to Cataloochee Cove on your way out of the park on that Thursday; if I-40 is open, you can double back and get back on it at the TN/NC line. Or if you stay Tuesday night at Cataloochee, you'll probably have time to explore the cove and elk watch on that afternoon.

This is lots of information to throw at you, so I'll quit for now and let you look at pictures of previous trips. First is a hike up Mt Sterling via Mt Sterling Trail and down Baxter Creek:

…photobucket.com/albums/…

Here's a Cataloochee trip, with some extra stuff outside of Cataloochee itself:

…photobucket.com/albums/…

Zoom in on the northeastern section of the trail map found in the Camping section of the park website to orient yourself. If any of this sounds like what you're looking for, please feel free to follow up with more questions.

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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10. Re: St. Louis to Charleston- one overnight hike in GSMNP

You say you are not going to stay in a shelter. This means you will need to register at Sugarlands Visitor's Center (if you come in through Gatlinburg) and get a back-country permit which will allow you to stay in one of the backcountry sites. There are no backcountry sites on LeConte. Spaces in back country sites are limited. You cannot just pull off the trail and camp when you are ready. You can check the GSMNP web site for regulations and registration precedures at back country sites.