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Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

Philadelphia...
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Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

My girlfriend and I are looking to go on a 3 night trip through the Smokies. We are going mid may and need help, we want to do something that has a little of everything, we would like to avoid shelters if possible since we will have our tent. We would prefer a loop but a shuttle is possible. Please help with suggested campsites and trails. Thanks

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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1. Re: Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

Your proposal sounds like fun, you have chosen a good time of year to make the hike. But, I would like to know something more before I recomment a loop hike.

How far do you want to go in a day, how far total mileage?

You should be aware that you cannot pitch a tent just anywhere along the trail. Camping is limited to back country sites and you have to register with a ranger at a visitors center. Some of these may be full on the day you want to stay there.

As soon as you have settled your daily mileage the search can begin for backcountry sites that are an appropriate distance apart.

Philadelphia...
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2. Re: Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

We are experienced day hikers but this is our first backpacking trip. I think 8-12 miles a day is good with one day of around 4-8 miles to rest my knees a little. I guess it all depends on the elevation gain/loss. > than 12 miles on a relatively flat trail in a day is reasonable. I have been looking at the southwest corner of the park because of the lake and abundance of campsites. I understand that Clingman's road is closed until May 28 so that cuts out a lot of trailheads to start from. What about twenymile ranger station as a starting point? Or Cades Cove?

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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340 posts
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3. Re: Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

OK, that gives me an idea. Go to Cosby Campground on the northeast side of the park. Take the look made up of Snake Den Ridge Trail, Madron Bald, Gabes Mountain. These form a loop covering 17.2 miles and you have backcountry sites for two nights, three days.

You will see big trees, waterfalls, and will get a peek at the Appalachian Trail.

To get a good description of this loop, and to see a couple of other options, I highly recommend you get the book Hiking Trails of the Smokies. This little book contains a map as well as trail descriptions. This book is available from the park visitors center (web site and phone orders accepted) and is probably on sites such as Amazon. This is not the only trail book for the GSMNP but it is the one I have used for more than 35 years, in several updated editions.

If you need/want more detailed directions contact me direct and I will do what I can.

nashville
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4. Re: Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

Twenymile is a good area. You can take the Twentymile trail up to the Appalachian Trail, check out the Shuckstack Firetower (amazing views over Fontana Lake and into Nantahala), and stay at CS 113. Day Two hike up the AT to Gregory Ridge, then west towards the bald and camp at 13. Day three finish the loop down Wolf Ridge.

this is obviously a lot less mileage than you called for. i don't wanna sound presumptuous, but i think you'll enjoy yourselves a bit more if you keep your days below 10 miles. uphill or downhill, you're probably gonna find rough terrain anywhere and, as you probably assumed, 10 miles without a 30-lb pack is way different from 10 miles with a pack.

if you're hungry for more, consider this:

start from the end of Lakeview Drive (the road to nowhere) and head up Noland Creek to CS 61. Day Two, head up Noland Divide to Clingmans Dome (i bet it's lovely when there aren't throngs of tourists up there), then down to Andrews Bald and camp somewhere on Forney Creek. Day Three complete the loop via Forney Creek Trail.

nashville
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5. Re: Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

...opps, you said "three nights" not three days...

one idea is to get a boat shuttle from the Fontana Marina and then just hike the Lakeshore Trail back to your car. there's a ton of old homesites and artifacts and cemeteries along the lakeshore that makes for good exploring. you could finish off your trip with a visit to the Shuckstack Firetower.

also wanted to mention: backcountry sites in the park get closed all the time during the warmer months for bear activity. you should keep an eye on the website to make sure the site you want is even open. as soon as you decide on a route, you should make reservations, if needed, for the campsites.

6. Re: Help with 3 night backpacking route! First time to GSMNP

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