Great Smokey Mountains NP

slc_dan

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I'm spending my spring break in the South. The desert rat in me is squirming, but should be a good time. We're going to drive from Nashville, where we'll be spending most of our time, to Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We'll camp two nights, Sunday, and Monday. I'll be with my wife, and daughter (10 months old).

So far I would like to hike to Spruce Flat Falls, which is about 2 miles. I'd also really like to hike Andrew's Bald, about 4 miles. If my wife and baby are feeling lazy I might try to jog/scramble up Chimney Tops, but most likely won't happen.

I did a search and only ran across one TR, from Mr. Scatman, good but longer hike than we'll be able to accomplish.

Anyone from the area care to shed some light on the park for me? Any campgrounds much better than others?
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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Are you set on going to the park? Would you be interested in wildernesses outside the park? I haven't been to the Smokies in years (decades, really), but I could help out on places just outside the park.

There are also some decent trails on the Cumberland Plateau that are closer to Nashville. Gatlinburg is about 4 hours from Nashville, and, as my wife likes to point out now that we've moved back to the south-east from Utah: everything looks the same here, so why drive a long way to see something?

Or I can take you caving!
 

wsp_scott

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When exactly are you talking about? Some of the roads and campgrounds start opening in April.

The Chimney Tops Trail is closed after the fire in December. Instead of that I would consider Mt Leconte, the Alum Cave trail is the most popular trail in the park, so you would see people, but there are some great views. I just did this in January. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2017/02/mt-leconte.html

Andrews Bald is not a hard hike. The first 1/4 mile is down hill, but the trail is in great shape and then it is a easy, mostly flat trail. The views are great. About 1/2 way down the page is where I got to Clingman's Dome and then Andrews Bald https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/12/deep-creek-to-clingmans-dome.html

In general, I like the NC side of the park more than the TN side, it is much less crowded and less touristy. But, there are some worthwhile things to see on the TN side. A good family drive is Cades Cove, lots of history and very pretty setting. If you do that, you might as well hike to Abrams Falls, you won't be by yourself, but it is a nice hike. My 7 year and I hiked to the Falls from the other direction last summer, this pic gives you an idea of what you will see in the popular parts of the park in the summer. The weather is more erratic in the spring, so you don't usually see these crowds.


Are you planning on camping in the Park? If so, I really like Big Creek, it is tent only and small (12 sites). No reservations, but there should not be a problem on a Monday. There is an easy trail right from the campground that has great creek views and passes a classic swimming hole (Midnight Hole). You might also consider Deep Creek on the NC side, there is some nice hiking in the area, but it is larger. You will be there early enough that the tubing hordes won't be there. The Clingmans Dome trip I linked above started in Deep Creek.

Some areas that I like for you to google
Mt Sterling and the firetower
Rainbow Falls
Cataloochee Valley
Fontana Dam and the Lakeshore Trail
Foothills Parkway

Not in the park, but sort of on the way to or from the park
Cherohala Skyway
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

happy to answer any questions with the caveat that most of my trips in the park are backpacking, and I tend to avoid the tourist parts when the weather is nice.
 

slc_dan

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Are you set on going to the park? Would you be interested in wildernesses outside the park? I haven't been to the Smokies in years (decades, really), but I could help out on places just outside the park.

Or I can take you caving!

There is an aspect of checking off a box of a national park, for my wife Jodi, so, this time unfortunately not. I'll get in touch when there will inevitably be a next time. If there is some good primitive camping just outside, that's always welcome :) I concur with the long drive, but I think a lot of the experience for us will be driving though country we've not seen yet.

Thanks for the invite! I would be interested in some Caving, except that I'm pretty claustrophobic, and it's more of a family trip this time. I tried to talk Jodi into going to the Red River Gorge for some climbing, but not this time.

When exactly are you talking about? Some of the roads and campgrounds start opening in April.

The Chimney Tops Trail is closed after the fire in December. Instead of that I would consider Mt Leconte, the Alum Cave trail is the most popular trail in the park, so you would see people, but there are some great views. I just did this in January. https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2017/02/mt-leconte.html

Andrews Bald is not a hard hike. The first 1/4 mile is down hill, but the trail is in great shape and then it is a easy, mostly flat trail. The views are great. About 1/2 way down the page is where I got to Clingman's Dome and then Andrews Bald https://backpackandbeer.blogspot.com/2016/12/deep-creek-to-clingmans-dome.html

In general, I like the NC side of the park more than the TN side, it is much less crowded and less touristy. But, there are some worthwhile things to see on the TN side. A good family drive is Cades Cove, lots of history and very pretty setting. If you do that, you might as well hike to Abrams Falls, you won't be by yourself, but it is a nice hike. My 7 year and I hiked to the Falls from the other direction last summer, this pic gives you an idea of what you will see in the popular parts of the park in the summer. The weather is more erratic in the spring, so you don't usually see these crowds.


Are you planning on camping in the Park? If so, I really like Big Creek, it is tent only and small (12 sites). No reservations, but there should not be a problem on a Monday. There is an easy trail right from the campground that has great creek views and passes a classic swimming hole (Midnight Hole). You might also consider Deep Creek on the NC side, there is some nice hiking in the area, but it is larger. You will be there early enough that the tubing hordes won't be there. The Clingmans Dome trip I linked above started in Deep Creek.

Some areas that I like for you to google
Mt Sterling and the firetower
Rainbow Falls
Cataloochee Valley
Fontana Dam and the Lakeshore Trail
Foothills Parkway

Not in the park, but sort of on the way to or from the park
Cherohala Skyway
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

happy to answer any questions with the caveat that most of my trips in the park are backpacking, and I tend to avoid the tourist parts when the weather is nice.

We are headed there this Sunday-Tues. 4/9-11. Andrews Dome sounds perfect for Wife, and Baby Hike. Glad it's open.

Thanks for mentioning Big Creek Camp ground.

I will do a little reading on everything else you mentioned. The more I look at it, the shorter the time is looking. At least I'll get a couple nights in a sleeping bag.
 

Wanderlust073

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Is this wife&kid car camping you are going for, or camp in the woods? There are some backcountry sites that don't require deathmarch hikes to reach if the latter.
 

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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After driving to Illinois and back last month, just hearing about someone planning to drive through the midwest for the fun of it makes me hurt a little. I bet it's way better once you get through all the corn though. Have fun out there!
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
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Messages
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After driving to Illinois and back last month, just hearing about someone planning to drive through the midwest for the fun of it makes me hurt a little. I bet it's way better once you get through all the corn though. Have fun out there!

HA! But this isn't the midwest, it's the south. Not sure there's much difference :roflmao:, but should be an interesting change of scenery.
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
Messages
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It looks like there's actually some snow up there right now. I'm just as surprised by that as anyone. Remember that Southerners can't handle snow, so 2 inches in the Appalachians is the same as 2 feet in the Rockies. I'm sure that was from the cold front that came through yesterday, though, so it'll probably be gone in a day or two.

Untitled.jpeg
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
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I've been doing that drive at least once, and sometimes twice, every year since I moved back. And every time I swear that I will never do it again. It really is an awful drive. But I end up still doing it every year because I want my 4Runner out there with me while I'm playing. The worst time to do the drive is in November because the Midwest is basically just the deer killing fields on the interstate as the deer migrate.
 

Aldaron

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Jun 16, 2012
Messages
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Seriously, if you do ever come back out and want to do some wilderness backcountry, kayaking, or caving, let me know. I just live an hour and a half south of Nashville.
 
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