The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
has over 800 miles of trail and more than 500,000 acres of land.
Featured here are selected hikes ranging in difficulty from the
easy to the challenging--for the young to the elderly. Included
with each hike description are directions to the departure point
and a detailed map to guide you. Use this link to get detailed
information from the Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/gsmsite/justforfun.html
Tips for Enjoying Your Smokies Hikes
The hiker should be prepared for a wide range of
temperatures and conditions. The temperature on some hikes can
be 10 degrees cooler than when you left the lower elevation.
Combine this with the fact that the Smokies are also the wettest
place in the South, and you have the possibility for great
discomfort in the event of a sudden storm. The higher elevations
in the park can receive upwards of 90 inches of precipitation a
Don't judge the complete day by the
morning sky. In summer the days usually start out clear, but as
the day heats up, clouds can build up, resulting in a heavy
shower. Winter is a great time to be in the Smokies, but also
represents the most challenging time as well. Frontal systems
sweep through the region, with alternately cloudy and sunny
days, though cloudy days are most frequent in winter. When
traveling in the Smokies, it's a good idea to carry clothes for
all weather conditions.
Hikers Should Be Prepared For All
Footwear should be a major concern. Though
tennis shoes may be generally appropriate for some day-hikes,
boots should be worn on the uneven trails in the Park. They
support the ankles from sprains and the foot from cuts and
Stay on the designated trail. Most hikers get
lost when they leave the path. If you get temporarily lost, try
to retrace your steps until you cross the trail again. Then its
just a matter of guessing which way you were headed when you
left the trail. You will either continue the way you were headed
or go back to your starting point--either way, no harm is done.
Always bring rain gear and a wool sweater. They
don't weigh much and might make the difference between being
miserable or not in the event it rains. As mentioned earlier,
the Smokies get approximately 90 inches of rain a year. This is
good. Its what makes the Smokies such a wonderful place to be.
Don't start a hike if thunderstorms threaten--some of the most
devastating damage ever to the Park has been from great storms
in years past.
Cross streams carefully. Getting wet, even in
summer, could lead to hypothermia, which leads ultimately to
disorientation, poor decision making and, in extreme
circumstances, death. Having said that, don't let a fear of
hypothermia, getting lost, or bears prevent you from the
enjoyment to be had by trekking the trails of the Park.
When we questioned a Park Ranger about
how to react to meeting a bear on the trail, he smilingly told
us the most likely sighting of a bear will be its tail
disappearing over a ridge. Most "incidents" occur when
an ignorant visitor feeds or otherwise harasses a bear. My own
experiences with bears have proven this to be true.
To avoid crowds, hike during the week;
avoid holidays; go during the "off" season. Also, go
in the morning before most folks are through eating breakfast;
this is a good time to see wildlife and morning light is great
for photography! You can also avoid crowds by using the outlying
trailheads such as those found at the Cosby and Wears Valley
entrances. I'm embarrassed to say we didn't know these existed
for our first 18 visits to the Smokies. But to our delight, we
found new vistas, trails, and landscapes to discover for the
Plan Your Hiking Trip With Care
With a little care and planning, your hiking
trip to the Smokies can be much more rewarding and repay you
with more great memories. You can enjoy not only the visual
splendor of the Park, you can view it without counting
out-of-state license plates, and you can get more fit in the
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