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A Hiking Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains

Program Number: 2263RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/7/2013 - 4/12/2013; 4/12/2015 - 4/17/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Price starting at: $575.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Walking/Hiking; National Parks Activity Level: n (see description)
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Discover the beauty of the most rugged mountains in Appalachia! Education staff will assist in your exploration of cultural and natural history as you move through this amazing landscape. Start each day with a hot breakfast then pack a lunch, grab your daypack and head out on the trail. Daily hikes of 5 to 13 miles bring you into contact with this ancient mountain chain’s varied vegetation, crisp air, clear streams and spectacular scenery.




Highlights

• Daily hikes bring you into contact with the varied plant life, sparkling mountain streams and breathtaking vistas of the Appalachian Mountains.
• In the evenings, enjoy Appalachian music, stories and other educational sessions.
• Experience the crisp air, rushing water and vibrant colors of these amazing mountains.



Activity Particulars

Hikes of 5-13 miles daily. Mountainous terrain with rugged mountain trails and wilderness conditions on the trail. Elevations of 6,643 feet.



Coordinated by Great Smoky Mountains Institute.




Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee is America’s most visited National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World-renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, beautiful ancient mountains and the remnants of Appalachian culture, it is one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States.



Accommodations
Separate male and female accommodations in modern open dormitory with multiple-occupancy rooms for 15 using lower bunks. Shared baths.
Meals and Lodgings
   Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
  Townsend, TN 5 nights
 Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Type: Campus/Dorm
  Description: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park which consists of over a half a million acres and 900+ miles of hiking trials.
  Contact info: 9275 Tremont Road
Townsend, TN 37882 USA
phone: 865-448-6709
web: www.gsmit.org
  Room amenities: The dormitory consists of four separate open dormitories, each with their own bathroom. There are separate sections for men and women. Private accommodations are not available on site. The dormitory is heated and air conditioned.
  Facility amenities: Heated and air conditioned dormitories, dining hall, classrooms, outdoor meeting spaces, book store, library, hiking trails, excellent fly fishing, great swimming holes, hearty meals, the unparalleled beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: Shared bathroom with private showers and bathroom stalls
  Additional nights prior:  Due to the numbers of groups hosted by GSMIT, we are unable to offer accommodation before the program begins or after it ends.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after:  Due to the numbers of groups hosted by GSMIT, we are unable to offer accommodation before the program begins or after it ends.
  Check out time: 9:00 AM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
3:00-5:00pm Check-In Time. 6:00pm Meet in dining hall for start of program. You will be staying at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont that night.
  End of Program:
8:30am End of program (following 7am breakfast). Checkout is 9:30am. You will be staying at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Road Scholar Health and Safety Form
  Parking availability:
Parking is available on campus
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Townsend, TN
  Nearest city or town:  Townsend
  Nearest highway: Hwy 321
  Nearest airport:  McGhee-Tyson, Knoxville, TN
  From End of Program
  Location: Townsend, TN
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

Knoxville, TN

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
phone: 865-448-6709
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

$20 per person
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

1 hour 

 

Distance:

 

40 miles

 
Driving Directions
  FROM THE EAST Follow I-40 W to the 411S exit at Newport. Follow 411S to Sevierville then 441S to Pigeon Forge. Once in Pigeon Forge turn right and follow 321 S through Wear Cove to Townsend. Turn left in Townsend and follow Hwy. 73 into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once in the park . . . Another option from the EAST is to reach the park by the Foothills Parkway exit, # 443 from I-40W. The route is scenic but winding. Follow the Foothills Parkway to it's intersection with route 321, take a left on 321. In Cosby take a right to stay on 321 and continue to Gatlinburg. In Gatlinburg take 411 S toward GSMNP. Once in the park, at Sugarlands Visitor Center, turn right toward Townsend and Cades Cove. After about 18 miles, go past the Townsend entrance on your right and watch for signs for a left turn to Great Smoky Mountains Institute. Come two miles up the road and turn left.
  FROM THE NORTH I-75 S to Knoxville. Continue on 275/ I-40 W for a short distance. Follow airport exits to 129 S. which takes you toward Alcoa/Maryville. From Maryville, take 321 N through Townsend. Do not turn toward Pigeon Forge. Follow signs straight into the Cades Cove entrance toGreat Smoky Mountains National Park. Once in the park . . .
  FROM THE SOUTH From Atlanta take I-75 N to Lenoir City - exit #81. Follow 321 North through Maryville to Townsend. Go straight on Hwy. 73 (don't turn toward Pigeon Forge) into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once in the park . . .
  FROM THE WEST Follow I-40 E to the Lenoir City exit, #364. Follow route 321 N through Lenoir City into Maryville and on into Townsend (do not turn on 321 toward Pigeon Forge) Hwy. 73 leads you straight into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once in the park . . .
  ONCE IN THE PARK When coming in from Townsend, follow the road to the Y-intersection with signs to Gatlinburg or Cades Cove. Turn right towards Cades Cove, then immediately you will see a sign indicating the road to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute. Turn left across the bridge and follow the Tremont road 2 miles (you will cross two, two-lane bridges) to the Institute turning left across the 1-lane bridge. Office is on the left. Please check in.
Equipment Requirements: Appropriate outdoor clothing and personal hiking gear.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Orientation and Expectations
(Sunday, April 7)
   
 Afternoon: Arrive between 3pm and 5pm
 Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.
 Evening: Introductions Expectations for the week Sign-up for hikes (choice of 3 hikes each day) Social
   
Accommodations: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: First Hiking Day
(Monday, April 8)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Spruce Flats/Lumber Ridge, moderate, 8 miles

This loop hike will begin and end at Tremont. You will start out on the Falls Trail with the highlight being Spruce Flats Falls, a 40-foot waterfall that may very well be the beauty of the Smokies. The one-mile between the falls and Tremont is a slightly treacherous trail with some steep sections and spots requiring careful footing. We will pass by the Greenbriar Fault twice during this part of the hike and spend some time talking about the geological forces behind the formation of the Smokies. Up over the falls, we go on an unmaintained trail that used to be a railroad bed. It is now grown over with rhododendrons so be ready to duck a few times, and scramble over fallen trees. It meanders along Spruce Flats Branch, which we may need to rock-hop across several times with gentle ups and downs in terrain. At about halfway, we might stop at Buckhorn Gap for lunch. The remainder of the hike is along the Lumber Ridge Trail down through a hardwood forest of second growth. It is mostly down hill going past some rock outcrops and providing an occasional view through the trees. You will walk right back into Tremont behind the dormitory
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Ramsay Cascades, strenuous, 8 miles

This is a popular walk alongside the Ramsay Prong of the Little Pigeon River. This hike is strenuous due to length and rocky terrain. It is a steady climb starting out along an old jeep trail and becoming a footpath surrounded by a wide variety of plant life. Moss and lichen cover everything. Between the first and second of the log bridges are some of the largest specimens of trees in the park. This trail also passes through some impressive boulder fields, climbing steadily as it winds back and forth across streams (most have footbridges or should be easy to rock-hop) until the Cascades are reached. These are the highest falls in the Park which are accessible by trail. Vertical rise is 2250 feet in 4 miles.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Jakes Creek/Cucumber Gap/Little River Loop, easy, 5.1 miles

This is one of the finest short loops in the park. After passing many historic Elkmont structures, the trail begins a gentle ascent through a second growth hardwood forest. The gold and crimson of fall surrounds you as you ascend to Cucumber Gap. We will focus on tree and plant identification as well as general natural history while walking this beautiful trail. The trail descends to the Little River, through more beautiful forest and crosses rollicking Huskey Branch. The last 2.3 miles of our hike will be along-side the Little River. This section is as flat as you can get in the mountains and offers fantastic river views and new plants to behold. Vertical Rise: 500 feet in 1.5 miles.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment
   
Accommodations: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Second Hiking Day
(Tuesday, April 9)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Indian Flats Falls, easy to moderate, 7.5 miles roundtrip

This hike begins at the end of Tremont Road where Old Tremont, the 1920s logging town, once stood. The Middle Prong Trail follows an old railroad grade along beautiful Lynn Camp Prong. In places the trail somewhat rocky. Panther Falls can be seen within the first mile. At 3.0 miles there's evidence of the old CCC dining hall and a furnace. Further up the trail crosses Indian Flats Prong on a wide bridge. Railroad switchbacks climb the ridge here. Less than half a mile up is a short side trail to Indian Flats Falls. There's four falls in all that drop 65 feet and run 170 feet. The falls are beautiful, however they serve another wonderful purpose, swimming. Folks hiking this route may want to bring a bathing suit and towel to take advantage of a cool dip before the hike back down. Elevation gain: 1100 feet.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Roundtop Trail, moderate, 7.5 miles

Enjoy the solitude of one of the least-used trails in the Great Smokies. Round Top is a beautiful, classic Smoky Mountains hike that will lead us around Roundtop and Little Roundtop Mountains. Lovely, deep valleys, views into Wear Cove, and interesting rock outcrops add to this already pleasant hike. Elevation gain is 850 feet. Interestingly, the end of the hike may be more exciting than the beginning. Roundtop Trail emerges on the opposite side of the Little River from the Wye parking lot. Participants in this hike will have to ford the river to return to the vehicle. Depending on the water levels, this ford could be ankle or hip deep…a refreshing way to end a wonderful hike. Please pack shoes that can get wet. After crossing the river you will return to Tremont for a change of shoes and maybe a hot cup of coffee.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Gregory Bald, strenuous, 10.8 miles

This is one of the finest hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. This hike is strenuous due to length and very steep uphill and downhill portions of the trail. The journey up Gregory Ridge to Gregory Bald offers you everything that makes the Smokies such a wonderful place: scenic views, wildflowers, old growth forest. It is a steady climb to the bald but well worth it. The bald has been a large open field for as long as white settlers have been in these mountains. No one is sure how grass balds were formed. Theories include Indian development, lightning strikes and even animal grazing. The National Park maintains this bald to preserve the historic and biological uniqueness. Vertical rise is 2500 feet in 5 miles.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment
   
Accommodations: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Third Day Hiking
(Wednesday, April 10)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Options:

Rich Mountain Loop, strenuous, 7.5 miles.

This circular walk provides fine views of Cades Cove starting on the Rich Mountain Loop Trail and ending on the Crooked Arm Branch Trail. The trail starts out through woods alongside one of the beautiful cove pastures, crossing and following the creek until it turns away to run in a series of switchbacks up the side of Rich Mountain. Along this steady rise, there are several fine views of the Cove. The trail then follows a service road close to the northern border of the park. It feels like a boulevard with great views once again. The autumn colors could be really spectacular. The downward trek becomes steep, rocky and chopped up by use for horses. The trail crosses three small streams and follows down the third. You come out near the John Oliver place built in 1820. After some exploring, continue on the trail back to the starting point. Vertical rise is 1766 feet, gains 1500 feet within the first mile then follows contours gradually rising to the summit. Return is similar by a different route.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option

Charlies Bunion, moderately strenuous (very rocky), 8 miles

This is another high country hike with great views. The hike starts on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap. At first, the hike is a steady, gradual climb on a section of the AT that gets used a great deal. The views are great and the Canadian forest a nice change from lower elevations as you walk up the slopes of Mount Kephart. The trail is rocky and you need to use caution if it is wet. Vertical rise is 990 feet in the first 2.7 miles.
 Morning: Great Smokies Hiking Option:

Abrams Falls, easy to moderate, 5 miles

This "yo-yo" hike presents an opportunity to see the largest and most popular waterfall in the park. The trail begins at the far western end of Cades Cove near the location of old farm pastures. A bridge crosses Abrams Creek here and four additional footlogs follow. The trail undulates for the next 2.5 miles until it reaches the falls. The highest rise (200 feet) is Arbutus Ridge. An excellent photograph opportunity, Abrams Falls is 25 feet high and 35 feet wide emptying into a pool of dark green water nearly 100 feet in length. In addition to the falls, this hike presents one of the lowest elevation trails in the Park. The return trip follows the same route. Vertical rise: 200 feet.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment
   
Accommodations: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Fourth Day Hiking
(Thursday, April 11)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 Morning: Great Smoky Hiking Options:

Mt. LeConte: Boulevard/LeConte/Alum Cave, strenuous, 13 miles

Mount LeConte at 6593 feet is the third highest peak within the park. Climbing the mountain is a traditional trip for many enthusiastic hikers but to make it up and back in a day is very strenuous for those unaccustomed to hiking. The hike starts on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap; a focal point for most people who visit the Smokies, especially those who have time only to make a few stops and admire the overall beauty of these mountains. This portion of the hike is a steady, gradual climb through the Canadian forest with good views. The Boulevard Trail is a rolling trail following a narrow ridge with steep forested slopes on both sides. The trail is very steep at the final ascent to the top. Vertical rise is 1080 feet in 7.8 miles.

Alum Cave Trail is fairly strenuous, and mostly down hill, but the easiest return from the summit. The upper portion includes a narrow cleft across a steep open slope with cables for hand holds. The lower portion includes Alum Cave Bluff and Arch Rock with a pleasant, meandering walk along Alum Cave Creek. Geological interests, great views, groves of rhododendron and laurel and creek crossings (on bridges) make for a good hike. Vertical fall is 2560 feet in 5.5 miles.
 Morning: Great Smoky Hiking Option

Turkeypen Ridge/Schoolhouse Gap/Bote Mountain/West Prong, moderate (due to length), 8.4 miles

Enjoy the hike that leads you through a variety of forest types. Begin your hike on Turkeypen Ridge Trail and descend into Big Spring Cove, where you will see remnants of early farming. Turkeypen Ridge Trail undulates gently up and down for the next three miles, as it passes in and out of the dry and moist forests. Good views of Thunderhead Mountain and lovely large Chestnut Oaks are your companions on this quiet, intimate hike. Soon you will meet the wide, old roadbed that is Schoolhouse Gap Trail. Descend gradually on this trail until you reach Laurel Creek Road. Here you will cross and begin an ascent up Bote Mountain Trail until its intersection with West Prong Trail. Descend on West Prong until you reach the river and lovely backcountry campsite #18, a great place for lunch. After leaving the river you will ascend the flanks of Fodderstack Mountain for less than a mile before beginning the long, easy descent to Tremont. Never difficult, this is a great "walk in the woods".
 Morning: Great Smoky Hiking Options:

Andrew's Bald, easy-moderate, 3.6 miles

This is a beautiful high-country walk to a bald that is more accessible than the other balds in the park. The slope down into the bald is an easy but rocky walk that requires close attention. You will be walking downhill for the first mile, then across a level saddle with some up hill again to get to the bald. The spruce and fir forest here is characteristic at this 6300 foot elevation when suddenly you come into a grassy, open hilltop. We will spend some time exploring and enjoying the bald along with the views of the national forests of North Carolina and Georgia. Coming back is a steady climb. If time and interest allow, we will go up to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment
   
Accommodations: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Friday/Departure
(Friday, April 12)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast included.
 Morning: Depart by 9:00 am
   
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


A Natural History Guide: Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Author: Donald W. Linzey


A Home In Walker Valley: The Story of Tremont


Author: Jeremy Lloyd




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