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A Hiking Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains

Program Number: 2263RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/6/2013 - 10/11/2013; 10/5/2014 - 10/10/2014; 4/12/2015 - 4/17/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Price starting at: $595.00 - 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; 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, October 6)
   
 Afternoon: Arrive between 3pm and 5pm
 Dinner: 6:00
 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, October 7)
   
 Breakfast: 6:30 Ramsey Cascade group 8:00 Finley Cane & Spruce Flats groups
 Morning: Ramsey Cascades, strenuous, 8 miles This is a popular walk alongside the Ramsey 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 becomes a footpath surrounded by a wide variety of plant life. Moss and lichen cover everything. Between the first and second of the log bridges you’ll see some of the largest 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 accessible by trail. Vertical rise is 2,250 feet in 4 miles.
 Morning: Finley Cane/West Prong Trails, easy, 6 miles This short, wonderful hike is a favorite of many of our staff. No giant climbs or extraordinary views exist along the way; instead you will find many small surprises on this enjoyable woodland walk. Visit sink holes along Finley Cane Trail, see some big trees and a variety of forest types, enjoy the rollicking waters of the West Prong, and finish with a long easy descent right back into Tremont’s campus. One of the most pleasant easy hikes in the park according to many. Vertical rise is 400 feet.
 Morning: 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 has some narrow and steep sections in places and at times requires careful footing. We will pass by the Greenbrier 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 downhill, going past some rock outcrops and providing an occasional view through the trees. You will walk right back into Tremont behind the dormitory. Total vertical fall on the Lumber Ridge Trail is approximately 1,300 feet in 3 miles.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: 6:00
 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, October 8)
   
 Breakfast: 6:30 Rocky Top group 8:00 Indian Flats & Rich Mountain groups
 Morning: Rocky Top (& Spence Field) via Lead Cove, strenuous, 12 miles We will climb 5.1 miles up to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), gaining 3,000 feet in elevation along the way. Spence Field resides less than a half-mile away from the A.T. junction with Bote Mountain Trail. It is considered by many to be the premier spot along the crest of the Smokies. This high mountain grassy bald affords views into North Carolina and is a wonderful, quiet place to spend some time. For those who wish to press on, Rocky Top lies one mile to the east on the A.T. (500 additional feet). Whether you choose to stay at Spence Field or continue hiking to Rocky Top, you’re sure to soak up great views of the Smokies while eating lunch and resting for the journey back down the mountain. Good weather days afford views of Thunderhead Mountain, Fontana Lake and more. Vertical rise and fall is 3,000 feet in 5.2 miles.
 Morning: Indian Flats Falls, easy-moderate, 7.5 miles 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 is somewhat rocky. Lynn Camp Cascades can be seen within the first mile. Further up, the trail crosses Indian Flats Prong on a wide bridge. Railroad switchbacks climb the ridge here. Less than half a mile past the bridge is a short side trail to Indian Flats Falls, tucked into the mountain. There are four falls in all that drop 65 feet and run 170 feet. The falls are beautiful and provide a swimming opportunity before the return hike – but only for those willing to brave chilly temperatures! Vertical rise: 1,100 feet.
 Morning: Rich Mountain Loop, moderate, 8.5 miles This clockwise loop provides fine views of Cades Cove starting on the Rich Mountain Loop Trail and ending on the Crooked Arm Branch Trail. The trail begins in woods adjacent to one of the beautiful cove pastures. After meeting up with the John Oliver homeplace, constructed around 1820, the trail turns away from the old pastures and runs in a series of switchbacks up the side of Rich Mountain. Along this steady rise there are several fine views of Cades Cove. The trail then follows the contour of the ridge close to the northern border of the park on a boulevard that once more grants fine views. The downward trek becomes steep, rocky and chopped up by use of horses. Eventually the trail meets up near where you began and concludes with a fairly level half-mile stretch that returns to the starting point. Vertical rise: 1800 feet.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: 6:00
 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, October 9)
   
 Breakfast: 6:00 LeConte group 8:00 Green Camp Gap & Cades Cove groups
 Morning: Mt. Le Conte via Rainbow Falls and Bullhead, strenuous, 13.3 miles Mount Le Conte, at 6,593 feet, is the third highest peak within the park, and the highest “free-standing” peak east of the Mississippi. Climbing the mountain is a traditional trip for many hiking enthusiasts. However, to make it up and back in a day is very strenuous for those unaccustomed to hiking. The trail begins and ends at Cherokee Orchard Road near Gatlinburg. Geological curiosities, a waterfall, great views, groves of rhododendron and laurel, and creek crossings (on bridges) make for a hike full of many interesting sights. Vertical rise and fall is 3,500 feet in 6 miles.
 Morning: Green Camp Gap, moderate, 6 miles A number of trails in the park follow old railroad beds that were used in the early decades of the twentieth century to haul logs miles away to a lumber mill. Our hike begins on one such trail and meanders beside beautiful cascades and rivulets of Lynn Camp Prong. This part of the day is very easy hiking – wide and only very slightly inclined. After two miles we turn onto an old trail that is virtually unknown and no longer maintained. Natural forest succession is rapidly reclaiming it. There are narrow sections, places to duck below the rich growth of rhododendron, and places to maneuver over logs and debris. We will be traveling through one of the largest trail-less areas in the park where signs of wildlife are often abundant. On the final two mile stretch another overgrown railway bed will guide us back and forth across glorious Sams Creek. Rock/boulder hopping will be necessary. Be prepared to hike off the trodden path where undergrowth is thick in places. By the end of the hike you will have gotten a sense of what it feels like to be deep in the woods. Vertical rise: 1300 feet.
 Morning: Cades Cove Potpourri, easy, approximately 3 miles Two million people annually drive the eleven-mile loop road around this scenic wonder in the Smokies. Precious few, however, get out of their cars and explore the open meadows that lie atop this rich limestone bottomland. This is how we’ll spend a good part of the day after we first visit a few geologic points of interest plus a historic site or two. Midday we’ll also visit one of Tremont’s citizen science projects where they’ll be tagging monarch butterflies passing through on their fall migration. This portion of the day will take place approximately from 11am-2pm. An ideal hike for those who are interested in resting weary limbs but still would like to enjoy the outdoors on shorter adventures. Long pants are recommended, as is taking sunscreen. The terrain is mostly flat, but the footing off the beaten path can be uneven at times.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: 6:00
 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, October 10)
   
 Breakfast: 7:00 Charlies Bunion 8:00 Turkeypen Ridge & Cucumber Gap groups
 Morning: Charlies Bunion, moderate-strenuous (very rocky), 8 miles This is another high country hike with great views. It starts on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap, where President Roosevelt dedicated the national park in 1941. At first, the hike is a steady, gradual climb on a section of the A.T. that gets a good deal of foot traffic. The views are great and the Canadian-zone Spruce-Fir forest you’ll experience walking up the slopes of Mount Kephart is a striking difference from what you’ll see in the lower elevations of the park. 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: Turkeypen Ridge, moderate, 8.4 miles Begin your hike on Turkeypen Ridge Trail and descend into Big Spring Cove, where you will see remnants of early farming. This section of trail undulates gently up and down for the next three miles, as it passes in and out of both dry and moist forests. Good views of Thunderhead Mountain and lovely large chestnut oak trees 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 it intersects with West Prong Trail. Descend on West Prong until you reach the river and lovely backcountry campsite #18. After leaving the river you will ascend the flanks of Fodderstack Mountain for one mile before beginning the gentle descent to the finish point. Never difficult, this is a great “walk in the woods” which ends right here at Tremont – a great conclusion to your week.
 Morning: Cucumber Gap Loop (Little River & Jakes Creek Trails), easy, 5.3 miles This is one of the finest short loops in the park. After passing several old cabins in the Elkmont historic district the trail follows along the Little River through a beautiful second-growth forest. This section is as flat as it gets in the mountains and offers a wonderful opportunity to meander alongside a beautiful river for several miles. Once the trail crosses rollicking Huskey Branch it meets up with Cucumber Gap Trail and begins to climb, and crosses the branch once more. Tree and herbaceous plant diversity is stunning along this section and we will focus on identification as well as general natural history while walking this beautiful trail. The final 1.3 miles is downhill. Vertical rise: 800 feet in 3.3 miles.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: 6:00
 Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment
   
Accommodations: Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Friday/Departure
(Friday, October 11)
   
 Breakfast: 8:00
 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


Strangers in High Places


Author: Michael Frome


Description: A highly informative human history of the Great Smokies from 1700s to the creation of the national park. Particularly good on the early history of the region.



A Natural History Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Author: Donald W. Linzey


Description: Informative chapters on geology, forest types, balds, aquatic diversity and many other subjects about the most biologically diverse region in North America.



A Home In Walker Valley: The Story of Tremont


Author: Jeremy Lloyd


Description: This brief history of the valley where Tremont resides starts when Will and Nancy Walker settled it and follows through the logging era, and up to the present day.





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