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A Hiking Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains

Program Number: 2263RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/6/2014 - 4/11/2014; 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: $625.00 - 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; Gluten Free    

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 6)
   
 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 7)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 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.
 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: Indian Flats Falls, easy-moderate, 7.5 miles This hike begins at the end of Tremont Road, the original location of “Tremont” back when it was a booming town for the Little River Lumber Company in the 1920s and ‘30s. The Middle Prong Trail follows an old railroad grade along beautiful Lynn Camp Prong. In places it is somewhat rocky. Lynn Camp Cascades (also called Panther Falls) can be viewed within the first mile. Further on, the trail crosses Indian Flats Prong on a wide bridge. A series of switchbacks, originally created for the railroad, climb the ridge here. Eventually you come to a short side trail leading to Indian Flats Falls, tucked away in the mountain. There are four falls in all that drop 65 feet and run 170 feet. Vertical rise: 1,100 feet.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.
 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 8)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 Morning: Spruce Flats/Lumber Ridge, moderate, 8 miles This loop hike will begin and end at right on our campus. We will start out on the Falls Trail which guides us to Spruce Flats Falls, a 40-foot sparkling gem of the Smokies. This one-mile stretch between the falls and Tremont has some narrow and steep sections and at times requires careful footing. We will pass by the Greenbrier Fault twice during this part of the hike and see other evidence of the geological forces that formed these mountains. Beyond the falls we’ll follow 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 as well as 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. We’ll stop for lunch at the halfway mark at Buckhorn Gap. The remainder of the hike follows the Lumber Ridge Trail through a second growth hardwood forest. It is mostly downhill from here with an occasional view able to be glimpsed through the trees. We will walk right back into Tremont behind the dormitory. Total rise and fall: 1,300 feet.
 Morning: 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 foot logs 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.
 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 served in Dining Hall.
 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 9)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 Morning: Mt. Le Conte: Boulevard/Alum Cave, strenuous, 13 miles Mount Le Conte, elevation 6,593 feet, is the third highest peak in 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 final ascent to the top is very steep. Vertical rise: 1,080 feet in 7.8 miles. Alum Cave Trail is downhill but fairly strenuous and the easiest route of return from the summit. The upper portion includes a narrow cleft across a steep open slope with cables for handholds. The lower portion includes Alum Cave Bluff and Arch Rock with a pleasant, meandering walk along Alum Cave Creek. Fascinating geological features, great views, rhododendron groves, and a beautiful creek make for a hike full of discoveries. Vertical fall: 2,560 feet in 5.5 miles.
 Morning: Green Camp Gap, moderate, 6 miles In the early part of the last century, the area that is now the park was heavily logged. We will be setting out on an old railway bed that meanders beside beautiful cascades and rivulets of Lynn Camp Prong. This part of the trail is very easy hiking—wide, and only very slightly inclined. We will soon turn onto a trail that is virtually unknown and not 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. This 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. At its completion, you will have an idea of what the park must have been like years ago. Vertical rise: 1,300 feet.
 Morning: Andrews Bald, easy-moderate, 3.6 miles This is a beautiful high-country walk to a bald that is more accessible than any other bald in the park. The slope down to the bald is easy but somewhat rocky. If raining the rocks can be a bit slippery. You will be walking downhill for the first mile, then across a level saddle with some uphill again to get to the bald. The spruce and fir forest here is characteristic at this 6,300-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 hike one additional mile up and back to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park. Vertical rise: 800 feet.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.
 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 10)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.
 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: Spence Field via Lead Cove, strenuous, 10.2 miles We will climb 5.2 miles up to the Appalachian Trail, 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. We will soak up great views of the Smokies while eating lunch and resting for our trip back down the mountain. Good weather days afford views of Rocky Top, Thunderhead Mountain, Fontana Lake and more. Vertical rise and fall is 3,000 feet in 5.5 miles.
 Morning: Porter’s Creek, easy, 2 to 4.3 miles This “ramble” will take place along a trail with one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the park—or anywhere in the eastern U.S. We will begin our hike on an old jeep road that follows the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Wildflowers and old home sites flank our path. Eventually we will come to a dramatic foot-log spanning the river. Upon crossing it we will enter another world—a cove hardwood forest resplendent with flowers and big trees. We’ll go as far as Fern Branch Falls before retracing our steps back to the parking lot. Vertical rise on Porters Creek Trail: 600 feet in 1.8 miles.
 Lunch: Sack lunch on trail
 Afternoon: Return by 4:30 pm
 Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.
 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 11)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast in dining hall.
 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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