North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An American Treasure
Summit to the top of Clingmans Dome, walk a section of the Appalachian Trail, learn about the region’s ecosystems and see for yourself what makes the Smoky Mountains so great.
Rating (4.71)
Program No. 20552RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Two guides will be along all hikes so you can walk with the more strenuous or more leisurely group as you choose. The activities as planned may be altered because of weather, trail, or road conditions as the Group Leader deems best.

Afternoon: Registration is 4:00-4:30 in the hotel lobby. Orientation begins at 4:30.

Dinner: Dinner served in the hotel dining room, buffet style, with a variety of food choices. Enjoy panoramic views of the mountains of western North Carolina.

Evening: During Orientation we will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles & responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures & answer questions.

Clingmans Dome, Oconaluftee Visitors Center, GSMNP
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Steep 1/2 mile walk to observation tower; expect temps to be 10-15 degrees lower than at Lake Junaluska; bring a sweater or light jacket.

Breakfast: The Lambuth Inn breakfast buffet offers a rotating variety of choices such as an egg dish, breakfast meat, hot/cold cereals, fruit, breads, milk, juice, coffees & water.

Morning: As the bus travels through the Appalachian forests our Group Leader will talk about the Cherokee & early settlers of the area. Clingmans dome, the highest point in the GSMNP, is 6,643 '. A 1/2 mile walk on a very steep paved trail bring us to the Dome's observation tower & 360 views of the mountains.

Lunch: Box lunch at Newfound Gap

Afternoon: We will visit Mingus Mill, circa 1886, a water powered grist mill. Our Group Leader, or the on-staff Miller, will talk about the Mill & its importance to the community. Then we're off to the "Green" Oconaluftee Visitors Center with educational exhibits recounting human activity & dwellings in the Smokies from the early Cherokee to the present Park. The walk through the Mountain Farm Museum outside the Visitors Center, brings us into authentic homes, barns & gardens of the Appalachian's early Scots-Irish settlers.

Dinner: Dinner served in the hotel dining room, buffet style. Enjoy sweeping views and a wide selection of foods.

Evening: Meet Greg Kidd from the Great Smoky National Park and learn about development of the national park itself. This will augment and expand on what was learned at the visitor center earlier that day. Greg will show a beautiful slideshow presentation.

Hike the Great Smoky Mountains
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Four mile round trip hike, stream-crossings on narrow footbridges, & a two mile hike after lunch

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet.

Morning: We hike today on the Kephart Prong Trail. This is a moderate walk, up to 4 miles round trip, along a branch of the Oconaluftee River, past a former CCC camp, fish hatchery and remains of a logging railroad. Two guides will accompany the group one setting a more strenuous & the other a more leisurely pace on all hikes. There are narrow, elevated bridges over the creek. The Group Leader will talk about the CCC, its history & importance in the formation of GSMNP. We will identify plants along the trail.

Lunch: Enjoy a box lunch picnic on the trail.

Afternoon: Continue exploring as we venture onto the Appalachian Trail for a 2 mile trek and experience a different ecosystem above 4,000. Your expert guide continues to point out a variety of flowers, edible plants and wildlife.

Dinner: Enjoy a leisurely meal in the hotel dining room, serve buffet style.

Evening: Relax with an evening of entertainment.

Purchase Knob, Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on grassy & forested mountain trails.

Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty breakfast in the hotel dining room, serve buffet style.

Morning: The Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center, at Purchase Knob, is our morning destination. We'll hear a talk by a Park Ranger on the current state of the GSMNP.

Lunch: Enjoy a box lunch

Afternoon: We walk through the grassy meadows & forest trails of Purchase Knob. A Ranger leads us through a Citizen Science research program. We will be hands-on involved in learning about and assisting in, ongoing research concerning salamander populations & forest leaf floor.

Dinner: Enjoy buffet dinner at the hotel, this is a time to celebrate your shared experiences of this week.

Evening: This evening is free time to stroll the gardens and trails of Lake Junaluska.

Free Time, Cataloochee Valley, evening with Elk
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Walking through historic buildings, uneven floors & steps may be encountered.

Breakfast: Start the day with a nourishing breakfast, served buffet style in the hotel dining room.

Morning: Free Time, take this opportunity for personal exploration to see & do what interest you most.Our Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Lunch: Return to the hotel for a buffet-style lunch.

Afternoon: Depart for Cataloochee Valley. Our Group Leader will give us an orientation to the valley, its use as a Cherokee hunting ground, the establishment of farms & a thriving community by the 1910. We walk through original frame structures of homes, churches & the school. Learn about the history of the valley, including the buy-out & removal of the inhabitants to form the Park.

Dinner: Enjoy a box dinner in the valley.

Evening: We have lingered in the valley waiting for dusk, the best potential time to site Elk. Our Group Leader will impart the history & reintroduction of elk in the valley. View and photograph the elk herd as they emerge into the valley at dusk to graze.

Morning Class, Program Concludes
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina

Breakfast: Breakfast served buffet style with a variety of choices in the hotel dining room.

Morning: Morning Class: Many books have been written about the history, culture, mysteries & beauty of these mountains. The final morning of the course concludes with our wrap up session exploring "Literature and Films of the GSMNP."

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