2263
Tennessee

Choose Your Pace: A Hiking Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains

Enjoy daily hikes at the pace you choose through some of the most scenic trails of Appalachia as you learn about local wildlife, ecosystems and Appalachian music and storytelling.
Rating (5)
Program No. 2263RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
849
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Orientation and Expectations
Townsend, TN
D
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Afternoon: Arrive between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.

Evening: Introductions. Expectations for the week. Sign-up for hikes (choice of 3 hikes each day). Social.

DAY
2
First Hiking Day
Townsend, TN
B,L,D
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.

Morning: SAMPLE SCHEDULE ONLY: SUBJECT TO CHANGE CHOOSE ONE HIKE GREGORY BALD, strenuous, 10.8 miles: The journey up Gregory Ridge to Gregory Bald offers you everything that makes the Smokies a wonderful place: scenic views, wildflowers, and old-growth forest. This hike is strenuous due to length and some steep uphill and downhill portions. No one is quite sure how grass balds, expansive mountaintop grasslands, were formed. Theories include use by Native Americans, lightning strikes, and animal grazing. The national park maintains this bald to preserve the historic and biological uniqueness. Total elevation gain: 3,000 feet over 5.4 miles. Total elevation loss: ditto. 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. The first several miles undulate through lovely dry and moist forests. Good views of Thunderhead Mountain and large chestnut oak trees are your companions on this quiet, intimate hike. After several more miles of ascent and descent you'll reach the river and backcountry campsite #18. The final two miles feature beautiful wildflowers and end right here at Tremont – a great conclusion to your week. This hike features rolling terrain, climbing a total of 900 feet over 2.6 miles and descending a total of 1,400 feet over 5.3 miles. ABRAMS FALLS, easy-moderate, 5 miles: This hike begins at the far western end of the historic Cades Cove farming community. The trail undulates for 2.5 miles, including several footlogs, until it reaches the falls. The highest rise (200 ft) is Arbutus Ridge. An excellent opportunity for photographs, Abrams Falls plunges 25 feet with a width of 35 feet. The largest falls in the park, it empties into a pool nearly 100 feet in length. In addition to the falls, this hike presents one of the lowest elevation trails in the Park. Total elevation gain: 400 feet over 2.5 miles. Total elevation loss: ditto.

Lunch: Sack lunch on trail

Afternoon: Return by 4:30 p.m.

Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.

Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment

DAY
3
Second Hiking Day
Townsend, TN
B,L,D
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.

Morning: CHOOSE ONE HIKE MT. CAMMERER, strenuous, 11 miles: This historic stone fire tower was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and fell into disrepair in the 1970s. With the help of the Appalachian Trail Conference and Friends of the Smokies, it was rehabilitated in 1995. We will begin our hike with a short, steep ascent of Low Gap Trail, out of Cosby campground. Upon reaching Low Gap, we will hike on the Appalachian Trail towards the fire tower for 2.1 miles. Mt. Cammerer Trail leads us to our destination. The views from the fire tower are well worth the effort to reach the top. Total elevation gain: 2,800 feet in 5.5 miles. Total elevation loss: ditto. JAKES CREEK AND PANTHER CREEK, moderate, 8.3 miles: This hike leaves from Elkmont along a tributary of the East Prong of the Little River, climbs over Jakes Gap, and descends near Tremont along the headwaters of the Middle Prong of the Little River. The beginning of the trail is marked by a steady uphill climb for 3.7 miles. Along the way keep your eyes open for the smooth gray trunks of Fraser magnolias, one of four deciduous magnolias that grow in the park. The descent into Panther Creek involves several stream crossings. Carrying a pair of creek shoes in your pack is highly recommended. After Lynn Camp Prong, our final creek crossing, we'll follow the trail and the river down to the van. Total elevation gain: 1,800 feet over 3.3 miles. Total elevation loss: 2,200 feet over 4.6 miles. HUSKEY GAP, easy-moderate, 6.5 miles: This hike begins by steadily climbing the eastern flank of Sugarland Mountain through beautiful rich woodlands, with many opportunities to find spring wildflowers. The final miles follow along the Little River through a beautiful second-growth forest, offering a wonderful opportunity to meander alongside a beautiful river until you reach trail’s end in Elkmont. Total elevation gain: 1,300 feet in 2 miles. Total elevation loss: 1,000 feet over 4.5 miles.

Lunch: Sack lunch on trail

Afternoon: Return by 4:30 p.m.

Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.

Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment

DAY
4
Third Day Hiking
Townsend, TN
B,L,D
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.

Morning: CHOOSE ONE HIKE MT. LECONTE strenuous, 13 miles: Mt. Le Conte, elevation 6593 feet, is the third highest peak in the park and is very strenuous for those unaccustomed to hiking. The hike starts on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap before following Boulevard Trail. The final ascent is very steep. Alum Cave Trail is downhill but fairly strenuous. The A.T./Boulevard approach climbs a total of 2,400 feet over 6.5 miles, and includes descending a total of 800 feet over 1.3 miles. Total elevation loss on Alum Cave Trail: 2,800 feet over 5.5 miles. ROAD PRONG/CHIMNEY TOPS, moderate, 5.0–7.2 miles: This high country excursion begins at Newfound Gap where President Roosevelt dedicated the national park in 1941. After a moderate one-mile climb on the Appalachian Trail we arrive at Indian Gap, a strategic access point guarded by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. From there we’ll descend on Road Prong Trail into a rocky, wet, verdant forest. Be prepared, as the trail and creek in places become one and the same. This dramatic hike travels through a variety of forest types, a stand of old-growth forest, and passes several waterfalls. For those who wish, a side excursion may be made on a quite steep 1.1 stretch of trail to Chimney Tops. Total elevation gain: 500 feet over 1 mile. Total elevation loss: 1,700 feet over 4 miles. (Add 1,000 feet gain and loss for Chimney Tops.) ANDREWS BALD, easy-moderate, 3.6 miles: The beginning descent on this hike is easy but somewhat rocky, and slippery when it's raining. The first mile is downhill, then the way becomes level along a saddle with some uphill. The grassy bald (a treeless area below treeline) offers views of National Forests in surrounding states. Coming back is a steady climb. If time and interest allows, we will hike one additional mile to and from Clingmans Dome observation tower, highest point in the park. Total elevation loss: 1,000 feet over 1.8 miles. Total elevation gain: ditto.

Lunch: Sack lunch on trail

Afternoon: Return by 4:30 p.m.

Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.

Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment

DAY
5
Fourth Day Hiking
Townsend, TN
B,L,D
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

Breakfast: Breakfast in Dining Hall.

Morning: CHOOSE ONE HIKE BRUSHY MOUNTAIN, strenuous, 11.5 miles This hike begins on Trillium Gap Trail which leads through a majestic old-growth forest. The way is muddy in places due to llamas that carry supplies to Mt. LeConte Lodge. The journey is worth it, for soon you’ll reach Grotto Falls. At roughly the halfway mark you’ll reach Trillium Gap where a rocky spur trail leads along a rhododendron tunnel to the summit of Brushy Mountain, a heath bald with good views of Mt. LeConte. The second half of the hike descends Brushy Mountain Trail through more old growth forest, and eventually passes through Porters Flat where a collection of three 19th century buildings stand, including a cantilever barn. Total elevation gain: 2,900 feet in 5.6 miles. Total elevation loss: 3,100 feet over 5.9 miles. SPRUCE FLATS/LUMBER RIDGE, moderate, 8 miles: After departing Tremont, we'll hike through some rocky, steep sections, until we reach Spruce Flats Falls one mile in. Beyond the falls we’ll follow an old unmaintained railroad grade, scrambling over and under several fallen trees and rock-hopping the creek. The remainder of the hike follows Lumber Ridge Trail downhill through a hardwood forest with occasional views glimpsed through the trees. Total elevation gain: 1,500 feet over 5 miles. Total elevation loss: 1,500 feet over 3 miles. 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 following an old jeep road along the river, with wildflowers and old home sites flanking 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. Total elevation gain: 550 feet in 1.4 miles. Total elevation loss: ditto.

Lunch: Sack lunch on trail

Afternoon: Return by 4:30 p.m.

Dinner: Dinner served in Dining Hall.

Evening: Presentations, music, storytelling, or other entertainment

DAY
6
Friday/Departure
Townsend, TN
B

Breakfast: Breakfast in dining hall.

Morning: Depart by 9:00 a.m.






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