23501
North Carolina

Exploring the Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains

Ascend Clingmans Dome, visit LeConte Lodge, hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, learn about the region’s history and see what makes the Smoky Mountains so great.
Program No. 23501RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
949
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Dinner, Orientation and Social
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Hotel check-in is from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Bethea Welcome Center which is on your left as you enter the conference center at the main entrance on N. Lakeshore Drive. If arriving after 5:00 p.m., you will need to check in at the Lambuth Inn front desk. The planned activities may be altered because of weather, trail, or road conditions as the Group Leader deems necessary.

Afternoon: After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the Lambuth Inn hotel lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously).

Dinner: In the hotel dining room, the dinner buffet offers choices of two meat entrees, two vegetables, a starch option, salad bar and varied desserts, including sugar-free and gluten-free options. Beverage choices include coffee, hot tea, water, iced tea and lemonade. Enjoy panoramic views of the mountains of western North Carolina.

Evening: Orientation and group social. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Our programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, and evening entertainment. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

DAY
2
Clingmans Dome, Visitor Center & Mountain Farm Museum, GSMNP
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. About 2 miles/ approximately an hour of walking to the top of Clingman’s Dome and on to Mt. Buckley and then an hour back to the motorcoach. Short walks at each of the other sites; getting on and off the bus multiple times.

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, coffee & water.

Morning: Today we will visit many of the major sites in the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If the weather is inclement, we may reverse the order of the day’s activities. We’ll board our vans and travel through the Appalachian forests. En route, our local instructor will share about the area’s history as well as identify flora and fauna. Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the GSMNP, is 6,643 feet. We will walk up a steep 1/2 mile paved trail which bring us to the Dome's observation tower with 360-degree views of the mountains of both Tennessee and North Carolina (if the mountain mist isn't present) and then traverse a half-mile ridge along the Appalachian Trail to Mt. Buckley. We will hike back down to the parking area and board the vans.

Lunch: We’ll enjoy boxed lunches at a scenic location in the Park.

Afternoon: We will drive about forty-five minutes from Newfound Gap to Mingus Mill, a water-powered grist mill built in 1886 and hear from a leader about the mill and its importance to the community. Participants can view the multiple floors of the mill’s interior and walk a short trail to view Mingus Creek and the millrace which directs water to the mill. After boarding the vans, we travel just five minutes down the road to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, featuring 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 Visitor Center, brings us into authentic homes, barns and gardens of Appalachia's early Scots-Irish settlers.

Dinner: Hotel dining room buffet.

Evening: In a slideshow presentation, a local expert will tell us about the development of the GSMNP, expanding on what we learned throughout the day.

DAY
3
Traverse the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. 75-minute (45 mile) van ride to the trailhead. Hiking a total of 8.8 miles with 1981 feet of elevation gain.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room buffet

Morning: Let the hiking begin! We will board vans for the 75-minute (45 mile) trip to the trailhead in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Newfound Gap where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.Hike 4.4 miles of rolling terrain (1981 feet of elevation gain) to amazing views at Charlie’s Bunion along the Appalachian Trail. Identify plants along the trail and hear the history of the point and its name. Trail is uneven with lots of roots and rocks. The only bathrooms available once we leave the trailhead are the trees.

Lunch: We'll have boxed lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: We will return along the same route, once again passing the Icewater Spring shelter. Total hike time is six to eight hours, depending on the speed of the group. Upon returning to the trailhead, we will board the motorcoach for a 30-minute (20 mile) trip to a local restaurant in Cherokee, NC.

Dinner: A variety of country-style options will be available on the restaurant buffet.

Evening: Hear a local expert share about the reintroduction of elk into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

DAY
4
Hiking, viewing elk & historical structures in Cataloochee
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. We’ll travel by vans for one hour (23 miles) to the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Walking through historic buildings; uneven floors & steps may be encountered. Hiking approximately six miles over rocky, uneven trails.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room buffet.

Morning: We’ll travel by vans for one hour (23 miles) to the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An instructor will give us a brief introduction to the valley and the early settlers who lived there until the land was purchased for the national park in the 1930s. Hopefully the elk will be grazing in the fields as we walk through the original frame structures of the settlers such as the school, church and various styles of homes.

Lunch: We'll have boxed lunches in Cataloochee Valley.

Afternoon: We’ll hike approximately six miles round trip to Davidson Gap and back along the Little Cataloochee Trail with 900 feet of elevation gain over a rocky, uneven trail. The only bathrooms available once we leave the trailhead are the trees. Upon returning to the trailhead, we will board the vans for the return trip to Lake Junaluska.

Dinner: Hotel dining room buffet.

Evening: Relax with live local musical entertainment providing traditional songs from this region.

DAY
5
Hike to LeConte Lodge, farm-to-table meal at a local farm
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. 75-minute (47 mile) drive to the Alum Cave Trailhead. Hike 11 miles (10-11 hours) round trip with an elevation gain of 2,560 feet. Navigate steps, stairs, foot bridges, rocks, roots and cable handholds.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room buffet

Morning: We’ll travel 75 minutes (47 miles) by vans to the Alum Cave Trailhead and then begin our ascent. We will hike along Alum Cave Creek, climb the stone stairs through Arch Rock, take in the views at Alum Cave Bluff, and use the cable handholds as we continue to our destination of iconic LeConte Lodge with a total elevation gain of 2,560 feet. Paul Adams established a camp in this location in 1925 in order to build support for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hike-in access to a lodge has been available since that time. Bathrooms are only available at the trailhead and at LeConte Lodge.

Lunch: We’ll have sack lunches provided by LeConte Lodge that we can eat in the dining hall.

Afternoon: After lunch we will begin our 5.5-mile descent to the Alum Cave Trailhead. Upon completion of the hike, we will board the vans for a scenic drive to a local farm (1 hour/ 42 miles).

Dinner: At the farm, we will be served a plated farm to table meal with live local entertainment.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B

Activity note: Hotel check out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel dining room buffet.

Morning: This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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