Hiking the Smoky Mountains

Some tips for a great hike in the Smoky Mountains.

With fall foliage about to reach peak color in the Smokies, it’s about time you tied up those hiking boots one last time this year and hit the trail. Don’t ya think?

Hiking the Smoky Mountains is one of the best reasons to visit Sevierville, TN. Just look up from any spot, and you will see picturesque views of the Great Smoky Mountains enveloping you. Downtown Sevierville itself is just a few short miles away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to more than 800 miles of hiking trails, and plenty of opportunities for you and your family to get closer with nature.

A quick hiking tip: Pick up a hiking guide for the Great Smoky Mountains when you enter town at the Sevierville Visitor Center located at 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway (1.5 miles from I-40 Exit 407). Best of all, all purchases at this gift shop, which is operated by Great Smoky Mountains Association, benefit the national park.

Most Popular Hiking Trails
Abrams Falls – 5 miles; 340′ climb; moderate: a relatively flat trail leading to the 20′ falls
Arch Rock  – 2.5 miles; 400′ climb; easy; trail leads to an erosion-created tunnel
Chimney Tops – 4 miles; 1,335′ climb; strenuous; winds through a virgin forest to the Chimney Top pinnacles
Hen Wallow Falls – 4 miles; 520′ climb; moderate; good, short day hike to 95′ falls
Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail – 3,000′ loop, paved trail with educational exhibits and communications media

Self-Guided Nature Trails
Alum Cave Bluffs 5 miles; passes through a bald of mountain laurel and rhododendrons
Cades Cove 0.5 miles; see how settlers used native plants
Cosby 1 mile; introduction to the Smokies’ natural history
Cove Hardwoods 0.75 miles; grove of old-growth deciduous trees
Laurel Falls 2.5 miles; paved trail leads through a pine-oak forest to the falls

Map out your trail by downloading the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s online map. Just Click Here.

Anyone can hike the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from those simply in the mood for a leisurely day hike to backpackers looking for a physical backcountry challenge. No matter the hike, soaring vistas, colorful wildflowers, and abundant wildlife await you. It’s also a great way to experience the mountains for the first time, and to introduce the great outdoors to the kids. Or, simply enjoy revisiting the wild, rugged terrain of the Smokies.

Hiking trails are open all year round in the park and each season brings a new view, and experience. A hike any time of the year can be both a healthy and educational experience for anyone coming to the park. Springtime offers an abundance of blossoming flowers and trees. Summertime’s cool mountain streams are the perfect respite from a day on the trail. The fall welcomes amazing colors, but don’t blink or you may miss it. And winter’s crisp white snowfalls and exquisite views reveal the true scope of the Great Smoky Mountains.

When you decide to take a hike, make sure you pack your boots, but don’t forget your other supplies! The easiest way is to bring a good backpack. This will allow you to carry what you need, but with the weight evenly distributed on your shoulders, thus maximizing comfort on the trail!

For short hiking trips that will last one day or less, consider packing your backpack with the following items:

  • Clothing. This time of year, you might need extra layers, especially up in the higher elevations. A lightweight jacket with a hood will help combat winds and chilly air. A hat (waterproof is ideal), gloves, and lightweight scarf can also come in handy, and they can be easily stored away in your pack without adding much extra weight.
  • Weather protection. Sunscreen is very important, especially if you are hiking at high elevations! Chapstick is also a good thing to pack.
  • Hiking Safety. A first aid kit is an absolute must! You can create a small, portable first aid kit comprised of essential items including band aids, blister pads, anti itch cream, tweezers, and antibacterial. Don’t forget bug repellant, either! This will ward off pesky insects on the trail, especially in the summer. And if you are on any medications, bring an extra dose or two, just in case you need to take them during the hike. Another important tool that you should bring is a pocket knife. Another essential: a compass (along with a trail map). It is vital that you stay on the marked trails, but if you should happen to get lost, a compass will help you get your bearings and hopefully find your way back to the hiking trail. As for hiking trail maps for Gatlinburg, TN you can pick some up at the Sugarlands Visitors Center just inside the National Park as you leave the north end of Gatlinburg. Be sure to put the map in a plastic bag in case you encounter wet weather…or terrain.
  • Snacks. Even if you are going on a shorter hike, you should always bring snacks and water with you. Hydration is extremely important. You might not feel like you are losing fluid, but you are, especially if you are hiking in the mountains! Bring a refillable water bottle that you can store in a side pocket of your backpack (one filled bottle per person). And pack lightweight snacks like granola bars or snack bags of GORP (raisins and peanuts), which will help you and your group refuel after a mile or two.
  • Fun stuff. The Smoky Mountains offer breathtaking vistas, so don’t forget your camera! You will want to photograph the views, flowers, wildlife, and document the fun times you are having on the trail! Another fun thing to take along is a small notebook and pen. Writing in a journal can be a great way to remember your hike, the things you see, and even the conversations you have with your hiking party.

A day hike in the mountains and forests around Gatlinburg, TN is a fun and invigorating way to explore the area! You will see many beautiful and amazing sights! And if you plan ahead by packing your backpack with a few lightweight essentials, you can relax and enjoy your hike, no matter where the trail leads you!

1 thought on “Hiking the Smoky Mountains”

  1. New book provides guide to day hiking with kids

    OJAI, Calif. (Aug. 17, 2011) – Day hiking with kids isn’t quite as simple as taking them onto a trail and walking.

    Many parents have no idea where there even is a trail. They wonder how to keep their kids properly dressed for the wilds and how they’ll ever carry their infant all those miles. They struggle to figure out how much water and food to bring. They ponder what to do when their children get bored on the trail or start to misbehave. They know there must be a better way to cross rough terrain than the balancing act they’re attempting. They want to understand how to treat injuries from blisters to broken bones, of what to do if they’re lost or even forced to stay the night in the woods.

    A new guidebook – Rob Bignell’s “Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids” – offers the answers to these and many other questions.

    In this comprehensive survey of an increasingly popular family activity, Bignell offers readers a no-nonsense, informative guide to taking children on day hikes. An Outdoor Industry Association report from 2010 says that 40 million Americans hike. Many of those hikers bring their children with them.

    During these difficult economic times, a number of Americans have turned back to this low-cost, fun activity – and are sticking with it.

    “Hiking is beneficial in so many ways, from providing exercise to enjoying the natural beauty of the outdoors,” Bignell said. “It’s not surprising that there are so many hikers, or that children love to go on walks.”

    Most people can find the gear they need for a day hike simply by gathering together a few odds and ends from around their home. And with more than 200,000 miles of trails in the United States – at county, state and national parks as well as other nature areas – no one need travel far to enjoy the great outdoors.

    Loaded with personal anecdotes and tips, “Hikes with Tykes” provides a step-by-step guide to everything an adult needs to know about hiking with children, including how to:

    n Find kid-appropriate trails

    n Keep kids properly dressed for the wilds

    n Figure out how much water and food to bring

    n Cross rough terrain

    n Prevent children from getting bored on the trail

    n Treat injuries from blisters to broken bones

    n Handle getting lost or being forced to stay the night in the woods

    A long-time hiker, editor and journalist, Bignell is uniquely qualified to discuss hiking with children. He and his son Kieran go on day hikes about twice a week. Bignell took Kieran on his first hike when he was but four-months-old, through an old grove of redwood trees that soared 150 feet over their heads. Since then, they’ve peakbagged mountains, rambled along ocean coastlines, searched fossil and gem trails, and explored desert canyons, often all in the same month.

    Before Kieran, Bignell served as an infantryman in the Army National Guard and taught middle school students in New Mexico and Wisconsin. His newspaper work has won several journalism awards, from editorial writing to sports reporting. In 2001, The Prescott Journal, which he served as managing editor of, was named Wisconsin’s Weekly Newspaper of the Year.

    Bignell now lives with his son in Southern California.

    “Hikes with Tykes” is available for purchase online at http://hikeswithtykes.com/home.html.

    Book specs:

    n Publish date: July 19, 2011
    n Publisher: Atiswinic Press
    n ISBN: 978-0-615-51220-4
    n Price: $13.99
    n Pages: 232
    n Cover: Paperback
    n Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.5
    n Website: http://hikeswithtykes.com/home.html


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