Jun 20, 2011 at 10:15 am #1275691
I'll be in Waynesville (Ashville), NC in a couple weeks on a trip. I just found out my son and I will have 2 days free. Waynesville is about 30 miles west of Ashville.
We are looking for suggestions for a 2-day/1-night backpacking loop in the area. GSMNP as close to Waynesville as possible as we are being dropped-off/picked-up.
Experienced backpackers up for about anything – we like fishing and waterfalls and are in great shape for hiking.
Any suggestions on any loops and bear practices are appreciated.
Matty G.Jun 20, 2011 at 10:56 am #1751316
I really like to access the Smokies from Big Creek, which is near Waynesville. There is a trail that goes up Big Creek and loops around to Mount Sterling and back that is nice. Big Creek is a perfect Smokies stream and Mount Sterling is the highest designated camp site in the park. You can extend it out for a longer loop there too. Great loop hikes there.
Cosby is not far either and also has good loop options in the Smokies. There is an old growth section you can do and Mt. Cammerer is a really cool old backcountry tower.
On the other side of Ashville, I like Linville Gorge a lot. Its pretty rugged and the canyon and river are beautiful.
There are definitely bears in the area. The designated backcountry sites in the Smokies all have cable bear hangers set up for you. If you sleep there, you won't need to bring a hang system. In Linville Gorge, you will need to bring your own hangers. Warning: the rodents in the Smokies are more of a problem than the bears. They are very adept at climbing the cables and will eat through your bag. I try to keep odors down and leave my bag loose so they don' ruin my food bag if and when they do reach my bag.Jun 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm #1751460
@everreadyLocale: Sh!^^% Ohio
I heard of doing this although I've never tried it; use new paint cans to store your food in. I guess you can get them from Home Depot/Lowes. I figure the little critters can't gnaw their way through the metal.
AlJun 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm #1751479
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
In the smokies hang your food in a bag from the cable system. Always worked for me without any issue. Possible you might have a rodent issue, but highly unlikely. Now the shelters are another matter completely. On a recent trip a guy brought a mouse trap and caught 6 or 7 mice in the shelter while we cooked dinner and chatted outside.
– Park at Big Creek and take big creek trail. Avoid campsite 36 and 37. Closed a lot and bear activity is an issue
– take Gunter Fork Trail. Stream crossings, but excellent secluded trail
– take balsam mountain trail to AT, then south to Tricorner Shelter.
– approx 15 miles.
– If you want more miles go north an AT to snake den trail and go to campsite 29. Adds 5 to 6 more miles
– Take AT north from Tricorner to Mt Crammer fire tower (one of the best views in park)
– continue north on AT to Chestnut branch trail and back to car.
– approx 17-18 miles.
This options is relatively easy hiking. The toughest section will be the last few miles up Gunter Fork. The second day has a few minor pulls, but mostly losing elevation all day.
Option 2: requires car shuttle
– Park at Cataloochee
– Your goal is campsite 38 Mt Sterling. You have various options with your pick of miles. All these are good trails: Palmer Creek, Pretty Hollow, Balsam Mtn, Mt Sterling, Little Cataloochee.
– Campsite 38 to Swallow Fork Trail
– Take camel gap (longer miles) or low gap (shorter miles) to AT
– North on AT to Crammer fire tower
– Continue north on AT to Chestnut branch and to Big Creek parking
This option has a little more climbing because you are climbing to Mt Sterling ridge, then to the valley and then climbing to AT. Nothing overly difficult, just remember the Smokies does believe in switchbacks.
Hope this helps. If you need more specifics let me know or ping the area expert Brad Rogers.
Brad FisherJun 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm #1751487
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"On a recent trip a guy brought a mouse trap and caught 6 or 7 mice in the shelter while we cooked dinner and chatted outside."
Did you have a recipe for the mice?
I think an open fire and rotisserie is best, made out of titanium tent stakes.
–B.G.–Jun 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm #1751496
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Mice where too small and not worth the effort. Appetizer size at best. However I'm sure Mike C. has tip for using them as a TP substitute.
Brad FisherJun 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm #1751507
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
There are a lot of good suggestions above. Here is a nice high elevation loop using the AT/BMT, but it isn't that long or strenuous so if you are looking for more of a challenge you will either need to venture into the hot valley below or shuttle cars (alt. commercial shuttle)
Start at Big Creek Ranger Station and start your hike on the Chestnut Branch Trail. When the Chestnut Branch Trail hits the AT, head Southbound until you hit the Mt. Cammerer Trail. Take the 1.2 mile round trip out the the fire lookout on Mt Cammerer then return the AT SOBO until we reach Tricorner Knob Shelter. 15.7 Miles
From Tricorner Knob Shelter take the Balsam Mountain Trail over to the Benton MacKaye Trail and head South on the BMT along Mt Sterling Ridge until you reach the Mt. Sterling Firetower, then after a short break there, continiue on the BMT back down to your vehicle at Big Creek. 15.7 Miles
The Majority of this trip is over 5000 feet so it should be nice and cool compared to the valley below.Jun 21, 2011 at 7:04 am #1751595
You'll have a great time on any of these options. I am planning to be in the area this weekend too. As you can see, there are lots of loop options out of your area. I would probably hit the higher elevations instead of Linville Gorge, considering the heat we are having. And stay away from the Gatlinburg area unless you like sitting in traffic; you shouldn't have that problem at Big Creek or Cosby.
I have had worse rodent problems at the shelters and rarely sleep at them any more. I have had rodent issues on the cables at designated non-shelter sites too, though.
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