Aug 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm #1262266
I have about two more weeks before school starts again and I want to venture out of Florida and do a 4 or 5 day backpacking trip somewhere to the north. I live in central Florida and I would like it to be no more than a 12 or 14 hour drive as I want to do it in one shot. Where is a good place to go backpacking in nearby states like Georgia or Alabama or South Carolina? Your recommendations would be appreciated. Also, if you can give me any tips about where I can park my truck while I am out, that would be very helpful.
I was thinking about hiking the southern section of the AT in the Chattahoochee Forest. Is it a nice area?
-SidAug 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm #1637668
I'm also considering the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, I heard there is some great scenery there. What do you guys think of this option?
-SidAug 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm #1637670
The smokies do have some pretty great views and is definately a place you want to check out in your backpacking careerAug 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm #1637675
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
The AT in Georgia is very nice. You can park at Amicalola State Park Visitors Center and hike the approach trail to Springer Mountain. I would be more than happy to shuttle you forward so you can hike back to your truck. If interested PM me and we can see if we can make a schedule work.Aug 15, 2010 at 7:11 pm #1637690
@jameslantzLocale: North Georgia
A good hike for 4-5 days would be Amicalola State Park to Neels Gap US 19-129. You could park at the Byron Reece Memorial trailhead & have the folks at Mountain Crossings- Walasi-Yi Center shuttle you to Amicalola. The total mileage is approx. 39.5 miles. The heat & humidity here have been oppressive the last couple of months & you will cover both the lowest & highest points on the GA AT so you should not try to push your daily mileage too much, IMHO.Aug 16, 2010 at 3:27 am #1637735
@lehrscott4Locale: Louisville - KY
The Smokies is a great hike for 4-5 days if you like to cover some miles. Still quite warm even at altitude this time of year though.Aug 16, 2010 at 3:38 am #1637737
Richard RiniBPL Member
My wife and I are form good old flat Florida as well and for short trips we typically head to the Smokies. The scenery (albeit not out west) is nice and they have an abundance of trails that you are sure to find too you’re likening. Plus it’s really not that far of a drive (depending on where your final destiny is anywhere between 10 ½ to 12 hours).Aug 16, 2010 at 7:41 am #1637759
I hike the Smokies frequently and just yesterday I was looking for a "beat the heat" hike for a few days. My goal was to spend 2 or 3 days out and stay at a decent elevation where it is cooler. It's super-easy to park at the large Newfound Gap parking area and hike 11 miles on the Appalachain Trail to Icewater Springs, Charlies Bunion, and Peck's Corner Shelter. The entire out-and-back hike is between 5,000 and 6,000 feet and along a ridgetop. Quite beautiful and a lot cooler than the near 100's we've been having here in Nashville lately. For a longer hike continue on towards Mt Guyot at 6,621 feet. There are also lots of great loop hikes using Big Creek campground as a base camp, where you can go out for as many days as you want and end up back at your car. And of course there is always the Mt. Le Conte triangle starting at Newfound Gap. It's really a beautiful area. I'd be happy to help you figure out any of these hikes if you want – send me a private message. The best map of that area is the Trails Illustrated map 317.Aug 16, 2010 at 9:35 am #1637790
Well… I am leaning towards the smokies since it would be cooler than the Amicalola State Park. What kind of night time temperature lows should I expect? I presume I can probably get by with a little 50 degree (F) quilt this time of year?
Also, thank you to all of you who offered more help. I will be PMing you for more information once I have my mind set on where I want to go. If someone could shuttle me up the trail so I can hike back to my truck, that would be ideal.
-SidAug 16, 2010 at 9:58 am #1637796
Ok so I've been studying the Smoky Mountains trail map and I found a possible loop that seems like it would be fun to do. I can park at Newfound Gap as Hal suggested, go down the AT southbound until I reach Benton MacKaye Trail, take the Benton MacKaye Trail eastbound until I reach the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, then take that northbound until I reach The AT again, from there I can hike back to Newfound Gap a few miles to reach my truck. This loops is about 92.2 miles according to the trail map provided by the Smoky Mountains official website. I can pull that off in 5 to 6 days. What do you guys think about this route?
-SidAug 19, 2010 at 11:18 am #1638706
Good ole central florida. Moved from Orlando to middle Tn about 5 years ago. With the type of miles your going to do you might want to consider hiking the AT through the smokies. Its about 72 miles with great views from rocky top, thunderhead and Clingmans dome. Just remember all shelters and some campsites need reservations. Check out this site to keep up to date on campsites and shelters. Have a good hike.Aug 23, 2010 at 9:23 am #1639755
Sanad, I'm curious to know if you did your planned Smokies hike down the AT and back up MTS trail? No doubt it's a beautiful area of the Smokies but the 17 or so miles a day would be a lot for me. Did you go on the trip? How was it?Aug 23, 2010 at 7:27 pm #1639885
I just got back Sunday night. Unfortunately, I actually only had one week left before school started when I thought I had two. So, I didn't really have enough time to plan and go out of state. I ended up doing a local trip here in Florida. I went from the North end of the Ocala forest at Rodman Dam all the way down to the Seminole Forest. It was about a 90 mile hike, I started Wednesday morning and got back to my truck Sunday evening. It was pretty hot but I had several springs along the way that I was able to cool down in. Anyway, it was a good trip but I really would have preferred the Smokies. I will now be doing the Smokies during labor day weekend instead. This will give me plenty of time to plan it. I have a friend that wants to come along so that will save me money on gas. Although, he hasn't done much backpacking before and I'm afraid he will slow me down. Thank you all for all the helpful advice, it will come in handy come labor day weekend. Now I will be researching all the suggestions you all made to me so I can decide which route I will take.
-SidAug 23, 2010 at 7:30 pm #1639887
So about making reservations for campsites… I'm not required to camp only in designated camp sites am I? So I don't really need to make reservations unless I plan on using their camp sites, correct?
-SidAug 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm #1639901
Brian CampriniBPL Member
@bcampriniLocale: Southern Appalachians
I believe the policy is that you would need to reserve a place in a shelter if you plan to use them. The campsites without shelters (basically those off of the AT) you fill out your permit and just let them know what campsite numbers you'll be at on what dates. Technically you are supposed to camp in the shelters or designated campsites and not stealth camp. There are often some campsites closed due to high bear activity–probably a good idea to talk to a ranger on the way in. Getting a shelter reservation this close to labor day might be tough, but there are plenty of other options. Joyce Kilmer/Citico is close by, similar scenery, and it doesn't have these restrictions.
PS–I forgot to add that you should get the NG Trails Illustrated Map 229. It clarifies all of the crazy rules. Purple campsites require reservations and black don't. Also note that lots of sites are horse campsites too. Yet another reason to get a hammock ;-)Aug 24, 2010 at 6:13 am #1639956
Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
"Technically you are supposed to camp in the shelters or designated campsites and not stealth camp."
Sid, this is the rule. You are supposed to camp only in the designated campsites or shelters which makes trip planning in the Smokies difficult as the sites and shelters are laid out in odd distances many times. We have stealth camped some when we just couldn't make the mileage or loops work out.Aug 24, 2010 at 7:51 am #1639988
Sanad – It is correct that you are supposed to stay in designated backcountry campsites and some require reservations and some do not. The best thing to do is get Map 229 for the whole Park or map 317 for the Eastern half (more detail) and then you are all set to plan a route. Sites that don't require reservations are in black and sites that require reservations are in purple. Then just call the GSMNP backcountry office at 1-865-436-1231 and get your reservation number. The rangers are also helpful with any questions you may have and other current and useful information like, "that road is closed because of a rockslide."
I love the Smokies and go there a lot. Newfound Gap is a good jumping off point because it is central but it requires driving through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg which I would rather avoid if possible. My favorite starting point is Big Creek campground – quiet, secluded, only 12 campsites, no RV's, tent camping only. It's a great place to park your car and start your hike.Aug 24, 2010 at 5:52 pm #1640174
< Ok so I've been studying the Smoky Mountains trail map and I found a possible loop that seems like it would be fun to do. I can park at Newfound Gap as Hal suggested, go down the AT southbound until I reach Benton MacKaye Trail, take the Benton MacKaye Trail eastbound until I reach the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, then take that northbound until I reach The AT again, from there I can hike back to Newfound Gap a few miles to reach my truck. This loops is about 92.2 miles according to the trail map provided by the Smoky Mountains official website. I can pull that off in 5 to 6 days. What do you guys think about this route? >
I did this loop, up until the point where the Benton MacKaye comes into smokemont, where I ditched out and hitchhiked back to newfound. It's a nice loop, with varied flora and fauna, and terrain as well. Fair warning though, the Benton MacKaye is open to horse traffic, and while I was there, was in terrible condition due to that fact. The impact of horses on the trail was, in my opinion, sickening and I don't see how it's acceptable to the NPS. Between the effect of horses on the trail surface, to the trash left by the much less environmentally conscious horse enthusiasts, I was really disappointed in much of the BMT.
That being said, I still enjoyed the hike, but it would have been much, MUCH better if there had been no horses allowed in the park.Aug 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm #1640223
Mat, I agree completely with you on the horse trail problem in the Smokies. I always try to plan a non-horse trail route if possible but I can't always do it. The damage is astounding in some places – you end up literally walking in a trench sometimes 3 feet deep because of the shoveling effect of the horses hooves followed by fast moving water draining down the mountain. I am surprised the Park Service doesn't have a better plan. I also try to avoid the campsites that accommodate horses because they are often the ones with the trees chopped down by an overly excited young boy who wants to chop down a tree with Dad's ax. It's sad.Aug 26, 2010 at 11:12 am #1640662
Ok, so on the official Smoky Mountains website, It says the following in the reservations section:
"If you do not plan to camp at a shelter or reserved campsite, then you only need to complete a permit. You do not need to call the Backcountry Reservation Office with your itinerary since no reservation is necessary."
So, I'm guessing these are the sites marked in black on the map that you guys were referring to. I don't understand this rule though, how do AT Thru Hikers get around it? I can imagine it would be pretty difficult for them to estimate exactly when they are going to get to the Smoky Mountains. Also, how strictly is this rule enforced if I stealth camp?
As far as my earlier proposed route, I didn't notice that the Benton MacKaye was a horse trail until now. I think I am going to avoid this trail based on what you guys have told me. Another option for me is to just stay on the AT. I can do the AT from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam. It is a shorter hike than my previously planned one at around 70 miles. The only problem here would be that I would need someone to shuttle me up to Davenport Gap from Fontana Dam so I can hike back to my truck. I should probably post this request in the "Trip Announcements" section, right?Aug 26, 2010 at 2:29 pm #1640722
Right you are Sanad – what they are saying is that if you are staying in a black backcountry site then there is no need to call and make a reservation. But for a purple site or a Shelter you do.
The 70 mile "AT thru the Smokies" hike you refer to is a classic and a very nice hike at that. All the sites on the AT are Shelters which do require a reservation. In the Smokies Shelters are open sided wood buildings. In other words, on the AT there are no black or purple sites, they're all Shelters. Yes, you're supposed to plan in advance to be at a particular Shelter, but once you get out on the trail you will probably not run into the Shelter Police.
As for stealth camping, same thing. Rangers will say "Help us preserve your park and only camp in designated areas please." But do people stealth camp? Every day. If I am forced to stealth camp I am even more careful than usual to "Leave No Trace."
As for the shuttle I would suggest either the two car method with a friend or call one of the shuttle services in the Smokies. Just Google Smoky Mountain Shuttle and read up.
I'm not sure which map you are using but if you can get the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map 229 it clearly differentiates between the types of campsites.
I am heading over that way on Sunday to do a part of the AT myself from Newfound Gap northward.Aug 27, 2010 at 12:41 am #1640877
Ok, I ordered the map and I found a shuttle service for the Smoky Mountains. I will be calling them tomorrow to get a quote… hopefully their prices aren't outrageous. I am trying to avoid taking two cars because that would double the gas money. Unless this would still be cheaper than the shuttle service (I hope not)… I'll find out after I call them.
I am also going to call and see if I can reserve any sites but it says on the website that you have to make reservations a month in advance… for this reason I will most likely just stealth camp. I am a "Leave No Trace" camper, so technically I won't be breaking the rules ;)
Although this is most likely the hike I will do, please don't hesitate to make other suggestions if you think there's somewhere I would like more. The reason this hike is so appealing to me is because it has the highest elevation, so it should have the lowest temperatures in the southeast.
Now if someone can answer me this, I would really appreciate it… What can I expect as far as weather and bugs in the Smoky Mountains this time of year? What kind of night time low temperatures can I expect?Aug 27, 2010 at 4:05 am #1640886
Chris WBPL Member
Most of the peaks in the Shining Rock Wilderness of NC are > 5k ft and offer far better views with less crowding than you'll find in the Smokies.Aug 27, 2010 at 6:14 am #1640906
Trevor WilsonBPL Member
@trevor83Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Hey Sanad – I'm not sure if you saw my trip report that I just posted for the AT through the Smokies. My report and some of the other posts might help you with some info.
Between my post and one more from Brad Rogers there are three options to quote for a shuttle.
For weather, definitely check on NOAA.gov right before the trip to get an up-to-date weather report for temperatures. When I was there 2 weeks ago the lows were in the upper 50's even at the higher elevations but it can get into the 40's pretty easily at any time of year. It actually dropped to the 30's on top of Mt. Leconte last July.
I didn't find bugs to be a problem at all on my hike.
Usually it isn't very tough to get a reservation for one. If you call the backcountry reservations desk now I would not be surprised if you got your first choice of shelters for the trip.
Let me know if you have any other specific questions on the route or trip – I'd be happy to try and help.
TrevorAug 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm #1641388
Well, I was surprised when I called the reservation desk and I was able to get a reservation for all 4 nights. Now the only thing I still need to take care of is the shuttle. I got one quote from Ronnie to shuttle me and my friend but he can only do an end of hike shuttle, which I would rather not do. So, I will be trying to find someone else that can shuttle me at the beginning of the hike.
Now, since I am going to be at a shelter every night… do I even need to bring a shelter with me? Could I get by with just a bivy? Or should I bring my tarp just in case?
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