2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Backpacker Magazine – April 2000

The Smokies: Backwoods-Style

Here's your insider's guide to The Great Smokies, probably the epitome of a true backpacker's national park.

by: Michele Morris

History You Can Touch

Nostalgia hangs in the Smokies air like a moonshiner's ghost. In fact, the park harbors 135 known cemeteries within its boundaries. Their weathered gravestones bear the names of mountain folk who once lived in shacks and log cabins that stood on the pre-park land. Look closely and you may see the crumbling remains among the tulip poplars.

More than any other park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed from heavily logged hardscrabble land. In fact, Congress officially designated the national park in 1926 largely to save the remaining uncut forests, which had shrunk to a mere 20 percent of the original scope of virgin woodlands. After designation, the real work began to raise the money needed to buy the land. All told, about half of the necessary funds came from the states of North Carolina and Tennessee through appropriations and citizen donations, with the other half-$5 million-materializing as a gift from the Laura Spellman Rockefeller memorial fund.

But the land didn't come easily. After a prolonged struggle fraught with in-fighting, accusations of pork-barreling, land condemnations, and unforeseen property value increases, some 6,600 tracts of land were purchased from 1,200 landowners and finally deeded to the federal government in 1934.

On Memorial Day each year, park officials invite the descendants of these southern Appalachian hill people to come and remember their loved ones. When the spirit moves you, visit the graveyards and homesteads along any of these backcountry routes:

  • Bone Valley Trail: This route includes a side trip to Hall Cabin, the most remote historic structure in the park (c. late 1870s), as well as the Hall cemetery.

  • Caldwell Fork Trail: Most commonly accessed from the Cataloochee Campground and ranger station in the eastern end of the park, this trail is best hiked in winter when horse traffic is nonexistent and the mud is frozen. It passes by Union soldier graves and historic sites of a school, blacksmith shop, and farmstead.

  • Old Settler's Trail: Hiking Trails of the Smokies describes this 15.9-mile trail just east of Gatlinburg as offering "more traces of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century mountain community life than anyplace else in the park," now reduced to mostly stone chimneys and rock walls.

    Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
    Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
    Address 1:
    Address 2:
    Email (req):

    Reader Rating: -

    Your rating:
    Your Name:


    My Profile Join Now

    Most recent threads

    Rocky Mountains
    TR: Southern Gore Range
    Posted On: Jul 22, 2014
    Submitted By: Lamebeaver
    Trailhead Register
    The Death of backpacking? (Essay)
    Posted On: Jul 22, 2014
    Submitted By: GoBlueHiker
    View all Gear
    Find a retailer

    Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

    Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
    Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

    Boost Your Apps
    Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

    Carry the Best Maps
    With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

    FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
    Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

    Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
    Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
    Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
    The Best Trails in America
    YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
    and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
    Full Name:
    Address 1:
    Zip Code:
    Address 2:
    Email (required):
    Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions