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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Graze blueberry patches, explore swimming holes, and tag the South's high points on this sultry hike.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

6,595-foot Mt. Leconte (Steven McBride)
6,595-foot Mt. Leconte (Steven McBride)
Rainbow Falls (Kirkendall-Spring)
Rainbow Falls (Kirkendall-Spring)
Forney Green (Kevin Adams)
Forney Green (Kevin Adams)

Don't be fooled–though the Smokies can be busier than a NASCAR stadium, the lush peaks and hazy mist that inspired the park's name hide a lifetime's worth of adventure. Packed into the park are verdant groves of tulip poplar and wind-whipped spruce-fir forests where elk and black bears roam. Three-foot salamanders swim beneath clouds of fireflies blinking in unison. On a typical multiday hike, you could pass more than 10,000 plant and animal species (though scientists believe 90,000 could live here). In this Eastern oasis, in the shadow of 300-million-year-old mountains that once soared as tall as the Rockies, life explodes in a shock of blooming, buzzing, slithering, and chirping–a rare escape where hikers can leave civilization and lose themselves in deep wilderness.

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Star Star Star Star Star
Jul 06, 2014

We just completed a 70 mile thru-hike of the AT traversing the Smoky Mts from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam in 6 days. Keep your eyes open for bears-a-plenty. In fact, be sure to check ahead of time because quite a few shelters and primitive campgrounds were closed due to bear activity (bears entering the shelters). We saw four bears (two cubs) in one day and another two sniffing around at nighttime. The Smoky Mountains have a great food cable system for hanging your food, however other hikers we met mentioned that the mice still got into their food bags that were hanging. Happy Trails!

Star Star Star Star Star
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Ric Brooks
Apr 27, 2012

This year the park service has started a reservation system for viewing the synchronous fireflies. $1.50 registration view gets you a parking spot at the visitors center and $1.00 gets you a round trip shuttle pass.

Apr 26, 2012

Hiked extensively in this area, the creek crossings become deadly fast and deep with the slightest rainfall. Especially Eagle Creek and Forney Creek Trails. Lost Cove Trail to AT is another good alternate route if the water is high.

Jan 23, 2011

The happy hiker is now closed due to multiple roof leaks but the nantahala great outpost is right around the block...has everything and more that happy hiker had, including guided rafting and hiking trips.

Jan 20, 2011

Hey mike sure take it with you I had 3G on my IPhone near the peaks top in a few areas on trails near Grand Father Mt. As for else where I am not sure. Just take it and see is the best bet

Jan 20, 2011

RE; Mike...

Yes, WASS will be helpful in the Smokies. There is a lot of tree cover there.

Jul 21, 2009

I will be visiting the Smokies in a couple of weeks and I just wanted to know if there is any value in turning on waas on my garmin handheld?


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