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Backpacker Magazine – August 2009

Where Solitude Rules - More Tips and Tricks

Alternative routes, where to find solitude in the Lower 48, and avoiding the crowds in America's most crowded park

by: Dougald MacDonald

Grand Teton, WY (Shannon Davis)
Grand Teton, WY (Shannon Davis)

Alone in the Great Smoky Mountains If you can avoid the crowds in America's busiest national park, you can do it anywhere. Members of the 900 Miler Club–people who've trekked every trail in the park–offer these tips:

  • Hike on weekdays. Avoid holidays and never visit during spring break.
  • Go in the off-season. The Smokies empty out in winter.
  • Hike farther. You don't even need to go much farther. Crowds diminish dramatically three to five miles beyond any trailhead.
  • Choose trails with no bridges, like the Eagle Creek Trail. Frequent fords of streams and creeks keep traffic low.
  • Stay off the Appalachian Trail from spring through fall, and avoid Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome, Laurel Falls, and Cades Cove.
  • Start on the North Carolina side. Trails here tend to be less crowded than those beginning at Tennessee trailheads.
  • Go by boat. The hassle of crossing Fontana Lake limits the masses.
  • Try this 900-Miler favorite: Connect the lush Hazel Creek Trail to 5,607-foot Silers Bald for a 14.7-mile weekend.

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