Hike of the Day: Mollies Ridge in the Smokies

Wildflower meadows, oak forests, snorting boars, and curious bruins (the Smokies have the highest concentration of black bears in the Lower 48): This 18.6-mile out-and-back claims them all.

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From the shores of Fontana Lake, climb 1,900 feet in three miles to the west shoulder of Shuckstack Peak. The route undulates over two gaps (Sassafras and Red Ridge) to a campsite at Birch Spring Gap (mile 5.2). Hike two miles from camp to Gregory Bald, drop into fern-filled Ekaneetlee Gap, and finish the hike on Mollies Ridge, where you can spend a second night in a 12-bunk hut. The shelter is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a Cherokee woman who froze to death there—or was eaten by a bear called Spider Foot, depending on who you ask. Check out more map details, photos, and a bear movie collected by map contributor Jeff Chow at backpacker.com/hikes/44824.

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Kris Wagner, map editor

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