Great Smoky Mountain National Park Trip Reports

You might say that the Smokies renewed my interest in hiking. I spent a lot of time in the woods during my college years, but after graduation I set that part of my life aside. I didn't realize what I was missing until a couple of years later when I was driving to Knoxville. Along the way, I spontaneously pulled off the highway and did a short hike on the Big Creek Trail. It was only a short hike, but the beautiful stream was enough to renew my passion for the wilderness.

Big Creek & Cosby

Smokies Photos

My first real hiking trip in the Smokies occurred a couple of years later. I joined a Sierra Club group for a 3-day backpacking trip up Big Creek to Walnut Bottoms. From Walnut Bottoms we made a loop over Mount Sterling. It was a great trip for firsts. At our Walnut Bottoms campsite, I spotted the first bear I'd ever seen in the wilderness.

In May of 1999, Dave, Bob, and Laura joined Fungirl and I for a three day backpacking trip starting in Cosby. We hiked past Henwallow Falls and spent the night at a lovely campsite in Sugar Cove. Then we hiked among the massive trees of Albright Grove. We finished the trip hiking across Maddron Bald and descending Snake Den Ridge.

In May of 2003, I returned to the Big Creek area for a 4-day backpacking trip with my friend, Bob. We started at Big Creek, but made a long loop trip along the surrounding ridges. We circled the entire Big Creek Basin, climbing to Mount Cammerer, traversing the Appalachian Trail to Cosby Knob and Mount Guyot, and returning over Balsam Mountain and Mount Sterling.

In June of 2009, Christy and I traveled to Asheville for a Phish concert. The day after the show, we recovered enough to manage the short, easy hike along Big Creek to Mouse Creek Falls.     Photos
In April, 2013 Christy and I spent a week in Gatlinburg. My last hike of the trip was a solo loop from Cosby to Mount Cammerer.     Photos
In February of 2014, Christy and I spent Valentine's Day weekend in Asheville. On Friday night we attended an Umphrey's McGee concert. The next day we did the short, easy hike along Big Creek to Mouse Creek Falls in the snow.     Photos
In late March and early April of 2018 Christy and I took a one week Spring Break trip to the Smokies and the Cumberland Plateau. We started with a 3 day backpacking loop from Big Creek to Walnut Bottoms and Mount Sterling.     Photos

Bob & Fungi on the
Mt Cammerer tower

Elkmont, Greenbrier, and Newfound Gap

Back in '98, I joined LL Bob, Bob, and Laura for a car camping trip in Elkmont over Thanksgiving weekend. The camping was nice, but the dayhikes were even better. On Friday, LL Bob and I enjoyed a nice walk along the Cucumber Gap and Little River Trails. The main event was the next day. We got up early and ran a shuttle, leaving a car at the Alum Cave Bluff Trailhead. We drove to Newfound Gap and hiked the AT and the Boulevard Trail to the summit of Mount LeConte. I still consider LeConte to be one of the finest summits in the park, and in fact, the whole region. On the final day of our trip, we hiked to the Chimneytops before continuing up Road Prong to the AT and out to Newfound Gap. Hiking along Road Prong was beautiful, and I consider it one of the most underrated hikes in the park.

In September of 2003, I completed a 4-day, 40+ mile backpacking trip starting in Elkmont. Read the report of my trip as I hiked up the Little River and across a remote section of the AT to Spence Field. I returned to Elkmont by way of Tremont and Meigs Mountain.

In October, 2010 Bob joined me on a 6-day backpacking trip from Greenbrier Cove. We hiked the Old Settlers Trail past old homesites and the Maddron Bald Trail through a magical forest. We then followed the highest ridges in the Smokies to Mount LeConte before descending to Greenbrier.     Photos.   In December, 2011 I turned a backpacking trip into a really long dayhike from Newfound Gap to Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in the Park.     Photos.

My November, 2012 dayhike to Upper Piney Falls, on the Cumberland Plateau and Laurel Falls and Ramsay Creek Cascades in the Smokies.     (Upper Piney Falls Photos) and     (Smokies Photos)
Our March, 2013 dayhike on the Porters Creek Trail, featuring old ruins, a waterfall, and early spring wildflowers.     Photos.
My March, 2013 dayhike to Grotto Falls, Baskin Creek Falls, and Roaring Fork.     Photos.
My April, 2013 dayhike to Mount LeConte.     Photos.

The Little Pigeon River

Cades Cove

We finally made it to Cades Cove over July 4th weekend in 2000. Yes, it was crowded. We spent the first night in the packed campground. We got up early Saturday morning before the roads opened up to traffic and biked through the valley. It was a pleasant way to truly experience the valley, but it was more than a warmup for our backpacking trip. We spent 4 days on our hike, as we connected Spence Field and Gregory Bald. Highlights included blooming flame azaleas and a wonderful campsite on Forge Creek.

In April, 2013 Marsha, Ian, Audrey, and Ben joined us for a hike into Whiteoak Sinks.     Photos.

Cades Cove at dawn

Fontana Lake & Twentymile Creek

In November of 2003, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. My office had closed, and I decided to attempt a 4 day solo backpacking trip in the Smokies before I got serious about looking for a job. I started my trip at the end of the infamous "road to nowhere". My route took me up Bear Creek to High Rocks and along Welch Ridge to Silers Bald. From there I followed the AT towards Clingmans Dome before descending Forney Ridge to Noland Creek.

In June of 2008, Bob and I returned to the area with an overnight backpacking trip combining Forney Creek and Forney Ridge. Highlights of the trip included cascades on Forney Creek, blooming Rhododendron and Flame Azalea from Andrews Bald, and some unusual fireflies. In October, 2011 I did a solo backpacking trip from the Twentymile Creek Ranger station to Gregory Bald.     Tellico River & Cherhola Skyway Photos  and  Smokies Photos. In October, 2013 I did a quick afternoon hike from Fontana Dam to Shuckstack.     Photos In May, 2016, we did a kayaking trip on Fontana Lake. We camped two nights and I hiked and bushwhacked to Bear Creek Falls.     Photos

Noland Creek

Deep Creek

In January of 2004, I finally made it to the Deep Creek section of the park. Bob and Joel joined me for a backpacking trip along Deep Creek and Indian Creek. We enjoyed unseasonably warm weather on our two-day trip. In April, 2014 I did a 3 day solo backpacking trip combining Noland Divide, Clingman's Dome Road, the A.T., Fork Ridge, and Deep Creek.   (Photos)

Joel crosses Indian Creek

Smokemont & Balsam Mountain

In December of 2003 I returned to the Smokies for another solo backpacking trip. Originally I planned another 4-day route, but a winter storm delayed my departure. Ultimately I chose a route starting from Smokemont. I camped along Bradley Fork the first night before climbing to Charlies Bunion the next morning. That afternoon I hurried through the snow along one of the most scenic stretches of the Appalachian Trail, arriving at Pecks Corner Shelter after dark. I followed Bobcat tracks in the snow the final day as I hiked out the Hughes Ridge Trail.

In December of 2009, I returned to the area for a quick overnight trip. I made a loop starting from the Kephart Prong Trailhead. I spent the night at the Icewater Springs Shelter.   (Photos)    and visited Charlie's Bunion. It was a cold trip, with about half of the hike in the ice and snow.

In September, 2012 Bob J and I did an overnight backpacking trip in the Balsam Mountain area, camping at Raven Fork and hiking Hyatt Ridge and visiting a waterfall on Enloe Creek as well as McGee Springs.   (Photos)    In September, 2017, Christy and I did backpacking trip in the Smokies with John, Spencer, Thomas, and Kitty. We spent two nights camping at Raven Fork. High water and wet rocks prevented us from exploring the Raven Fork Gorge. However, on the last day John, Spencer, and I bushwhacked and scrambled to a previously undocumented waterfall on Batsaw Branch.     (Photos)

View from Charlie's Bunion


In May of 2002 I led a group on a 3-day journey through the Cataloochee area. We hiked the Cataloochee Divide and Boogerman Trails, and spent two nights camped on Caldwell Fork. Read the trip report, which is written with a unique twist. In April, 2012 I finally returned to Cataloochee for a solo backpacking trip. Highlights of that trip included large trees, impressive wildflowers, views from Hemphill Bald, plentiful wildlife, and surprising solitude.   (Photos)

Group at Hemphill Bald

Smokies Photos

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