We’ll shuttle from Knoxville early morning of Day 1 and drive directly to the park. We will then hike along Middle Prong Trail on what used to be an old logging roadbed next to the creek with its cascading waterfalls and foaming white water. If we are feeling spry we will make it to Indian Creek Falls – a hidden gem off the path with a cascade entering an inviting pool (7 miles). Following the hike, we’ll shuttle to Townsend, just outside the park’s boundary, for our first of three overnights.
In so many ways, Mt. LeConte is the heart and soul of the Smoky Mountains; if you are a hiker, you haven’t really hiked the park unless you have bagged LeConte, and that is our plan for Day 2. We will hike up and back on the Alum Cave Trail, which probably has the most spectacular scenery of any trail in the park, as we walk through an old growth forest, pass Alum Cave itself, and then climb onto the ridge line with its 360 degree views below (11 miles).
A bald, in Great Smokies parlance, refers to a ridge top clearing and we’re climbing the Gregory Ridge Trail to one of the park’s most famous – Gregory Bald – on Day 3. The flame azaleas in the spring and the fall colors above Cades Cove provide some of the best high-level views in the park (10.0 miles). But the views only get better on Day 4 as we hike along the best known trail in the park – the Appalachian Trail – to Charlies Bunion, a knobby rock outcropping high above the surrounding parts of the park (8.8 miles).
Following our exploration of the Appalachian Trail, we’ll shuttle south through the park into North Carolina to Bryson City, where we’ll spend the first of two overnights. Day 5, we’ll enter the southern end of the park and hike a loop trail that passes waterfalls, winds along a ridge top and then follows picturesque Deep Creek through a shaded gorge (13.5 miles). On Day 6, on our way back to Knoxville, we will explore the old community of Elkmont, where the Park Service is restoring some of the old vacation cabins that date back to the 1930’s when well-to-do East Tennessee families used to spend their summers in the old-growth forest by the side of the creek (5 miles).