Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Spring
April 28 - May 3, 2019
(6 days, 5 nights; Sun - Fri)Alternate Tour Dates
Includes all lodging, all meals, leaders, park entrance fees, van shuttles, tour maps and narratives.
Timberline van shuttle is included from Knoxville to Townsend prior to tour and return to Knoxville following tour.
Not included: Airline service to Knoxville; Guide Gratuity
Hotel 8:30 am
In so many ways, Great Smoky Mountain National Park is dedicated to hiking and we are challenged by the park’s 850 miles of trails to select those that will provide our hikers with a varied experience and a true sense of those features for which the park is famous. When one considers the park’s proximity to so many major population centers of the eastern U.S., it’s difficult to form an image of wilderness, but under the protection and guidance of the National Park Service, wilderness survives in Great Smoky.
The wilderness feel of the park is due in no small measure to its almost unbroken cover of trees, and the size, variety will astound you. With a spring tour we will experience the explosion of new growth in the forest including the blossoms of uncountable trees, shrubs and flowers. Water is everywhere: creeks, streams, prongs, waterfalls and cascades. We’ll cross a number, sometimes on bridges, sometimes on foot logs, and sometime on nothing other than the soles of our boots. These are just a few of the elements that make the Smoky range special.
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 water falls 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).
|Day 1||Group assembles early morning - van shuttle to hike- Middle Prong Trail||6|
|Day 2||Alum Cave Trail - Mt. Le Conte||11|
|Day 3||Gregory Ridge Trail||11|
|Day 4||Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion||8|
|Day 5||Loop - Deep Creek trail head along Deep Creek Trail - Indian Creek Trail - Loop Trail - Sunkota Ridge - Martins Gap Trail - Deep Creek Trail||13.5|
|Day 6||Loop - Elkmont along the Little River Trail - Cucumber Ridge Trail - Jakes Creek Trail||5|