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  1. #1
    Senior Member Twistytee's Avatar
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    NC - GSMNP High Peaks Loop 4/21 - 4/24

    I am in the early stages of planning a backpacking loop through the Smokies for an extended weekend starting April 21st. Looking to see if anyone might be interested in joining and helping plan the route. As of now I知 looking at a 27 mile loop in the central part of the park to include Mt Le Conte, Alum Cave Bluffs, Chimney Tops, Charlie痴 Bunion, and possibly a night at Mount Collins so I can take the AT over to Clingmans Dome for a morning view. I値l update this thread with more details as the trip plan starts to firm up.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Twistytee's Avatar
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    Bumping this up in case anyone wants to join in April. I’ll attach a CalTopo map later to show the intended route.

  3. #3
    New Member BlazeyJ's Avatar
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    I知 very much interested. A friend and I were already planning a Mt Leconte loop in April, just with less mileage. I値l discuss with him and report back. All else fail, shoot me a PM when you book the permits. I know from experience you pretty much HAVE to book those sites at midnight 30 days in advance or else they fill up at least on weekends.


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  4. #4
    Senior Member Twistytee's Avatar
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    Updating post
    Last edited by Twistytee; 03-12-2023 at 11:37.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Twistytee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazeyJ View Post
    I知 very much interested. A friend and I were already planning a Mt Leconte loop in April, just with less mileage. I値l discuss with him and report back. All else fail, shoot me a PM when you book the permits. I know from experience you pretty much HAVE to book those sites at midnight 30 days in advance or else they fill up at least on weekends.


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    sounds great! Hope you can make it.

    I have a friend from Texas who may join, 50/50 chance at this point but he痴 going to try. I plan to get permits for 4 people as soon as 30 days out. No worries if this one doesn稚 work for you but I壇 enjoy the company. As of March 1st the park now requires daily parking permits for any vehicles parked at the trailheads or parking lots. So something else to reserve prior to arriving.

    The loop I知 thinking of leaves from the Alum Cave Bluffs parking area on Day 1 with Mt LeConte Shelter as the campsite that evening. I haven稚 hammocked camped at that location but hopefully it痴 workable. Day 2 is Kephart Shelter via Boulevard Trail; Day 3 takes the AT over to Mount Collins Shelter for an early rise Day 4 and side trip to Clingmans Dome. Then backtracking up to the Chimney Tops and out that trailhead. This requires either dropping a second vehicle or a ~1 mile road walk on 441 back to the cars. I have a rather long drive to central Smokies so I will likely leave pre-dawn on Friday with the plan to arrive between 9-10am on Day 1.

    I致e been traveling a lot for work but plan to post a link for Caltopo map next weekend. Happy to consider other loops if it痴 more convenient for others.

  6. #6
    New Member BlazeyJ's Avatar
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    NC - GSMNP High Peaks Loop 4/21 - 4/24

    Quote Originally Posted by Twistytee View Post
    sounds great! Hope you can make it.

    I have a friend from Texas who may join, 50/50 chance at this point but he痴 going to try. I plan to get permits for 4 people as soon as 30 days out. No worries if this one doesn稚 work for you but I壇 enjoy the company. As of March 1st the park now requires daily parking permits for any vehicles parked at the trailheads or parking lots. So something else to reserve prior to arriving.

    The loop I知 thinking of leaves from the Alum Cave Bluffs parking area on Day 1 with Mt LeConte Shelter as the campsite that evening. I haven稚 hammocked camped at that location but hopefully it痴 workable. Day 2 is Kephart Shelter via Boulevard Trail; Day 3 takes the AT over to Mount Collins Shelter for an early rise Day 4 and side trip to Clingmans Dome. Then backtracking up to the Chimney Tops and out that trailhead. This requires either dropping a second vehicle or a ~1 mile road walk on 441 back to the cars. I have a rather long drive to central Smokies so I will likely leave pre-dawn on Friday with the plan to arrive between 9-10am on Day 1.

    I致e been traveling a lot for work but plan to post a link for Caltopo map next weekend. Happy to consider other loops if it痴 more convenient for others.
    Just replied to your PM but wanted to add some thoughts and ideas to your trip as someone who is a regular in that area!

    There are definitely plenty of good trees to hammock from at the Leconte shelter, however I致e never received any clarity on how far the radius of 疎llowable camping is from the shelter itself. The last time I was up there I hung from a couple trees that were about 20 yards from the shelter pretty much right on the boulevard trail. There are also some great trees behind the shelter in which I saw lots of tents so I avoided that side. Keep in mind bears will definitely be waking up and roaming that time of year so just be mindful of food/smellies.


    Regarding your second day, if possible I would recommend going for Icewater shelter over Kephart shelter. The hike down and back up to Kephart shelter is actually tougher than it looks on a map and IMO Icewater Springs is the best shelter/ campsite in the entire park. Great views, right on the AT, and has a piped spring about 50 yards out.

    I think you致e got a hell of a loop planned either way and it won稚 disappoint. I致e been wanting to group a LeConte climb and clingmans climb into the same trip for years. The Road Prong trail connecting clingmans to chimney tops is loaded with cascades/waterfalls and is very breathtaking, so I致e heard.

    As far as getting back to your car at Alum Cave, I致e never had any trouble hitching a ride along 441. Tons of backpackers driving through who are happy to return the favor. I don稚 think I致e ever had to wait more than 20 minutes to hitch a ride. Even then, I was always catching rides from Alum Cave all the way to Newfound Gap.


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  7. #7
    Senior Member Twistytee's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips. I took a shot at mapping it using your suggestion for Icewater Spring Shelter for Night 2. I still want to get over to Charlies Bunion so I added that as an out and back along the AT once I get to Icewater Springs. The route is otherwise as I described above. It totals 40 miles over 4 days, with the last day being the longest at ~14.5 miles. The link to the Caltopo map is below.

    https://caltopo.com/m/GKLLT

    Day 1: 5.1 miles up Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte Shelter
    Day 2: 6.7 miles down Boulevard Trail to Icewater Springs and then another 6.7 miles out and back to Charlies Buinion (13.3 miles total)
    Day 3: 7.7 miles along AT from Icewater Springs to Mt Collins Shelter
    Day 4: 3.4 miles from Mt Collins Shelter to Clingmans Dome and then 11 miles back along AT to Prong Trail to Chimney Tops Trail and back to Rte 441.

    To anyone thinking about joining, I need to book permits this Wednesday night in order to secure weekend reservations in April. Feel free to PM or post here if you would like to join.

  8. #8
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    The new parking permits are painless but seems like theyre serious about it. I printed mine but there痴 a few kiosks listed on the site. I had a trip end on March 1st with a car at Big Creek (kinda out of the way) and sure enough a ranger was driving around checking them on day 1


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  9. #9
    Senior Member Twistytee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by possum daddy View Post
    The new parking permits are painless but seems like theyre serious about it. I printed mine but there’s a few kiosks listed on the site. I had a trip end on March 1st with a car at Big Creek (kinda out of the way) and sure enough a ranger was driving around checking them on day 1


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    I can’t blame them for doing it since all state/national parks are looking for revenue. And the Smokies gets far more car visitors than they do overnight campers. Good idea about printing the permit - plan to leave mine on the dash.

  10. #10
    New Member BlazeyJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twistytee View Post
    I can稚 blame them for doing it since all state/national parks are looking for revenue. And the Smokies gets far more car visitors than they do overnight campers. Good idea about printing the permit - plan to leave mine on the dash.
    I won稚 get too deep into the politics about the new parking tags, but I have been trying to remind everyone that GSMNP was put in place to be a completely free National Park, accessible to all, and the parking tags are their way of keeping it legally 素ree while still charging an entrance fee. I know a lot of us are upset (especially Swain/Sevier/Blount county locals),including me who has donated over $500 over the years to the park, not counting merchandise, but the park service isn稚 the blame. We should be outraged that they aren稚 getting the funding they need from our federal government, who spends God knows what on defense budget. Regardless I値l just spend my $40 a year and deal with it. Maybe one day the banks will care about more federal land.

    I also recently found out a new logging plan is soon to be implemented in Pisgah and Nantahala national Forest which will be cutting sections of second and old growth forest that have been left untouched for decades. Sierra Club is attempting to fight the plan but it seems to be a losing battle.


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