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  1. #1
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    Help! Any Good 5-Day GSMNP Loops?

    I was hoping the brain trust here on this fine forum might help me find a decent 5-day (30-50 mile) loop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). I'll be going with 2 un-believers (each with a one-man tent, if that matters) October 18-22.

    I'd like to use my hammock and avoid as much of the crowds as possible, which I believe means limiting stays in the Shelters and miles on the AT. I read through several of the trip reports on HF and JustJeff's fantastic report on To the Woods as well as some of the various websites dedicated to the Smoky Mountains. As most of the reports I've read are more 1-day loops and JJ's was a one-way epic journey, they weren't quite the template I was hoping to find.

    I'll be heading to the Library/book store to find a good book on the GSMNP. So, if anyone has any recommendations for that as well, I'd appreciate it.

    As for sleeping gear I'll be using a 3-Season Crowsnest UQ and I just ordered a 3-Season Burrow TQ (Stormcrow makes fantastic gear!). I assume that this should be adequate for mid-October, no?

    This is the first trip where I'm the lead planner so any additional advice you might have regarding the Smokys would be helpful.

    Thanks, fellas! – Craig

  2. #2
    Doctari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig2112 View Post
    I was hoping the brain trust here on this fine forum might help me find a decent 5-day (30-50 mile) loop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). I'll be going with 2 un-believers (each with a one-man tent, if that matters) October 18-22.

    I'd like to use my hammock and avoid as much of the crowds as possible, which I believe means limiting stays in the Shelters and miles on the AT. I read through several of the trip reports on HF and JustJeff's fantastic report on To the Woods as well as some of the various websites dedicated to the Smoky Mountains. As most of the reports I've read are more 1-day loops and JJ's was a one-way epic journey, they weren't quite the template I was hoping to find.

    I'll be heading to the Library/book store to find a good book on the GSMNP. So, if anyone has any recommendations for that as well, I'd appreciate it.

    As for sleeping gear I'll be using a 3-Season Crowsnest UQ and I just ordered a 3-Season Burrow TQ (Stormcrow makes fantastic gear!). I assume that this should be adequate for mid-October, no?

    This is the first trip where I'm the lead planner so any additional advice you might have regarding the Smokys would be helpful.

    Thanks, fellas! – Craig
    I can put together a rough itinerary, some with trails I have done & some I just know the area. A few questions first:
    What is your hiking ability? I have hiked the Southern 1/4 of the AT so if you have done any of that & can say "I found (this section) Killer or Easy"
    What kind of miles were you wanting to do?
    Would you consider a one way car to car trip?.

    FYI: a lot of the trails in the Smokies were means of getting from point A to point B, so are linear by nature. You CAN put together a loop hike, but it is, , , , , , , , sort of hard(ish). Basically The AT (& a few trails here & there) connects these trails to each other.

    Also, some of the campsites (You are REQUIRED to stay AT a campsites) are by reservation ONLY!!!! All that I have been to (about 10) have ample trees. I have not stayed at all of them, just passing through a few of em. One of my favorites was an orchard "back in the day", OK, it was / is campsite #20. Campsite #19 was specifically built for us Hangers, no, and I do mean NO flat spots. Well, unless you want to sleep in a old cemetery.

    Let me know what you want & I'll try to help.
    When you have a backpack on, no matter where you are, you’re home.
    PAIN is INEVITABLE. MISERY is OPTIONAL.

  3. #3
    Doctari's Avatar
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    Here is a quickie I put together, with a short first & last day to allow for drive to & from the trail. I also mention a favorite restaurant of mine in Town.

    Park at Elkmont campground, go south on Jakes creek trail about ¼ mile to (East on) Cucumber Gap Trl* (2.4 miles) turn right (SSW) on Very Easy Little river trail (park service access gravel road) for 3.6 miles to camp 30 Day 1 = 6.35 miles.
    Return N 2.6 miles on Little river Trl to Goshen Prong trl (7.7 miles) to the AT, turn R on the AT (W) about ¼ mile to Double Spring Gap shelter RESERVATION REQUIRED. Day 2 = 10.55
    Continue W on the AT (trail South) for 7.6 to Greenbriar Ridge trail, about ¼ mile past is Derrick Knob shelter. Again, reservation required.7.85 miles for the day.
    Go back E on AT to Greenbriar Ridge trl & go N 4.2 miles to Lynn Camp Prong trl., at jct you can go 3.7 on LCP 3.7 miles to Miry Ridge trl & N on MRT about 1 mile to campsite 26. Lynn camp & miry ridge trl are (were) little used, so take your time & watch your step. 8.4 for the day.
    Continue N on MRT to Jakes Creek trl & your car. About 3.7 for the day. Stop at the Smokey Mt Brewery in Gatlinburg for the beer sampler platter.

    Note, the hike up to the AT is just that, after you leave the Little River trail, it will gradually climb, past campsite #23 the trail steadily increases in steepness. IMHO, it never gets really bad, but it is quite the climb. Look for the low cave along GPT.

    The AT is very nice along here, allow time to stop & gawk!

    When leaving the AT, well, you will descend. The Lynne Camp trail is mostly a ridge walk.

    My memory is there is (was) ample water along this trip.
    When you have a backpack on, no matter where you are, you’re home.
    PAIN is INEVITABLE. MISERY is OPTIONAL.

  4. #4
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    Hey Doctari, Thanks for the help!

    To answer your questions, one of my party is a fairly experienced hiker, the other is former military, and myself, while the least experienced hiker (my experience is mostly in the White Mountains, NH), I am probably in the best physical shape. So I think, while we might be slow going at times, we would probably be able to hike almost anything in the GSMNP.

    I figured on an 5-Day hike (30-50 miles with a daily average maybe around 5-7 miles). If there happens to be a 10 mile hike somewhere in there then we could certainly accommodate that. We are not a mileage for the sake of mileage group. We are more interested in the solitude, the views and the experience. It just so happens that all three of those usually come at the cost of additional mileage.

    We'll be coming from CT via Rent-A-Car. So, I would consider a one way trip if there was an easy way to get back to the start. I just figured a loop would be the easiest.

    Once we settle on a plan I was going to call ahead for reservations and adjust accordingly if any of the sites were full.

    You CAN put together a loop hike, but it is, , , , , , , , sort of hard(ish). Basically The AT (& a few trails here & there) connects these trails to each other.
    After a few weeks of studying the maps and reading trip reports, etc. I finally threw my hands up in frustration and wrote the post above. The GSMNP just doesn't make the type of hike I envisioned easy to plan. The loop you suggested sounds promising. Elkmont > #30 > Double Spring Gap shelter (reservation required) > Derrick Knob shelter (reservation required) > #26 > Car & Beer!

  5. #5
    Señor Member wisenber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig2112 View Post
    I was hoping the brain trust here on this fine forum might help me find a decent 5-day (30-50 mile) loop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). I'll be going with 2 un-believers (each with a one-man tent, if that matters) October 18-22.

    I'd like to use my hammock and avoid as much of the crowds as possible, which I believe means limiting stays in the Shelters and miles on the AT. I read through several of the trip reports on HF and JustJeff's fantastic report on To the Woods as well as some of the various websites dedicated to the Smoky Mountains. As most of the reports I've read are more 1-day loops and JJ's was a one-way epic journey, they weren't quite the template I was hoping to find.

    I'll be heading to the Library/book store to find a good book on the GSMNP. So, if anyone has any recommendations for that as well, I'd appreciate it.

    As for sleeping gear I'll be using a 3-Season Crowsnest UQ and I just ordered a 3-Season Burrow TQ (Stormcrow makes fantastic gear!). I assume that this should be adequate for mid-October, no?

    This is the first trip where I'm the lead planner so any additional advice you might have regarding the Smokys would be helpful.

    Thanks, fellas! – Craig
    Hiking Trails of the Smokies and the Nat Geo #229 are probable your best two resources. I take either or both even when I have a planned route. (I'm still trying to finish my 900 miles of trails there.)

  6. #6
    Señor Member wisenber's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Craig2112;314305]Hey Doctari, Thanks for the help!



    We'll be coming from CT via Rent-A-Car. So, I would consider a one way trip if there was an easy way to get back to the start. I just figured a loop would be the easiest.

    Once we settle on a plan I was going to call ahead for reservations and adjust accordingly if any of the sites were full.



    /QUOTE]

    As your trip gets closer, you may see about getting a shuttle. If I'm in town, I'd probably be able to get you a ride back to your car. Just let me know...

  7. #7
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    Hey Fellas, I spoke with my buddies and we all agreed that the loop Doctari suggested sounded good. So I made the reservations for the October 18-22. The only thing I had to change was campsite #26 to #28 due to bear activity.

    Do you have any suggestions of things to look for on this route?

    Getting excited for the first extended trip with the hammock. My Burrow arrived yesterday which is fantastic because otherwise I was going to use my heavy, bulky 0º sleeping bag as a top quilt. Matched with a crowsnest I think I be all set for the weather.

    Still need to make a reservation for Sunday night at Elkmont prior to the hike Monday.

  8. #8
    Doctari's Avatar
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    Glad I could help, wish I could go with you as I have been wanting to do a repeat of that hike for some time now.

    FYI: at the crest of Cucumber Gap trail I saw a small bear foot print in the stream, still filling with water (I made a similar sized print & timed it to similar fill; I missed seeing the bear by about 30 seconds) I'm guessing "she" saw me. 2 minutes later I suddenly came on two guys walking very quietly, dressed in Brown, I JUMPED as I was still thinking the bear was nearby.

    About 45 minutes later on the Little river trail, my nerves still slightly on edge, I stopped to look at the river standing right at the edge of the trail. Must have stood there 5 minutes. JUST as I was turning to leave, a Pheasant, that had been RIGHT at my feet, couldn't take it anymore (I think I was nearly standing on her) Flew off across the river!! I did 3 things at the same time: Jumped, turned & started running, in mid air. Yea, I laughed too. Only made it about 2 steps before realizing what that "BOMB" was. compared to that, the rest of the trip was uneventful.
    When you have a backpack on, no matter where you are, you’re home.
    PAIN is INEVITABLE. MISERY is OPTIONAL.

  9. #9
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    Well, I just finished packing. Leaving tomorrow. Did one last check of the GSMNP website and see that the parking area near Little River/Jakes Creek access road is closed to public use until October 23rd. They were paving a parking area and it was supposed to open today. We're staying at Elkmont campground Sunday night and heading to the trails Monday morning.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

    (BTW, Doctari, I had to to change my Thursday night camp site from #26 to #28 due to bear activity. Yikes!)

  10. #10
    Señor Member wisenber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig2112 View Post
    Well, I just finished packing. Leaving tomorrow. Did one last check of the GSMNP website and see that the parking area near Little River/Jakes Creek access road is closed to public use until October 23rd. They were paving a parking area and it was supposed to open today. We're staying at Elkmont campground Sunday night and heading to the trails Monday morning.

    Anyone have any suggestions?

    (BTW, Doctari, I had to to change my Thursday night camp site from #26 to #28 due to bear activity. Yikes!)
    I believe there there is a burn ban at present as is most of the area around here. Might want to monitor that as well.

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