The trail was here before we arrived, and it will still be here when we are gone...enjoy it now, and preserve it for others that come after us
good luck with your planning. you can't really go wrong in the smokies. my only recommendation is to take it easy, don't be too over-ambitious with your route. oh, and don't wear cotton.
The Smokies see a lot of rain - they're classified as a temperate rain forest. At times it can seem like you can set your watch based on the 3 pm shower. It would not be at all surprising for you to see rain every day.
In July though the rain is warm, so not a big deal. Just something to be aware of.
Have a great hike!
Rating the trails is difficult because it can be relative. The Smokies can be challenging in July because it can get warm and it rains in the afternoon but I would not classify them a difficult in relation to the rest of the AT. A few years ago we had some water problems but not enough to turn back and the Rangers warned us in advance.
It does get cool at night so a long sleeve fleece is nice.
I have spotted a few bears but none close enough to worry about and all I carry is my hiking stick. I have hiked there three times and have never had a problem nor has anyone I hiked with. We do take precautions like hanging our food and not eating in the shelter.
The only problem I have ever had in the Smokies is getting shelter reservations in the places I wanted them.
One of my favorite hiking/camping areas in the Smokies is the Big Creek area on the eastern side of the park.Another website that may be helpful with lots of local hikers and general info and photos of areas you may want to visit is http://www.gosmokies.com