View Full Version : Sams Gap to Fontana Dam Section in May

03-21-2016, 19:27
Hey All,

I'm planning an 8 day SB hike in May from Sams Gap to Fontana Dam. Really looking forward to the highlights like Hot Springs, Max Patch, Standing Bear, and all of the great views in GSMNP. I'm pretty sure that the mileage won't be a problem, as my longest planned day is about 21 miles, and I've done that and more in the past. I've never done this section before, though, so I don't really know how rugged the section from Sams Gap to Davenport Gap is. (I went North from Sams Gap last year, and I recall some pretty good climbs around Roan Mountain!)

Anyway, here is my SOBO plan:
Day 1 - Early shuttle to Sams Gap, hike to Jerry Cabin Shelter (17.1 miles)
Day 2 - Hike to campsite 1 mile South of Tanyard Gap (21.5 miles). Fallback is campsite at Rich Mountain
Day 3 - Short resupply in Hot Springs, continue on to Walnut Mountain Shelter (18.3 miles)
Day 4 - Standing Bear Farm (21.3 miles). Pick up mail drop.
Day 5 - Enter GSMNP, hike to Tricorner Knob Shelter (18.1 miles)
Day 6 - Mt. Collins Shelter (20.1 miles)
Day 7 - Spence Field Shelter (19.8 miles)
Day 8 - Fontana Dam (16.4 miles)

I realize that I will need to get reservations for GSMNP as soon as they're available for my dates, and I'm planning to do that.

As far as difficulty, based on what I can tell from the elevation profiles, it looks like days 1, 3 and 5 will be the toughest, with the biggest total elevation changes and some steep climbs. I'm in pretty good shape, but will need to keep things slow and steady. There will be 14+ hours of daylight, so I shouldn't need to hurry.

Since the trail goes through Hot Springs, and right past Standing Bear, I can plan on resupplies at both of those places. The most food that I will need to carry will be 4 days worth, which should get me from Standing Bear through GSMNP.

Any thoughts, comments, words of wisdom?

Can't wait to hit the trail!

just dad
03-21-2016, 20:07
I did the same section plus a bit going northbound last October. If you hiked 20 mile days going north from Sam's gap last year you should be fine. I averaged 20 mile days through that section, but others may find those distances to be unreasonable. In general the trail was good through that section, and the trail in the GSMNP was much better than I remembered it the last time I was in the park. More specifically, I usually plan shorter first days since it is hard to get an early start when shuttling to the trail. The resupply day in Hot Springs should be fine if you don't spend too much time in town. Walnut Mountain shelter had a bit of a reputation as a bear magnet, but that may be old information. Your first day in GSMNP is all uphill to Tricorner Knob, but the trail has a decent grade. Mt. Collins shelter is a half mile off the trail, which lengthens two of your days. The biggest issue I see with your plan is that you don't have many bail out options if you are running short since you will be in the park. Your only option would be to go out at Newfound Gap. Unrelated to hiking, make sure you bring ear plugs for sleeping in the GSMNP shelters. Think of 16 people sleeping shoulder to shoulder with half of them snoring. Without ear plugs it is hard to get much sleep. You will be covering some beautiful trail. Have a great hike.

03-22-2016, 12:47
You must be in great shape - those are some brutal sections in spots. Lots of hella ups then hella downs, at least from Sam's gap to Davenport gap. 14 mile days was PLENTY for me on that section.

full conditions
03-22-2016, 13:48
Days six and seven look pretty stout as well - but to echo what Theosus said, you must be pretty fit.

03-22-2016, 14:40
My 9 yr old son and I did from Davenport gap to hot springs last August....It had a few fairly challenging sections but we only did around 13 mpd... 20+ mpd with the heat wouldn't have been fun...

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