View Full Version : My 1st AT section hike. GSM National Park or not?

07-21-2019, 19:26
Howdy from Texas,

I am planning my 1st backpacking trip, 2nd week in October, on the AT and was looking at 2 different, but contiguous, sections that I could leisurely cover in a weeks hiking. Iím looking at Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap OR Davenport Gap to Hot Springs. Both are roughly the same distance. The first goes through the north section of the GSMNP. Does anyone have an opinion on which section would be a better introduction to the AT?

07-21-2019, 19:29
first off, welcome to the board...

secondly---this will be your first backpacking trip? and you wanna do two weeks? through the smokies?

may i suggest doing some short one nighters to see if you like backpacking and see if your gear will work...

i've seen many a trip in the smokies fail, and the people get left with a bad taste, with being over ambitious.......

just my opinion though.....

07-21-2019, 21:18
Understand the rules are much more restrictive inside the park than outside. Because you are talking about starting in the park, you must get a general backpacker permit (NOT the less restrictive AT thru hikers permit) which means you need a reservation for each shelter or campsite you plan to stay at, and you are only permitted to park at the shelters/campsites. Outside the park, you don't need a permit, don't pay a fee, and you can camp anywhere practical along the trail.

07-22-2019, 00:19
Texaswalker, welcome to Whiteblaze.

If I understand your questions your are wanting to do your first AT backpack . How much experience backpacking do you have?
Do you plan to hike with a partner or alone?

The second week of October may be very popular as the leaves may begin to change color. However the weather can be quite variable that time of year. Could be hot and dry or cold and rainy. Even possible snow or sleet above 5000 ft.

As previously mentioned you will need to get reservations and stay at designated campsites(in this case shelters) on the GSMNP. You can make reservations up to 30 days out on the link in the GSMNP website. It costs $4 per person per night. You can spend only one night at a shelter.

That time of year can be very popular, especially near the weekend so some shelters will book up. There are 4 shelters between Newfound Gap and Davenport plus the one at Davenport.

Outside the park there are almost no restrictions. There are 4 shelters and probably a half dozen or more potential campsites between Davenport and Hot Springs. Elevation is lower and it may be less crowded.

It is a beautiful time of the year to be out either place.

07-22-2019, 00:40
Hello! Iím in East Texas.
Can you move your trip a bit earlier? Say the second week in September?
New Mexico is next door. The Pecos Wilderness is north of Santa Fe, NM. Numerous YouTube videos can show you where to go.
Have fun!

07-22-2019, 06:13
With Davenport Gap to Hot Springs, you will not need to go through any hoops in order to stay at shelters or campsites -- you simply end the day at one of them and just plant yourself for the night. You can stop wherever you want, and can also change your itinerary on a whim.
Within GSMNP, you must go through a LOT of hoops to get your shelters, you can NOT change your choices, and you can NOT stop anywhere but the shelters you've reserved.

This is your first backpacking trip. You have no real idea how far you can hike in a day, so a flexible itinerary is a MUST. I thus STRONGLY recommend hiking outside of GSMNP. Contact one of these businesses
for assistance with shuttles. The first is just a couple miles from Davenport Gap, the latter is in Hot Springs. Bluff Mountain doesn't actually provide shuttles but can give you phone numbers to call.

Park your car where you want to END your hike, then get a shuttle from there to where you want to start it. Hike back to your car at YOUR pace, and then drive back when you arrive on YOUR time.

07-22-2019, 11:01
My $0.02.Even though being an experienced long week end hiker, my first AT trek was on the Shenandoah NP. Just over 100 miles, many facilities to take advantage of and a lot less restrictions than GSM NP. Drive a little further, much more relaxing. Ultimately I went to GSM. Started at Winding stair gap and went on to Hot springs so I was able to be deemed a through hiker. Good luck.

08-02-2020, 09:58
Consider your physical condition. GSMNP will afford more vistas but is more physically demanding. The AT is 99% long green tunnel, with 1% distant vistas. The walk from Davenport to Hotsprings doesnít have as many vistas, But it does have Max Patch which is memorable. I love the tunnel, but really enjoy those vistas.
GSMNP rules normally require you to stay in the shelters. COVID rules allow you to tent or hammock in nearby campsites, which is huge. You get to use your own stuff, avoid the mice ridden shelters, and enjoy benefit of bear cables.
A note on GSMNP shelter reservation website. Under COVID rules, there is a 14 day window, as opposed to normal 30 day window. You need to be online ready to make reservations at midnight, 14 days before your stay. The reservation system is on Mountain Time. We hiked Newfound to Davenport last month, and aLmost didnít get reservations because the sites fill up within five minutes after midnight. Fortunately, we did get reservations at all three shelters. Another note. There were a bunch of people at all three shelters who did not have reservations, but it was not onerous.
Bottom line. If you are in decent physical condition, hike the Smokies, but be prepared to handle the red tape.

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08-02-2020, 12:35
Looks as if the original post was 1 year ago. Might be interesting to find out what happened but that appears to be his/her only post.

08-02-2020, 17:43
Question relevant to the OPs situation (a valid question even if OP has already done their hike)...

It's a pretty huge drive between Davenport and New Found Gap, and a shuttle (during a normal year) would be expensive.

Would a shuttle (again, during a normal year) be easier/cheaper between Davenport and Hot Springs?

08-02-2020, 18:05
Question relevant to the OPs situation (a valid question even if OP has already done their hike)...

It's a pretty huge drive between Davenport and New Found Gap, and a shuttle (during a normal year) would be expensive.

Would a shuttle (again, during a normal year) be easier/cheaper between Davenport and Hot Springs?Not sure but we payed $200 for a shuttle from Hot Springs to Fontana Dam. Davenport might not be too pricey since it is right off the interstate. Is is also ~40 miles and maybe an hour drive. So it would probably be pretty reasonable actually.

08-02-2020, 21:05
Wow. Overlooked the year of that post. Interested to hear what went down.

BTW, our shuttle from Standing Bear to Newfound was $160, shared with another hiker shuttling to Clingmans.

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