View Full Version : Cell Coverage in the Northern Smokies

Hikes in Rain
02-03-2008, 13:38
I know, it's bordering on blasphemy. But my non-hiking child bride insists upon it.

For my birthday, she's giving me (she says) one of the most valuable things she has. She's sending my on my own from Newfound Gap to I-40, where she'll pick me up. (Hard time finding hiking partners. Just because those two people broke knees and arms on their last times out with me, you'd think it happens all the time!)

She's a little nervous about three days (and two nights!) with me alone (over early Memorial Day weekend?!?) in one of the most trackless parts of the trail. At least twice daily calls to tell her I'm not dead are mandatory. I know I can get a poor signal at Newfound Gap, and a good one at I-40, but the rest is a mystery. Pecks Corner and Cosby Knob are planned overnights; can I get a signal there? How about on the peaks? Or should I prepare her for the possibility of not hearing from me for a day or so? (If that's the case, it may take from now until late May!)

Thanks in advance.

02-03-2008, 15:31
I had good cell coverage from the shelter at Cosby Knob. Both text and voice. I didn't try my phone at Pecks Corner, but frequently you will find that you can send text with a marginal signal when it won't support voice communication. I don't hike with my phone on so I can't say everywhere that a phone will work, but it seems likely that your phone would work on the balds and overlooks along the trail.

Nearly Normal
02-03-2008, 17:27
Talk about whipped.

02-03-2008, 17:54
Anything south of Cosby Knob is pretty secluded. Last year I called my wife at Clingmans to tell her I was on my way home. (so she could send the boyfriend on the way) It was a very weak signal and I lost her pretty quick. Carrier probably depends on how well you have a signal too. But anything from Clingmans to 40 is probably no go. Especially with all the leaves out. Anyway, its your vacation. Tell her to chill...

02-03-2008, 18:01
Verizon worked pretty good after Icewater Springs on the ridgeline along the AT. Our battery kept dying though.

Hikes in Rain
02-03-2008, 18:16
She'll be fine, either way. Just need to make sure she isn't expecting a call that won't go through. Text messaging, though, now that's a thought!

Thanks, generoll, Trailhound and Blissful. And Nearly Normal? Bite me.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
02-03-2008, 18:20
There are places with no signal at all in the northern part of the park, but you should be able to get a weak signal (enough for a text message) daily on top of ridges.

Nearly Normal
02-04-2008, 20:30
She'll be fine, either way. Just need to make sure she isn't expecting a call that won't go through. Text messaging, though, now that's a thought!

Thanks, generoll, Trailhound and Blissful. And Nearly Normal? Bite me.

I'm just funning you bud. Don't take it so hard.
There are lots of places and trails your 2 call a day minimum won't work.
Hike the Foothills Trail. A big part of that place won't get any signal.
I'd hate to think I couldn't go because theres no telephone.
She should chill after a few hikes.
Good hiking.

Tennessee Viking
02-04-2008, 21:09
Who is your carrier? I got Alltel, and as soon as I drive into Gatlinburg I end up roaming. And as soon as I venture up from Sugarland, my signal drops completely.

Hikes in Rain
02-05-2008, 07:13
I'm on Alltel, as well. I start roaming as soon as I leave Tallahassee! I can get a weak analog signal at Newfound Gap, and good digital at Davenport Gap. Maybe I should trade in that antique Starlyte.

The child bride is so worried, she's heading from dropping me off at Newfound to Savannah to visit family, then (hopefully) returning to pick me up. The phone is as much for gloating rights as anything else.

"You should be here! It's raining buckets, the shelter is crowded with dirty smelly people, and the dried food would be great if we had some water!"

"Um, have fun. The steak is ready, and we're using the hot tub before we go to bed."

02-05-2008, 07:23
Don't apologize or feel bad about taking a cell with you...I, too, ended up with a cell only because my mommie insisted I take one. She was worried, and thought the cell would keep me from all harm. I came real, real close to leaving it behind. I'm glad I took it. I hardly ever called home, but I definitely called for shuttle rides, pizza deliveries, hotel reservations, etc.

Plus, two years later, I still have a FREE cell phone to show for it. Yep, she still pays the bill. He he he!

On the AT in the Smokys, you're pretty much on a ridgetop the whole time. You should have OK service. It's when you go to town or into the valleys that you'll lose your signal.

02-05-2008, 07:26
Make sure she doesn't get more worried when you don't call. 50 /50 in this area. Also, something I learned the hard way. Turn your cell phone off when not in use. The phone will quickly run down the battery as it searches for a cell signal if none is present. I understand your situation. My wife gets a little crazy too.

02-06-2008, 12:54
I had reception at Peck's corner in November for text under the bear cables and sporadic voice if you stand by the sign on the side trail away from the shelter about 25 meters away. Good coms at the Mt Cammeramer (sp?) tower too. I check in once a day to keep my wife happy. She has little care for any previous training or experience I might have. Of course, most of her hiking experience is in the Alaskan interior. If she is happy I can hike.

I guess I'm whooped.;)

02-06-2008, 15:56
I just did the section from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam over New Years break. I had cell coverage (ATT) every day but only on the ridge lines. I was told by my taxi driver that all the cell towers are to the north of the park and my reception seemed to verify it.

02-06-2008, 21:20
You will not have signal at Pecks or Tricorner

Hikes in Rain
02-07-2008, 06:40
Sounds like I may need to upgrade the old phone, that doesn't have text message capabilities. Also sounds like she most likely won't get a call, or perhaps even a text (with the upgrade she's been wanting, anyway) at Pecks. Maybe when I tank up on water before heading down to the shelter?

Next day should be good, from the sounds of it, particularly at Cosby. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate all the help. Forwarned is forearmed, or something to that effect.

02-07-2008, 07:12
I think it's important to let her know that you'll call as often as you can but that the absence of calls means you don't have a signal, or that your battery has died, not that you don't care and don't want to talk to her. Stress that there will be plenty of people in the Smokies, and that if you run into any problems (which is extremely unlikely), there are Rangers and help available.

Trying to make phone calls can take over your hike. If you really think she will suffer if you can't keep in phone contact, you might consider hiking in an area with better cell phone coverage until your relationship is a little older, and you've survived a few hikes, so you can point to a successful track record as evidence that you'll be okay.

Hikes in Rain
02-07-2008, 09:04
All great advice, Marta, and I do thank you. But I see I've left some misconceptions in my poor attempt tbe funny. We've been married 35 years this August. I've been hiking one way or another across the nation longer than that. (I noticed examples of gear I still use decorating the walls at Mountian Crossings!) She's more than fine with that; in fact, it was she that suggested the AT as rehab from surgery back in the early 90's. It was she who suggested I hike the lower half of the Smokies during November. (All the time I could get off) Her favorite stories of my hikes are about the people I meet. The "mandatory" part stems from an earlier hike, when I tried to call from camp at the agreed-upon hour, and suddenly discovered I couldn't get a signal. Had to backtrack up the trail nearly an hour to get a signal, and she was definatley worried. For whatever reason, it hadn't ocurred to us that might be a problem! Now, she's fine with the possiblity, or even the likelyhood, that she won't hear from me; we're just "scouting ahead", so we know what to expect. My apologies for misleading anyone; sometimes my attempts at humor seriously miss the mark!