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View Full Version : Mid-March College Group Hike - help?



Ryan_paco
02-17-2008, 18:24
I am one of the leaders in charge of leading a trip of fellow college students on a backpacking trip from March 15-23.
I'm in charge of figuring out where we are going...

I need to figure out a good section of Smoky Mountain trails for a 5 day hike with a group of 11 people.
The group is fairly inexperienced, so we wouldn't want to hike much more than 5-10 miles in a given day.

Ideally we would have a trail-loop
but shuttling is probably possible if necessary.

If anyone has any suggestions on a section that would fit these qualifications, please please let me know. I am entirely unfamiliar with the area, and I figured it would be a good idea to seek the advice of wise hiker-folk before coming up with any ideas on my own.

Thanks a lot

bigcranky
02-17-2008, 18:34
Call the Backcountry Information Center and talk to the ranger. The Smokies have hundreds of miles of great trails, with loops you can do over a 5-day period. They'll be able to help you find a good route. You'll need reservations for many of the camp sites and all of the shelters.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
02-17-2008, 18:34
Here is a link to a PDF map of the GSMNP (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/trails2005.pdf) that should help you determine some routes that will meet your criteria

barefoot
02-17-2008, 21:22
What college? I would do the section right after the Smokies from Davenport Gap to Hot Spring that would include Max Patch. I lead a church high school group on the AT every summer and this is a section that we do regularly. Good campsites, views, water, etc. If you are interested I can send you my parent/hiker handout that includes maps and daily mileages and some group info that might be helpful.
jberlin@carolina.rr.com

Tennessee Viking
02-17-2008, 22:30
You probably want to stay off the AT during this time, or at least just the campsites and shelters. Around this time is when a large wave of northbound hikers start heading through the park. There will be limited shelter space and campsites.

Being novice hikers, would your group be more comfortable with shelters?
The Smokies do offer other sites with shelters.

From Gatlinburg, take the Rainbow Falls Trail up to the Mt LeConte Lodge. Its a fairly good climb, and its one of the highest peaks in the park and southern Appalachians. And great set of falls and cascades along the way. The lodge should be open in mid March but requires a reservation.

You can then connect from Mt LeConte to the AT via the Boulevard Trail. Then head down to the Kephart Shelter by Heifer or Sluice Trails.

From Kephart join up with Benton MacKaye Trail system to Laurel Gap Shelter.

Then head out at Big Creek Ranger station

Another great hike would be from Lakeshore Drive and connect with the BMT, and hike along Fontana Lake to Fontana Dam or Twentymile station.

Just make sure your group gets their backcountry camping permits.

EAnderson
02-17-2008, 23:24
I like the the Big Creek and Cosby areas. You could start at Big Creek going up Chestnut Branch to the AT, head south, and then go down Lower Mt. Cammerer to #35. Then head into Cosby and take Gabes Mtn to #34. Head over to Maddron Bald (with a hike thru the Albright grove loop) to #29 , then up to the AT turning north, and take Camel Gap down to Walnut Bottoms, #37. Then out Big Creek to your car. about 36 miles and would average 7 miles a day or so. Great old growth, a nice waterfall, some AT walking without having to stay on the AT during the crowds, and nice campsites. Also, easy access from I-40.

Rockhound
02-17-2008, 23:42
just an idea but maybe you can bring the group to standing bear farm (north end of the smokies) catch a shuttle to newfound gap & hike back to your cars. that will give you about a 40 mile hike.

Ryan_paco
02-18-2008, 11:44
Thanks for all the replies!
The hike I am planning is for Earlham College.

I'm thinking that the Crosby/ Big Creek area looks the best for a 5 day hike.
So thanks EAnderson for the suggestion.

I do have a few questions.
Where can I find some quality detailed maps of the trails in this section?
I'm planning on seeing if the wilderness department has any maps of this area, but I doubt they will.

Certain campsites in this section are denoted as reservation campsites...
how do you attain the reservations for these?
And should I infer from that, that they will be very crowded?

Also, I think I might add a day onto the loop EAnderson suggestion, would it be a bad idea to hike and camp on the Benton Mckay Trail? Would it be crowded?

Also, how is the section around Elkmont? It would be a slightly shorter Drive from Indiana, and it looks like there are a lot of campsites there as well. Does anyone know anything about how that area compares to the Cosby section?

Rcarver
02-18-2008, 11:52
The maximum group size is 8 for the park.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
02-18-2008, 12:21
Where can I find some quality detailed maps of the trails in this section?
I'm planning on seeing if the wilderness department has any maps of this area, but I doubt they will.

Certain campsites in this section are denoted as reservation campsites...
how do you attain the reservations for these?
And should I infer from that, that they will be very crowded?

Also, I think I might add a day onto the loop EAnderson suggestion, would it be a bad idea to hike and camp on the Benton Mckay Trail? Would it be crowded?

Also, how is the section around Elkmont? It would be a slightly shorter Drive from Indiana, and it looks like there are a lot of campsites there as well. Does anyone know anything about how that area compares to the Cosby section?Rationed campsites get more traffic than non-rationed campsite generally speaking. Except for the AT and trails to Mount Le Conte, most trails are not overly-crowded. Those nearest major roadways and GSMNP front-country camps have more traffic than others.

To obtain info on reservations: go to this web page (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm)
To order detailed maps: Go to this page (http://www.smokiesstore.org/browse.cfm/2,64.html)
The link I provided earlier in this thread can be magnified to give you enough detail for planning, but you will want better maps for the hike.

The Benton MayKaye trail is beautiful and not crowded. I personally believe it is one of the most beautiful long hikes in the park.

The Cosby area tends to get fewer visitors than the Elkmont area. However, most visitor to the GSMNP do not do any sort of serious hiking - a mile or two at most - so this shouldn't impact your plans.

Ryan_paco
02-18-2008, 12:28
Well all of this sounds great.
But I didn't realize the maximum group size is 8.
Is there no way around this? (besides reserving the large group sites)

We would have two separate cooking groups that we could designate as separate groups... but would we be breaking rules that would potential get us fined?

Rcarver
02-18-2008, 13:22
The group sites are all front country. You can always split into two groups and one group can do the trip in reverse. I have seen several colleges do this. One of my favorite trips is to start out of smokemont and do:
Campsite 47
Laurel Gap
Tricorner Knob
Pecks Corner
Campsite 49.

Lilred
02-18-2008, 14:47
Well all of this sounds great.
But I didn't realize the maximum group size is 8.
Is there no way around this? (besides reserving the large group sites)

We would have two separate cooking groups that we could designate as separate groups... but would we be breaking rules that would potential get us fined?

Sounds like you'll have at least two vehicles? Break up into two groups and hike in reverse directions, like suggested. When the two groups meet, exchange car keys and then meet up at a designated area when you finish up the hike. This way you won't have to limit your options to loop trails.

BR360
02-18-2008, 15:34
Each group should always carry two sets of keys, one for each vehicle. This prevents problems "just in case" one group gets navigationaly confused.

warren doyle
02-18-2008, 20:52
Stay out of the National Parks. Too many regulations.
I'm doing a nine-day, 15 mpd, group spring break hike from Rockfish Gap (I-64) to Daleville, VA. (I-81).

ScottP
02-19-2008, 14:12
I led a college spring break trip to GSMNP, it was great.

Thoughtful Owl
02-20-2008, 10:35
Stay out of the National Parks. Too many regulations.
I'm doing a nine-day, 15 mpd, group spring break hike from Rockfish Gap (I-64) to Daleville, VA. (I-81).

WD, when's your spring break? How many folk are we talking 8-10 or more? I may not want to be on the trail when this group is coming through.

TO

warren doyle
02-20-2008, 13:33
March 2-9
Don't know how many folks - probably a handful.
Your last sentence was interesting.

kytrailman
02-20-2008, 13:57
If you are foing to the smokies and want fairly easy hiking ----
Alum cave trail head-----> MtLeconte shelter
LeConte----->Icewater Spring
Icewater-----> Peck's Corner
Peck's-----> Cosby Knob
Cosby----->Davenport Gap
Mostly downhill the whole way, easy walking, great views and alot to see. Hve fun

Digger'02
02-20-2008, 17:14
First of all, be ready for serrious snow. If everyone isn't experienced with backpacking in the winter, rethink your plan. I have been in big snow storms in april.... so don't let your water freeze :)

If you hike the whiteblazes in the park you have to stay in a shelter with a permit and a reservation and shelters are cooollllldddd.

That early in march you will be infront of the great thruie push.

i like the idea of the Benton Maykaye trail-it is nice. I also like the idea of hiking north of the park-less regs and less bears. More road crossings and lower elevations. But do becareful if you get as far north as blackstack cliffs-the whiteblazes can be a little tricky in ice. good luck!

Jeepocachers
10-02-2008, 07:45
I thought this sounded like a great little hike, and I had it all planned out for this Columbus Day weekend. Wouldn't you know it, Campsite #29 is going to be closed. I was thinking maybe I could hike from Site# 34 up Maddron Bald to Snake Den Ridge trail and down into Cosby campground in one day, but it sounds like the terrain might be a little difficult and slow. I can't really tell the exact mileage (looks like it might be around 13 or 14 miles total), but does anyone know if that would be doable given the terrain and short days in October? Thanks

aaronthebugbuffet
10-05-2008, 07:00
#34 is 1.8 miles from Maddron Bald trail. Thats about 12.5 total I think.

Theres about a 3000ft climb to the Maddron/Snake Den jct. Its rocky with stream crossings.

Going down Snake Den you will lose most of your elevation descending about 2300ft.

Just some info to help you decide.