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golfricker
01-31-2004, 12:43
I am planning my summer hike to be the AT Smokies, end to end ( a repeat of a 1997 hike).. Likely to go solo in 1st week of August.. Question.. Which direction is best? I'm coming in from Indiana, plan to drive in one day, spend the night in G-burg, hit the trail the next... Can you park your car at Fontana Dam? Or in Fontana Village? Is it safe to park at Davenport Gap? I've always heard that's a problem.. At this point I believe I will have a shuttle lined up, but if not, who do you call for support? I've heard the Happy Hiker in G-Burg can be helpful.. Thanks for helping me do some early planning. Golfricker :clap

smokymtnsteve
01-31-2004, 13:22
It is very safe to park your car at fontana dam..it is not safe at all to park at davenport gap..

North to south is my preference

chris
01-31-2004, 15:22
I've left my car for three days at the trailhead at Fontana with no problems. By trailhead, I mean the end of the road right next to the trail, not the parking lot before the dam itself. Rather than parking at Davenport Gap, instead park at the Big Creek campground. This is one of the more remote frontcountry sites, but it has a campground host and your car would probably be okay. There is a 2 mile or so spur trail from near the end of the AT in the Smokys (maybe a mile or two from Davenport Gap) to Big Creek. If you want to see a different part of the park than the AT, you can get to Big Creek easily by a number of side trails. From Triconer Shelter, head south on the Balsam Mountain trail to the Laurel Gap shelter. Then, divert onto the Mt. Sterling Ridge trail heading east to Mt. Sterling itself. Both of these trails are almost level, high, and with views, at least in the fall. The Mt. Sterling Firetower has views almost as good as that from Mt. Cammerer and there is a small campsite next to it, but you'll need reservations for it. There is no water there, but you can walk about 1/2 mile down hill to a water source. The real joy of the site is that you get the sunset and sunrise from the tower. Continue down the Baxter Creek trail to the Big Creek parking lot. I've parked there for 3 days also, without problems. I'd go south to north, but really there isn't a great deal of difference in difficulty. Either you make the climb up Shuckstack, or you make the climb up Mt. Cammerer. Going south to north means you get to end in the less frequented park of the park (the east end) and get the Mt. Cammerer lookout tower as a last goodbye.

If you want other suggestions for a different route across the Smokys, just ask. There are some fantastic parts of the park that few people see because they are not on the AT. However, such a hike would be physically more demanding as you would be going against the grain of the land (i.e, up and over a sequence of spur ridges coming off the main on where the AT is).

Valmet
02-01-2004, 09:12
Don't leave your vehicle at Davenport gap. A friend and myself did a through hike in the Smokies a couple of years ago. I left my car at Fontanna, he left his at Davenport, Mine was fine, his was trashed. Busted out his windows, took nothing. Bunch of dirtbags.

stickman
02-01-2004, 14:56
I did that hike a couple of years ago and left my car at the Big Creek Ranger Station at the north end of the park, then arranged a ride down to Fontana with Mr. Thigpen of Mountain Mommas and hiked back to the car. The ride with Mr. Thigpen was an adventure all its own!. Mountain Mommas is a just a couple of hundred yards from the ranger station. I know Mr. Thigpen has sold Mountain Mommas but I'd guess the new owners can provide or arrange a ride.

When you get just south of Davenport Gap shelter, you can take the Chestnut Branch trail down to the ranger station, and avoid having to walk up TN Route 32 from where the AT crosses it, to get back to your car. That would cut about a mile off your AT mileage in case you are being particular about following the white blazes, but the Chestnut Branch trail follows a delightful stream, and my son and I took advantage of some nice swimming holes (small but deep) when we did the hike (in late August) of getting naked and washing off the grime from our days coming through the Smokies. Overall this was one of the best hikes I've ever done, although crowds can be a probelm at that time of year. If you can, do it after Labor Day, or at least after most shools and colleges have started up again, when the crowd thins a bit.

Does anyone know the status of Mountain Mommas? I assume it is still in business and still friendly to hikers.

sloetoe
02-01-2004, 17:53
Rather than parking at Davenport Gap, instead park at the Big Creek campground. This is one of the more remote frontcountry sites, but it has a campground host and your car would probably be okay. There is a 2 mile or so spur trail from near the end of the AT in the Smokys (maybe a mile or two from Davenport Gap) to Big Creek. If you want to see a different part of the park than the AT, you can get to Big Creek easily by a number of side trails. From Triconer Shelter, head south on the Balsam Mountain trail to the Laurel Gap shelter. Then, divert onto the Mt. Sterling Ridge trail heading east to Mt. Sterling itself. Both of these trails are almost level, high, and with views, at least in the fall. The Mt. Sterling Firetower has views almost as good as that from Mt. Cammerer and there is a small campsite next to it, but you'll need reservations for it. There is no water there, but you can walk about 1/2 mile down hill to a water source. The real joy of the site is that you get the sunset and sunrise from the tower. Continue down the Baxter Creek trail to the Big Creek parking lot.

### I think Chris has it exactly right. Hugely so.

(BTW, Chris, are you still up for a through-run sometime February/March? I'm not where I want to be, but could be by March...

[email protected]

Doctari
02-02-2004, 08:45
Mt Mommas was open as of late April 2003 when I pass thru, still catering well to us.

I did notice some broken car window glass at Davenport gap, none at either parking area at Fontana. I have never parked at either location. Either way you go seems a good way to me, I hiked South to north.

Call the Hike Inn @ Fontana & have Jeff or Nancy shuttle you, Great people!!! You can probably park at the Inn, get shuttled to your start point and then at the end, they will come get you so you can retrieve your car (there is a phone at the Dam visitors area & one at Mt. Mommas). The Hike Inn is only about 6 miles from Fontana.

Doctari.

Uncle Wayne
02-02-2004, 09:25
Doctari is right on about Jeff and Nancy Hoch. We did the Smokies in two trips, Clingmans to Fontana and then Clingmans to Davenport Gap. On the first trip Jeff shuttled us to Clingmans and let us park at his motel. When we got to the visitor center at Fontana Dam, we called him and in less than 10 minutes he picked us up. On our section hike from Clingmans to Davenport Gap his plans were to (1) either meet us at Clingmans and shuttle us to Davenport Gap and then we'd hike back to our vehicle left in the Clingmans parking lot or (2) drop us off at Clingmans with our vehicle at his motel and then call him from Mt Cammerer Lookout with our cell phone and tell him when we would be at Davenport Gap or (3) call him from Mountain Momas or the Big Creek Ranger Station and he would pick us up the next morning. He has several options available and will bend over backward to help you.

chris
02-02-2004, 14:32
### I think Chris has it exactly right. Hugely so.

(BTW, Chris, are you still up for a through-run sometime February/March? I'm not where I want to be, but could be by March...

[email protected]

I am fat and soft right now, but hopefully will be coming out of winter quarters as soon as the damn snow melts off and I can run again. Too many pastries, araq, and shwarma during my lazy days in Syria. I'd like to try an end-to-end Smokys hike in mid-late April, maybe across 2 days. I'm also toying with the idea of a 3 day thruhike of the NC Bartram trail around the same time. But right now, the most exercise I'm getting is walking to the AYCE Indian joint down the street.

smokymtnsteve
02-02-2004, 14:58
gregory bald is nice though it can be dry in the west end of the park at the end of summer....berries wouldn't be ripe there early august.

golfricker
02-02-2004, 20:06
Thanks to everyone for your insightful thoughts. In the end, I will no doubt make the wise choice, park my car in the right lot, get a shuttle to the trail head & have a great hike! I'll probably park at Fontana, and somehow get up to Davenport Gap to hike North to South.... Thanks for all the good advice. Golfricker :cool:

hikerdg
02-02-2004, 20:40
I am planning my summer hike to be the AT Smokies, end to end ( a repeat of a 1997 hike).. Likely to go solo in 1st week of August.. Question.. Which direction is best? I'm coming in from Indiana, plan to drive in one day, spend the night in G-burg, hit the trail the next... Can you park your car at Fontana Dam? Or in Fontana Village? Is it safe to park at Davenport Gap? I've always heard that's a problem.. At this point I believe I will have a shuttle lined up, but if not, who do you call for support? I've heard the Happy Hiker in G-Burg can be helpful.. Thanks for helping me do some early planning. Golfricker :clap
I would park at Fontana Dam it is not safe to leave your car at Davenport Gap. The owners of the Hike Inn provide shuttle, there is also another shuttle which the Happy Hiker reccomends. I did the hike last year went from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam. Good luck

smokymtnsteve
02-02-2004, 21:13
you get to take a FREE shower there at the fontana dam visitor center

B Thrash
02-02-2004, 22:02
A few years ago I left my car at Mtn Momma's, about two miles from the trail while I hiked from Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap (Shuttled to Newfound hiked back to Davenport) I think she charged me about a dollar a day for parking. But your best bet will be to park at Fontana Dam and go north.

smokymtnsteve
02-02-2004, 22:16
another shuttle alternative

http://www.awalkinthewoods.com/

Bearbait
02-05-2004, 07:49
I'm planning a section hike in October, which section of the Smokies would offer the best hike, views, shelters etc... I was planning to do Klingmans to Fontanna dam. Is Davenport to Klingmans better?

Uncle Wayne
02-05-2004, 08:11
I'm planning a section hike in October, which section of the Smokies would offer the best hike, views, shelters etc... I was planning to do Klingmans to Fontanna dam. Is Davenport to Klingmans better?

Bearbait,

My wife and I did the Smokies in two trips, one year apart, both in the month of October almost during the same week. We thought the Clingmans to Davenport Gap had the better views, especially with Mt Cammerer Lookout available on your last day, (going north). I have a trip report on both sections in the "Members Trips Forum." Also several photos in the photo gallery of the views along both sections that may help you decide. The foliage turns quicker going north we found out. Even as we hiked last October we could tell a difference in the color the further we went north. Of course that always varies with temperatures, rainfall etc so ymmv.
Decatur, Alabama? We're neighbors. Good luck, either directions will be a great hike.

Uncle Wayne
02-05-2004, 08:23
Sorry I didn't finish answering your question in the other post. I don't think there'll be a lot of difference in the shelters but I know you'll have at least 3 new (or at least newer) shelters going from Clingmans to Davenport Gap. Tri Corner knob will be almost brand new. Ice water Springs, Tri Corner Knob (this spring / summer) and Davenport Gap are all the newer type shelters and at that time of the year usually the water supply is not a problem either direction.
If you're just going to do one half, I'd recommend north from Clingmans to Davenport Gap, if for no other reason to visit Mt. Cammerer Lookout. Thanks to Chris, SmokymountainSteve, and Simva the Medicine man for that info they shared with me. Of all the places we've been on the AT, especially in the Smokies, that was the best. We caught the weather just right and the foliage was about 2 or 3 days from peak. It just doesn't get any better in the Smokies.

chris
02-05-2004, 08:35
I think Clingmans to Davenport is the more scenic of the two. The stretch between Newfound Gap and Peck's Corner is, outside of the Humps and the Roan Range, the best long stretch between Springer and Damascus. Very nice views, indeed. Mt. Cammerer is stunning, and there are some really nice views between Triconer and Cosby Knob as well. Shelters are all pretty good. Icewater, Pecks, and Davenport and are really pleasant, although Icewater can be a complete zoo. SMS is a big fan of Tricorner, but don't overlook Cosby: Very serene setting.

Southbound, the shelters are a little less nice and you have the pressure of Cades Cove for part of them. But, the Narrows (north of Silars and Double Springs) are quite good and the descent off Clingman's provides some great views. The scenic highlight would be RockyTop and Thunderhead. Of course, if you are up for a little more mileage, you could divert off the AT to Gregory Bald (even better than Rocky Top) and then pick your way back to Fontana on some of the remnants of the AT before Fontana Dam was built.

Kozmic Zian
02-08-2004, 00:48
I am planning my summer hike to be the AT Smokies, end to end ( a repeat of a 1997 hike).. Likely to go solo in 1st week of August.. Question.. Which direction is best? I'm coming in from Indiana, plan to drive in one day, spend the night in G-burg, hit the trail the next... Can you park your car at Fontana Dam? Or in Fontana Village? Is it safe to park at Davenport Gap? I've always heard that's a problem.. At this point I believe I will have a shuttle lined up, but if not, who do you call for support? I've heard the Happy Hiker in G-Burg can be helpful.. Thanks for helping me do some early planning. Golfricker :clap

If you go N to S, find Mt Mama's Place in Mt Sterling, NC...It's next to Whiteville on da maps....She'll let you park da car dare. If you go S to N, which is da way I recommend, you can leave da car at da Hike Inn in Fontana, NC (Call them)...or park in da lot adjacent to da dam...dare a
couple o' lots hikers park in .... ask da Park Police when yous get [email protected]
I wouldnt go to Gatlinburg lst, cause its half way...makes it more confusin'.

Tater
02-08-2004, 12:29
So its safe to park at the fontana damn parkin lot, and the lot is open 24/7?

Lone Wolf
02-08-2004, 12:34
Yes it is very safe to park long term at Fontana Dam. Park at the visitors center. It's patrolled by TVA cops 24/7.

MOWGLI
02-08-2004, 12:50
If you want other suggestions for a different route across the Smokys, just ask. There are some fantastic parts of the park that few people see because they are not on the AT. However, such a hike would be physically more demanding as you would be going against the grain of the land (i.e, up and over a sequence of spur ridges coming off the main on where the AT is).

When the Benton Mackaye Trail is marked in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 2005, in 90 miles, the trail will have approximately 30,000 feet of elevation gain!

The BMT will run the the east of the AT. In my opinion, this will make for a much more interesting and physically demanding experience than the AT. It will also be less crowded.

chris
02-09-2004, 08:50
Could you, perhaps, comment on where the BMT in the Smokys will be? I thought it was going to be a Georgia thing only.

MOWGLI
02-09-2004, 09:03
Could you, perhaps, comment on where the BMT in the Smokys will be? I thought it was going to be a Georgia thing only.

Although I do not have a list of the existing trails that the BMT will be routed over, it will run for 90 miles in GSMNP running parallel to the AT to the east (in North Carolina). The highest point the BMT will cross in GSMNP is the 5843' summit of Mount Sterling.

Concerning connecting the current northern terminus of the BMT (Ocoee River on Hwy 64 in Eastern Tennessee) to the southern end of GSMNP, the BMT just received approval to extend their trail 85 miles in the Cherokee NF & Nantahala NF. Only 22.5 miles of new trail must be constructed. A crew of 20 folks (including me) cut 2200' of new trail in the Cherokee NF on Saturday. There will be a dual designation on the 62.5 miles of existing trails.

The new trail will be run through (3) Wilderness areas (Little Frog & Citico in TN, and Kilmer-Slickrock in North Carolina).

According to the BMTA Feb 2004 newsletter "Because of the trail route's general remoteness it has sometimes been described as what the Appalachian Trail was fifty years ago!" Believe it!

Volunteers are needed to make this trail extension a reality. The next weekend worktrip is planned for Saturday March 13th. Check the BMTA website for more details.

http://www.bmta.org/work_trip_schedule.htm