View Full Version : I need a little info on hiking the Smokies...

09-25-2009, 00:22
I will be hiking in the Smokies October 16th-21st. I was wanting to know the best way to get my permit. If there is anything else you think I should know feel free to let me know. Im trying to do atleast a 5 day hike every month since Im planning a '10 thru.
Thanks in advance for all your help!:banana

09-25-2009, 03:50
You get your permit at any of the ranger stations. You get reservations for rationed campsites & shelters by calling in advance at (865) 436-1231.


Hikes in Rain
09-25-2009, 05:57
You can reserve the shelters up to 30 days in advance; I'd have the number on speed dial, start at 8:00 am exactly 30 days before, and keep redialing until you get through. It's a beautiful time up there, I'd expect rationed sites to fill up quickly.

09-25-2009, 10:44
Are you doing the AT thru the park or are you looking for something else? Definately call 30 days before you start your trip to get reservations, like Hikes in Rain said it may take a few minutes to get through.

If you are doing the AT I would avoid Russell Field Shelter and Mt. Collins Shelter as they are in pretty rough shape. All of the other shelters have been renovated. The newest renovations (and nicest shelters) are Derrick Knob, Double Springs, Tricorner Knob, but they are all OK. Icewater Springs Shelter has a pretty nice view, but is the most heavily used (it WILL be full) and it is close to the road so you get a lot of traffic from dayhikers, etc. Be sure to stop at Shuckstack, Charlies Bunion, and Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower (0.6 off the trail).

Hikes in Rain
09-25-2009, 11:47
Second the shelters to avoid. I stayed in both, and by comparison, they're dumps!The renovated ones are open and airy. Climb the tower on Clingman's Dome (if it's not socked in). The tourists will love seeing a "real hiker!" At Mt. Cammerer, leave your pack at the horse hitching rack. I didn't, and a little way into that rough trail, I began to question my intelligence; if horses can't make it, why did I think I could with a "heavy" pack??

09-25-2009, 15:03
Call every 5 - 10 minutes from 9 - 5 starting 30 days in advance. I did & still didn't get through, had to change my plans to the "Not rationed sites" still had a great time.

There are some seriously "heart stopping" views along there, take a spare battery & film/chip for your camera.

09-25-2009, 20:17
Thanks so much for your input guys! So what do I do if I can't get through and get a campsite? I dont mind to stealth at all if that is a possibility...

09-25-2009, 21:15
There a lots of campsites throughout the park that don't require reservations. There are 150 trails travelling 850 to 900 miles in total. Get a map of the park and start putting together some possible loops. If you're in there for 5 days you can see alot.

The AT is magnificent through the park. The views are fantastic. But park has so many other cool trails to explore as well. I really like using Hiking Trails of The Smokies, an excellent guide put out by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. My copy looks pretty et up but its helped me put together about 363 miles of trails hiked in the park to date.

09-25-2009, 21:19
I will be coming into Gatlinburg my first day there to see family then Im off to the trail. I will be able to devote atleast 3 days maybe five to the trail. Does anyone have any suggestions on around a 30-35 mile section of the AT near Gatlinburg. I would like to know where to get on the trail and possible shelters along that section. I would like to go by Clingmans Dome if possible.

09-26-2009, 11:25
This loop is around 34 miles with the option to add on some miles if needed
You should really get one of the maps. It will make planning much easier

Starting out at Elkmont Campground
Jakes Creek Trail to
Miry Ridge Trail to Appalachian Trail
AT through Silers Bald Clingman's Dome to the
Sugarland Mountain Trail to
Rough Creek Trail to
Little River Trail to
CS #30
Take Little River all the way back to Elkmont

There are several campsites and shelters along the way

I would figure out your plans sooner so you can call.
I personally have never had a problem getting through to make reservations.
I have even called the day before

I think there is a map on the Smokies site that you can download

Hikes in Rain
09-26-2009, 11:32
Link to downloadable Smokies trail map. (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/GSMNP%20Backcountry%20Map.pdf)

09-28-2009, 23:04
At Mt. Cammerer, leave your pack at the horse hitching rack.

The bears really appreciate hikers who leave their packs unattended!!!

Rain Man
09-28-2009, 23:24
So what do I do if I can't get through and get a campsite? I dont mind to stealth at all if that is a possibility...

By "stealth camp," do you mean camp illegally? As in "I'm above the law" and "the law is for lesser mortals"? Or, do you have another definition in mind?

I thru'd the Smokies on a Spring Break week and had no trouble calling in and getting my reservation via phone. Fall colors season may be different, though.



Hikes in Rain
09-29-2009, 06:01
The bears really appreciate hikers who leave their packs unattended!!!

Ah, I was out of food, anyway. :)

09-29-2009, 17:18
Just got back from hiking the AT from Fontana to Clingmans. It's around 30-35 miles, a good 2 and a half to 3 day hike and beautiful. Saw 8 bears and 2 yellowjacket nests, so beware. If you hike from Fontana to Clingmans you probably shouldn't have too much of an issue in getting shelter space, but keep calling the office...it takes awhile to get through. A tough hike, but well worth it...especially if you are training for a thru hike!

max patch
09-29-2009, 17:32
Thanks so much for your input guys! So what do I do if I can't get through and get a campsite? I dont mind to stealth at all if that is a possibility...

Then you go hike someplace else.

09-29-2009, 18:06
i saw them helo-ing in new building materials for the Mt Collins shelter two weeks ago... with it scheduled for a week of rebuilding. should be as nice as they come by now. my buddy stayed there the last night it was open as an old style fence front shelter.

09-29-2009, 18:12
Sweet! It was a nice setting (other than being 0.5 miles off the trail) so it should be really nice now. I'd love to see a pic of it when they get it finished. Here it is this July..


09-29-2009, 19:57
Was supposed to be done September 22nd.

10-01-2009, 02:04
Thanks for all your help guys and NO I dont think Im above the law. Its just stealth camping. We have all done it a time or two...

Just Plain Pete
10-10-2009, 22:28
Just finished the northern half of SMNP today. Stayed at Tricorner and Pecks.
Tricorner is larger, but still limited to 12. Pecks is in a beautiful cove. Was supposed to stay at Cosby but got there about lunch and pushed on. There were 13 at Tricorner and still had room. Pecks was tight with 11 and 3 hikers showed up after dark and tented. It appears that 1/3 to 1/2 of the folks staying at the shelters have no reservations or in some cases backcountry permits. It is not the fault of the Park Service. People make reservations and don't show up. Some hike faster and go on, and some hike slowly and don't make it to their assigned shelters. Such is life.

10-11-2009, 10:10
Nice to meet some fellow hikers from the Clayton area. Hope your Sat hike was good. We left out on Sat had an all downhill hike. Much needed after all the uphills.

10-14-2009, 04:14
Mt Collins shelter has just been completely rebuilt, expanded BIG time, new sod you name it, dont even look like same place, is way bigger and very nice. If ya wanna see a pic let me know in a pm as I dont get on here much these days.

Hairnt !

10-14-2009, 06:32
If you're planning to hike the AT through the Smokies next year anyway, I'd recommend hiking some of the other trails now. For one thing, it's easy to pick routes that don't require reservations, tenting, not shelters. For another thing, the lower-level trails are where you'll see the waterfalls and incredible creeks and old farmsteads, and other stuff that makes the Smokies special.