View Full Version : Favorite Back country Sites in GSMNP?

09-01-2010, 17:08
I have done some day hiking in the Smoky's but am doing my first backpacking trip in October. My trip is short, only three good days of hiking. I am planning on Starting at the back of Elkmont Campground, hiking south on one of the various trails: Little River or Jake's Creek via some other trail to the AT. I was thinking about heading East to Newfoundland Gap and making a loop back to Elkmont. Maybe head west and come back through Cades Cove? I am planning on about 10-12 miles a day. I am totally open to suggestions but would like to start and end at Elkmont because I am meeting family there after my 3 days of backpacking.

I was hoping you guys could recommend one or two cool backcountry sites. I will be in a hammock.

Angry Knees

09-01-2010, 19:26
we satyed at 18 on the west prong trail which is very comfortable and spacious, also going this way you have the option of taking the unmaintained spruce flats falls trail. which has a great waterfall at the end.
after that then try for silers or choose derrick knob I guess.

09-01-2010, 19:28
Campsite 13 - Sheep Pen Gap just of Gregory bald.

09-02-2010, 12:13
Thanks for the recommendations. Gollwoods, is 18 right on a creek? Water very close by or creekside would be nice. If not a site with a great vista. Is there a website that has a description of each backcountry site?

09-02-2010, 20:45

here is a wealth of info to browse on the smokies.
site 18 is right on the west prong and has a good selection of spaces, although the hike over to there from elkmont isn't drama filled it is ok. we did the spruce flats falls trail instead of the lumber ridge trail. they start at the same place and end at tremont institute, which has a pop machine and a store if open. if you want to take spruce flats falls i will give you exact directions. it's worth it.

09-07-2010, 17:30
I'm not sure why, but I really like camp site 29. The spot is just so quaint for some reason. It's also a higher elevation (like 13) that's great when the weather is warmer.

09-07-2010, 19:22
Has anyone here ever stayed at 57?

09-08-2010, 17:08
57 is huge, I believe it is a horse camp about 70 yards off the creek.

09-08-2010, 23:43
There isnt an easy way to get from Elkmont to Newfound Gap and back, hiking about 10 miles/day and having places to camp each night. The closest you can get is coming up Sugarland Trail to Mt Collins, then 5 miles over to NFG and return on the same route. That would require consecutive nights at Collins, which isnt allowed through the permit office.

A nice loop hike that I enjoyed was from Elkmont to Siler's Bald using Miry Ridge and Goshen Prong. You can do this loop in either direction. Campsites #26 and #23 are both pretty decent. You will want to verify whether there is water at #26. It sometimes dries out in the summer.

As for favorite campsites in the park.... I like #37, #47, #40, #9, #1, #15, #70, #86, #74, and #64. All for slightly different reasons. Most are near nice water sources, and most are pretty quiet most of the times I have been there.

09-09-2010, 14:32
All good info thanks... Here is what I am thinking about now.

Planning on doing a 30-35 mile loop over a three day period. I am debating on heading west on Meigs, Lumber Ridge, and West Prog Trails and heading south down Bote to the AT, then hiking east and coming back up through one of the many trails leading to Jakes Creek. My main concern is many of these trails are shared with horses according to this trail map.


My day hikes have all been on hiking only trails. Can someone please share your experiences on these specific trails or the horse trails in general?

My second option would be to go out on Cumberland Gap to Goshen Prong and join up with the AT hike east towards newfoundland gap and come back up on the sugarland mountain trail. I am still open to suggestions so please continue to share.

I will be in a hammock, so is it allowed to hang just about anywhere?


09-09-2010, 18:51

My husband and I did this loop last week, but in the other direction. I wrote up a trip report of it under the trip report forum. Meigs was a lovely trail and there was still some water there last week. Unless things have changed, there was no water on lumbar ridge or west prong or bote (though you could refill at Tremont between lumbar ridge and west prong). It was my husbands first multi-night backpacking trip, and I asked him his opinion - he thinks going the direction we did would be better than going the direction you are proposing, mainly due to the dry hike UP lumbar ridge, west prong, and bote to reach Spence (it was a SOLID 3 hour hike down with lots of river rock on the trail).

Check on the campsites - 26 was closed for bear activity last week (there were bear tracks and very fresh scat there when we hiked past, so I'm betting it's still closed).

As far as horses, we saw some evidence (prints and poo) but no horses. The 'evidence' didn't distract much, and none of it was what I would consider fresh.

In GSMNP camping is only allowed at shelters/campsites, and I assume that includes hammocks. It is possible to hang your hammock in both Derrick Knob and Spence Field shelters. Campsite 18 is beautiful and I'm sure you could find a spot there.

Also, Miry Ridge trail was dry, plan accordingly :)

Let me know if there are any other questions I might be able to answer. Have fun!

09-09-2010, 19:26
Thanks for all the up to date and great information trixie. Do you mind posting the link to your trip report?

SmokyMtn Hiker
09-09-2010, 19:31
57 is huge, I believe it is a horse camp about 70 yards off the creek.

It is a horse camp and the lst time I was by there and stopped the horse flies were terrible. It might not be that way in cooler weather but I was there in May. It is also the location of Horace Kepharts camp and there is a plaque down closer to the creek below the camping area telling the history behind this area.

SmokyMtn Hiker
09-09-2010, 19:35
I also just remebered and checked the GSMNP website and the Little River and Jakes Creek trail access road is closed until October 15th to all public use. You may want to call the Backcountry Office for more info 865-436-1297 or 865-436-1231

09-10-2010, 11:14

Try that. If it doesn't work, look under the 'trip report' section and it's the one that starts with 'GSMNP', currently the second thread.

The access road to Jakes Creek and Little River trails is closed to cars. You can still hike to it, you just start on the other side of the river at Elkmont and hike back behind the old houses, then you cross the river and hike the road to get there. It wasn't bad. You just can't drive and park there. Leave your car at Elkmont.

09-10-2010, 21:51
Sure would like to hear more about your fellow hiker's encounter w/ the cougar...wouldn't this be unheard of in GSMNP? I know there's always been rumors about cougars in the east but no confirmed sightings? (outside of FL with their panther)

09-11-2010, 08:27
He said it hopped out of the woods into the trail in front of him, 'screamed' or 'yelled' or whatever it is they do, ran at him, then abruptly turned tail and ran off. Said it was very large and scared him so much he wouldn't stay at Derrick Knob shelter. He seemed like a super nice, reliable guy, but he didn't get a picture.

Maybe it migrated up from Florida? :)

09-14-2010, 17:49
we satyed at 18 on the west prong trail which is very comfortable and spacious, also going this way you have the option of taking the unmaintained spruce flats falls trail. which has a great waterfall at the end.
after that then try for silers or choose derrick knob I guess.

we stopped for lunch at spence shelter and continued south on the jenkins ridge trail to hazel creek. jenkins ridge trail was a nasty path with deadfalls and tough backberry stalks alot of the way. returning up welch ridge to silers and down the miry ridge, jakes creek trail. 4 days three nights