View Full Version : Hiking the Smokies, any thoughts?

08-15-2013, 23:24
I'm planning to hike the Smokies the week of Thanksgiving, any advice or thoughts? What can i expect? Is water a problem? I hope the views are what I'm expecting, it is the Smokies!!

08-15-2013, 23:30
I'm planning to hike the Smokies the week of Thanksgiving, any advice or thoughts? What can i expect? Is water a problem? I hope the views are what I'm expecting, it is the Smokies!!
You never know what the weather is going to be that time of year but the views should be good. All the leaves will have dropped. Which direction are you going? Start/Finish?

08-15-2013, 23:32
Starting at Fontana Dam to I 40 crossing

08-15-2013, 23:37
Starting at Fontana Dam to I 40 crossing
You should have a nice trip. I did it in 1960 the first time but in two trips both starting at Clingmans dome. That's the easy way:)

08-15-2013, 23:39
Looks like the first day or two may have some climbing but i have all week and plan on a several short days in the middle to enjoy things, i cant wait till it gets here.

08-16-2013, 00:00
When October is over (because all the leaves will have fallen), the tourists will be gone. You won't have any crowds, not even at Clingman's dome.

Since most of the AT through the park is at an elevation of 5000ft - 6000ft, expect night time temperatures to be right about freezing. But because the weather can be so variable, you might get some nights with temperatures in the 40's, or you might have a foot of snow on the ground.

You'll have distant views, the cool almost winter air should assure that (save for any cloud cover). But the views will be dull, sort of colorless. To get an idea, you can check the historical data for the Look Rock web cam. http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/grsmcam/grsm_arc.cfm

Hmmm, I just tried an interesting excersize. I just paroozed some of the history, discounting changes in the weather, the view is VERY varied in October from one year to the next. One year, things might already be brown in early October. Other years, the green hangs around until late October. The timing and vividness of the fall colors differs significantly from one year to the next.

But check out the view on a given date in late November. Again, except for changes in the weather (such as a rainy day), the view is the same year after year.

08-16-2013, 05:16
The first two days are a big ol booger lol!climbing shuckstack until you get to Derrick knob is pretty tough but it's not bad from there.From cosby knob shelter down to davenport is a knee killer it's all downhill and a fast downhill.at that time expect very cold and wet even if just from the fog.it is so beautiful enjoy the views and take a camera

08-16-2013, 08:44
Prior to and during your hike keep an eye on the weather, things can go bad quickly. Check you what happened to Solo last November in the Smokey's This is on Trail Journals Nov 1. http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=395675

Sweat Heifer
08-16-2013, 09:09
You can have miserable weather in the Smokies as early as late September. I've seen 40-mile-an-hour winds, rime ice, and temps in the upper 20s on October 1. By late November it's usually dead winter at the elevations you'll be at. The days will be very short - daylight around 7:30 to 8 a.m., pretty much dark at around 6 p.m. The road to Clingman's Dome will be closed. If there's snow it's possible US 441 at Newfound Gap will be closed.

Water should not be a problem. We've had an incredibly wet summer. If autumn is monumentally dry it might have an effect, but not likely.

In cool or cold weather, the climb up from Fontana Dam is not nearly as bad as you'd think. I'm older than you (and probably alot heavier) and did it in late August two years ago. We went from Fontanta to Mollie's Ridge on day one. The walk across the dam was fun (isn't the beginning of every trip? but moreso when you're walking acorss such a massive landmark) and Shuckstack makes a great lunch stop.

The National Geographic trail maps are pretty bad. The scale is way too small and there are a number of inaccuracies. Two that stand out: just north of Thunderhead, the maps show a "little mosquito bite" called Briar Knob. Well, instead of one short climb, it's more like three very tough climbs (at least at the end of a long and hot day of hiking). The second was north of Peck's Corner. The profile showed two long, moderate climbs that appear from the map to be very similar. The first was actually much tougher than it "looked," so I was demoralized that the second was gonna be similarly tough, but it wasn't. It was considerably easier.

GSMNP is awesome. Ice, rain and cold are the only two things you'll need to worry about. If you are competent at handling those conditions, you'll have a blast.

08-16-2013, 09:37
Weather is going to be cold up there. It was 46 in Boone this morning and we're only at ~3300ft, in August! It's been unseasonably cool all year here and most are thinking this winter will be rough compared to last.

Ground Control
08-16-2013, 09:42
^ y'all still use the wooly worm to predict weather up there in the high country? :-?

08-16-2013, 09:50
Of course! :) Banner Elk Wooly Worm Festival is in October. I've came across three so far and all were solid black...

08-16-2013, 10:39
The road to Clingman's Dome will be closed.
The GSMNP Seasonal Road Schedule (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/seasonalroads.htm) lists the road to Clingman's Dome as open through November 30th. An early snow could close it sooner.

But the snowy season at the upper elevations of GSMNP is Dec/Jan/Feb (hence the reason the 'schedule' for Clingman's Dome Road is Apr thru Nov, with occasional early opennings in Mar).

Of course, the weather in GSMNP (especially the upper elevations) can be very fickle. The staff at LeConte Lodge have told me they have seen snow on the mountain at one time or another in every month of the year except July. LeConte Lodge itself is open from late Mar to early Nov. However, an a-typical early snow fall last Nov required the Lodge to be resupplied by Helicopter (http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/nov/06/helicopter-replaces-llamas-to-resupply-snowbound/).

08-16-2013, 10:43
Many thanks to everyone, I think i may try to reschedule for an earlier trip. I want to go but I want to be safe also.

08-16-2013, 11:19
There was still snow in April this year I think.

08-16-2013, 11:28
You are correct. We had three big snow events with the last coming AFTER Easter which fell on March 31 this year. Also had a heat event in Jan where temps hit 72f. We've struggled to reach that a few days in July for comparison.

08-16-2013, 13:22
Many thanks to everyone, I think i may try to reschedule for an earlier trip. I want to go but I want to be safe also.
The average weather pattern for the upper elevations of GSMNP for late November calls for day-time highs around 40 degrees and night-time lows just below freezing. You usually will not encounter snow problems in late November. If you are prepared for those typical conditions, then there is no reason you have to reschedule your trip.

But what everyone is pretty much trying to point out is that you'll have to wait until late November just before your trip and check on the weather then. There's no way to know now if come this Nov you will encounter day-time highs in the 60s with night-time lows in the 40s, or day-time highs in the 30s with night-time lows in the 20s and two feet of snow. That's how much the weather CAN vary in Nov in the upper elevations of GSMNP.

Otherwise, the only "safe" time you can plan through GSMNP is to plan your trip for Jun/Jul/Aug. That time of year, the expected temperatures at the highest elevations are day-time highs of mid-60's and night-time lows of low-50's (so it would take an extreme cold front to drop the temperatures below freezing).

So for fun, I tried to check out the webcam (http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/grsmcam/grsm_arc.cfm) I pointed out earlier. I looked at Nov 25th for every year since 2000 (+/- a few days if weather didn't allow a good view) and here's what I see:
2000: No signs of snow or frost
2001: No signs of snow or frost
2002: No signs of snow or frost (three days earlier shows signs of snow or frost at upper elevations)
2003: No signs of snow or frost
2004: Looks like a light dusting of snow
2005: Snow (looks to have fallen three days earlier, you can see it melting as you compare 22nd thru 27th)
2006: No signs of snow or frost
2007: Light snow or frost at highest elevations
2008: Perhaps frost at highest elevations (i.e. cold but no snow)
2009: No signs of snow or frost
2010: Snow (stayed around for about a week)
2011: No signs of snow or frost
2012: No signs of snow or frost

08-16-2013, 18:47
you wont have any problems. I do trail work every year during the week of Thanksgiving. It is typically chilly at night with frost likely. Usually by 10am, I am stripping out of my fleece and down to my Polypro/Coolmax type T-shirt and long pants. You MIGHT see snow, but that time of year it wouldnt be much more than a dusting of an inch or two. You will likely see Southbound thru hikers. I typically see about half a dozen each year during the week that I am out there. shelters are not crowded during that time. The leaves will be off the trees, so you will have some nice views. Take sunscreen. You are likely to need it during the afternoons. :)

08-18-2013, 18:04
I completely disagree with what others said about the weather being unpredictable! It is very predictable, it will be cold and it WILL rain or snow! You will be in clouds a lot of the time but when you are not the views will be great! A great source to check out to help your predict the weather is from the lodge on top of Mount Lconte which is 5.5 miles off AT in the heart of the park. It is 6,593 feet so it will be accurate to temperatures on the AT.
Also check out my video of the AT on a COMPUTER from a month ago where low temperature in July was 39 on Leconte!

08-18-2013, 18:07
Video link for that is:
Also video from March to give you idea of extremes in smokies this was in March with 1.5 feet of snow and below 0!

Have a great time! Wish I was going with you.

Chaco Taco
08-18-2013, 18:26
Have a great time. Done the Smokies 3 times and most of the southern blazes in the park as well. Late fall is a great time to be out in the NC mountains. Enjoy, pack accordingly and watch the weather.

08-18-2013, 18:52
It is as you say the Smokies so the views at that time will be great, but the weather in the Smokies is somewhat unpredictable that time of year. We did a few years from Fontana to I-40 in 5 1/2 days with no problem. Could of done it in five but we took advantage of the views.

Night Train
08-19-2013, 16:03
johnnyq, I'll be doing a three week hike starting Nov.1 at Springer Mnt. Doing low mileage days to enjoy the backcountry and recharge the batteries. Welcome to come along if you want.