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  1. #1
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    Default compare and contrast these 2 trails.....

    please. I had hoped to get out west for my hike this year. not gonna happen. So I am looking at nearby options. Thinking of a short thruhike on either the Benton McKaye or the Sheltowee Trace starting in the last week of May. I have hiked the BMT from the north side of the Smokies down to the road crossing near Ducktown. Really enjoyed it and don't mind seeing it again. Done an overnight hike on the south end of the ST. If any has done both, I would appreciate some comparisons. As always, thanks in advance.

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    Realize your probably looking for something lil longer but the 77 mile foothills trail was an awesome hike. Being a married father of two young kids (10 & 15) the only thru hike I have ability to do is relatively short as I did JMT last sept and FHT last week.....need one more for my baby triple crown!. I'm shooting for collegiate loop this year!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    Living in Central Kentucky, the Daniel Boone Forest and Big South Fork have been close-at-hand weekend backpacking destinations for me the the past thirty years. During that time I've done many relatively short two to four night wanderings on the Sheltowee Trace, eventually section hiking all of it. I've just returned from spending Friday and Saturday nights there, re-visiting the Trace's Railroad Fork section, east of U.S. 27 near Flat Rock.

    My Southern Appalachian hiking has been limited to trips of two to 14 nights, always done along and/or near near the AT, specifically at Standing Indian Loop, the Smokies, the Grayson Highlands, and the Three Ridges area south of Shenandoah N.P. I've walked only a few short segments of the Benton McKaye Trail as it passes through the Smokies (Big Creek-Mt. Sterling-Laurel Gap; Newton Bald; Noland Creek).

    As you have probably already learned, either from reading or by visiting Southeastern KY beauty spots such as Cumberland Falls State Park (through which the Trace passes), that region is full of pretty creeks, cliffs, and eroded rock formations, many of which form 'rock houses'. It's a slightly different type of beauty than what mountains offer. While walking the Trace you make many abrupt elevation changes, but none of them are very lengthy. In its northern portion the Trace bounces up and down between about 700 feet elevation (gorges and valleys with major streams) and 1,000 feet (ridge tops, sometimes leading to populated plateau land). In its southern most portion, through the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, the Trace vacillates between roughly 1,000 feet of elevation (upper branches of the B.S.F. River) and gorge rim/plateau areas up at 1,600 feet.

    As mentioned above, I know little about the Benton McKaye Trail. But, I imagine that, compared to the Sheltowee Trace, it is significantly higher, perhaps varying between lows of about 2,000 feet elevation (examples : Davenport Gap, Fontana Lake) and some, perhaps many, ridge tops above 4,000 feet.

    So, the relative attractiveness of the two trails would vary, at least for me, depending upon when during the year I would do the hike. For a winter journey, walking on the Trace would probably be more comfortable, and perhaps also safer. For late fall and early spring hiking, the Sheltowee Trace would also be the preferable trail for me. But, to beat summer's heat, I'd prefer hike in the southern mountains, perhaps on the Benton McKaye or the AT.

    If you decide to hike the Sheltowee Trace, I suggest beginning at its northern terminus. Doing so will save some of the best sections for the latter part of your hike.


    Saltysack--By John Muir Trail (JMT) you may mean the world renowned trail in California. But, to confuse matters, some other, much later, trail builders have also usedMuir's name. There is, for example, a John Muir Trail (JMT) about 70 miles long located entirely in the Tennessee portion of the Big South Fork N.R.A (BSF) After section hiking the Sheltowee Trace I did that one also. It's very attractive, as are some other BSF trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Siestita View Post
    Living in Central Kentucky, the Daniel Boone Forest and Big South Fork have been close-at-hand weekend backpacking destinations for me the the past thirty years. During that time I've done many relatively short two to four night wanderings on the Sheltowee Trace, eventually section hiking all of it. I've just returned from spending Friday and Saturday nights there, re-visiting the Trace's Railroad Fork section, east of U.S. 27 near Flat Rock.

    My Southern Appalachian hiking has been limited to trips of two to 14 nights, always done along and/or near near the AT, specifically at Standing Indian Loop, the Smokies, the Grayson Highlands, and the Three Ridges area south of Shenandoah N.P. I've walked only a few short segments of the Benton McKaye Trail as it passes through the Smokies (Big Creek-Mt. Sterling-Laurel Gap; Newton Bald; Noland Creek).

    As you have probably already learned, either from reading or by visiting Southeastern KY beauty spots such as Cumberland Falls State Park (through which the Trace passes), that region is full of pretty creeks, cliffs, and eroded rock formations, many of which form 'rock houses'. It's a slightly different type of beauty than what mountains offer. While walking the Trace you make many abrupt elevation changes, but none of them are very lengthy. In its northern portion the Trace bounces up and down between about 700 feet elevation (gorges and valleys with major streams) and 1,000 feet (ridge tops, sometimes leading to populated plateau land). In its southern most portion, through the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, the Trace vacillates between roughly 1,000 feet of elevation (upper branches of the B.S.F. River) and gorge rim/plateau areas up at 1,600 feet.

    As mentioned above, I know little about the Benton McKaye Trail. But, I imagine that, compared to the Sheltowee Trace, it is significantly higher, perhaps varying between lows of about 2,000 feet elevation (examples : Davenport Gap, Fontana Lake) and some, perhaps many, ridge tops above 4,000 feet.

    So, the relative attractiveness of the two trails would vary, at least for me, depending upon when during the year I would do the hike. For a winter journey, walking on the Trace would probably be more comfortable, and perhaps also safer. For late fall and early spring hiking, the Sheltowee Trace would also be the preferable trail for me. But, to beat summer's heat, I'd prefer hike in the southern mountains, perhaps on the Benton McKaye or the AT.

    If you decide to hike the Sheltowee Trace, I suggest beginning at its northern terminus. Doing so will save some of the best sections for the latter part of your hike.


    Saltysack--By John Muir Trail (JMT) you may mean the world renowned trail in California. But, to confuse matters, some other, much later, trail builders have also usedMuir's name. There is, for example, a John Muir Trail (JMT) about 70 miles long located entirely in the Tennessee portion of the Big South Fork N.R.A (BSF) After section hiking the Sheltowee Trace I did that one also. It's very attractive, as are some other BSF trails.
    Yep...jmt in Cali....I forgot there are others....seems silly they use the same name but a an icon like Muir...why not!

  5. #5
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    The rationale for naming a trail in the Big South Fork for John Muir is the fact that before Muir went to California, shortly after the Civil War he walked for 1,000 miles from Louisville, Kentucky to Cedar Key Florida. He passed through the wildest forests that he could find along that route. But, that walk did not take Muir through the BSF Nat. Recreation Area. He instead passed through Kentucky and Tennessee further west. One of his stops was at Mammoth Cave.

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    I don't like comparing and contrasting trails. The question is reminiscent of a sophomoric College 101 Hiking Class. It easily leads to rating a trail based on best, better, worse, terrible, blah blah, which is all too common in this culture already. I'd rather embrace each hike each experience for all it can be without feeling the need to compare or contrast or rate. Make the most of the experience no matter what anyone else says. It is after all your hike. HYOH and all that. To further complicate things I never recognize a LD hike as involving just hiking.

    Done both twice which is a rarity for me. I did both wanting not too far away from where I reside multi wk less elbow jostling in need of decompressing from the chaos of civilization hikes. I got those experiences. I knew I might be called back on a moment's notice to complete work projects on both the ST and BMT thrus. It happened on one of the ST thrus and the straight BMT thru.

    I rather enjoyed more the AT/BMT Figure Eight Loop compared to just the BMT thru. I started and ended the Loop at Amicalola Falls SP. The Loop has more of a mix of experiences…lower elevation trail with more water, and opps of fishing which I took advantage of, combined with the higher elevations along ridges of the AT. The BMT offers great solitude with more of a wild feel with a non crowded much less social on trail experience than say the AT. I got only two shelters and only saw four other BMTers on the BMT leg while the AT is, well the AT. Season played a role in my experiences too. The 500+ mile Loop was done in the cooler fall weather. The straight BMT was under muggy easy coast sweatiest and rain rain rain conditions and I felt like I just wanted it over which is NO WAY to experience a hike. Memorable BMT experiences including a day kayaking trip on the Ocoee River, wading the Hiawassee River looking for Water Dogs(Hellbenders) and fishing, and getting awakened by the Mayor and TN police at 1 a.m in Ducktown attempting to stealth camp. Ducktown folks, including the LEOs, were extremely generous and fair! Nice swimming holes on the BMT!

    Here's what I would like to see more of. Hikers encompassing the AT or BMT into a hike that perceives them not as a single entity but just labels of trail segments of a much larger interconnected southeastern trail system. That was really Benton McKaye's vision. If that occurs hiking opps will be greatly expanded. Consider that!

    The ST I did both during the fall/early winter. One was a straight SOBO thru. The other was a two part section hike mostly SOBO but I did a little of it NOBO. There was only a three almost four wk "off" period between sections. I found the ST to be another underutilized trail with much diversity. I really like the abundance of rock shelters, escarpments, arches, and water of the ST! Some cool mines and caves too. Some are blocked off though and all are dangerous. The oil well apparatus hiked by was cool too. Couple of paved road walks but I embraced them since they were pastoral on less travel two lane road. One long paved 20+ mile road walk. Could be hitched if you wanted. Different southern termini were explored on each ST hike through the Big S. Fork. Both termini are scenic options. Many different long alternate loops can be had in BSF alone. Again, I fished some but not carrying the gear with me during the entire hike. I added other mileage to my ST hikes as well. I went into every recognized TABA ST Guidebook documented resupply "to see what I could see"… Did almost a wk off the ST in Red River Gorge doing other trails to other arches/pts of interest and spent time in the adjacent Clifty Wilderness wandering its remotes in addition to the ST. I spent time rock climbing in RRG as well. Adding to the ST related adventures two locals who drilled me about the ST took me on a two day underground unnamed cave exploration as a thank you. I spent two days sleeping in a Morehead College Dorm Room on campus at the invitation of two students; had a blast. LOL. I also hitched to Hot Springs NP and hiked around the area in Hot Springs and checked out the history of this region. Explored another nearby cave sleeping in it on one rainy night. More take a soak swimming holes or under a waterfall experiences on the ST even though it was cold at times.

    So when one asks which trail is better… I'd have to say based on how I experienced them the ST was more diverse. I had done little hiking before in KY before these ST hikes while I've done BMT section hikes before and was more familiar with the BMT region so perhaps the newness of my ST experiences plays a role in my opinion. In May, you may look for cooler higher elev areas to hike although you're not going to fully avoid the humid east coast sweafest conditions.

  7. #7

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    Starting at the end of May is a bit late for the best time on the Sheltowee trace, which is spring, in my opinion. Regardless, you'll find it less crowded than the BMT simply due to the length of the Smokies. The crowded places on the trace are shorter, thus you can pass through them more quickly if you chose. As Dogwood said, there's more variety on the trace, but logistics are easier on the BMT as you can take advantage of AT hiker services for pick up and drop off. Now that there's books on both, it's easier to plan your resupply. Do be aware that regardless of what might be said in the book about the ST, camping in rock shelters is strictly Forbidden, and for very good reasons as they contain many rare and endangered species. Watch out for the scale on the maps on the ST, and be careful if you expect to find water nearby (sometimes it's a long way down.)
    You really can't go wrong on either one, though you should expect to get lost a bit on both.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    I don't like comparing and contrasting trails.

    So when one asks which trail is better… .

    Dogwood...while i sincerely appreciate the response, may i suggest that if you don't like compare and contrast trails, then don't. Responses aren't mandatory here.

    and if you reread my post, I did not ask "which one is better". You are bringing your own preconceived biases into your response. Based on my personal experience,I am quite sure that I would enjoy either of them.

    I have been to Alaska on vacation. As well as Italy. Loved them both. I am pretty sure I could "compare and contrast" the 2 places as vacation spots if asked without being condescending (i.e. Sophomore vacation 101) to the person who posed the question.
    Regards.

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    Dogwood...let me say that for whatever reason, your post struck a nerve with me. After I reread it, there was some good information in there. i do understand (I think) the frustration with trying to "quantify" or "rate" the hiking experience. I get that as well. however that was not my intent in any way. at the end of the day, i may just decide which one to hike by flipping a coin. i have used that process as well.

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    What if the coin lands on the edge?

    do em both?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    What if the coin lands on the edge?

    do em both?
    I definitely would see it a divine message to do both. How else could one interpret such a sign?

  12. #12
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    "...i may just decide which one to hike by flipping a coin."

    So, it sounds like I wasted my time writing all that.

    Didn't intend to offend but can see how that might have happened. Perhaps, I incorrectly assumed your intentions. My apologies.

    FWIW, and you can ignore this if you wish by putting all my comments on Ignore, I've long grown tired of the AT being a supposed standard by which to contrast, compare, or rate other hikes. Hence, why I said, "
    I don't like comparing(similarities) and contrasting(differences) trails. The question is reminiscent of a sophomoric College 101 Hiking Class. It easily leads to rating a trail based on best, better, worse, terrible, blah blah, which is all too common in this culture already. I'd rather embrace each hike each experience for all it can be without feeling the need to compare or contrast or rate. Make the most of the experience no matter what anyone else says. It is after all your hike. HYOH and all that." I know you did not ask to include the AT in your original question or rate anything but that came out here on WB on your thread because nowhere else do I see that as so common a practice than here on WB. My error for letting that surface on your thread.

    I do sincerely hope you make the most of your experiences whatever you do.

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