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  1. #1
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    Default 8 day section hike

    I have a window this spring for an 8 day section hike. I would like to finish in Hot Springs. Anybody have any suggestions on a good introductory trip for my kids to do with me? They are 11 and 14. My daughter has been with me to Grayson Highlands. She liked that hike with the great views, ponies, etc. Isn't Hot Springs after the Smokies? Or would the Smokies be good during late April?

  2. #2

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    Heading north Hot springs is after the smokies. You never know what kind of weather your going to get in the Smokies through April. Possibly look at Newfound Gap to Hot springs. Depends on the miles you want to complete.

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    The smokies can still be quite cool or hot and packed with thruhikers in late april. Your daughters will be spooning with strangers in shelters if cold or wet. Temps could be 20's, or 40's overnight. Unlikely to get more than a dusting of snow and ice in last week of april, but cold rain is common. Mid april still has likelyhood of snow, ice, and temp in teens.

    April is transition month at highest elevations still. Wait a few weeks and can count on much warmer weather. Or stick to lower elevation.

    Late april is good, if you go down to GA and get behind the bubble. Anywhere in NC north and your sort of in it.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 01-16-2017 at 08:46.

  4. #4

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    If you start at Erwin and go south to Hot Springs that is 69 miles in eight days -- between 8 and 9 miles per day. If you like the convenience of privies* and nearby water it's possible to hike shelter to shelter (you can tent near the shelters rather than stay in them) with an eight day itinerary in this stretch with every day being under eleven miles and ending at a shelter (*No Business Knob Shelter does not have a privy):



    If that seems too long you could start at Spivey Gap instead and go south to Hot Springs for a 58 mile hike -- a little over seven miles a day.

    The reason I would stay away from the Smokies is that you have two young novice backpackers along which means you want to keep that itinerary as flexible as possible. The park is not flexible -- you would have to have reservations for particular shelters on specific days.
    Last edited by map man; 01-16-2017 at 13:07.
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2NewKnees View Post
    I have a window this spring for an 8 day section hike. I would like to finish in Hot Springs. Anybody have any suggestions on a good introductory trip for my kids to do with me? They are 11 and 14. My daughter has been with me to Grayson Highlands. She liked that hike with the great views, ponies, etc. Isn't Hot Springs after the Smokies? Or would the Smokies be good during late April?
    This is only an opinion, but "Introductory...ages 11 and 14....8 days....Appalachian trail" Don't really advertise a great time to me. If however you are dead set on it, May I suggest Starting at New found Gap, north bound. This gives you the great scenery of the northern smokies without the terrible uphills of the southern half. Stay a night just north of i40 in standing bear (in the private cabin, not the MOST kid friendly hostel - When I was there 2 years ago), still a great place. And then take your time heading to hot springs, and staying your last night at Laughing Heart Hostel.

    Bluff Mountain Outfitter's can shuttle you back to Newfound Gap for probably $150 or so.

    Trip Highlights-
    Head up to Clingmans Dome for a pre hike moral booster (or start here instead of Newfound gap if you would like a little extra mileage for the trip - 8 extra miles)
    Newfound Gap
    Charlies bunion
    Airplane crash in the smokies
    landing site
    Cammarerr fir tower
    some great vistas in GSMNP

    pigeon river

    i40 crossing-first interstate on the trail

    Standing Bear hostel "halfway cleanup and resting spot"
    Snowbird mountain and sat tower (good views)
    Max patch
    hot springs & laughing heart hostel (very kid friendly)
    Bluff mountain outfitter - shuttle right there at the end of your hike

    The trip from Clingmans to Hot Springs is 74 miles. Allowing you to take a zero or near zero at Standing Bear, and a free day after the hike in Hot Springs, that comes out to 12.3 miles a day, probably about all an 11 year old wants to hike anyways.
    Last edited by Gambit McCrae; 01-16-2017 at 10:56.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by map man View Post
    If you start at Erwin and go south to Hot Springs that is 69 miles in eight days -- between 8 and 9 miles per day.
    Erwin to HS puts you in about as demanding terrain as you can hike around here - a lot of up and down. It is also a favorite place of mine to hike and I have done it with a couple of times with my 14 yo boy. But I wouldn't recommend it with two given the relative inexperience. Even short days can feel very long, plus along that stretch there are relatively few bail outs. I'd rate Newfound to HS as more reasonable although that makes for a difficult shuttle. 19E or Roan to Erwin would be something to consider both for the terrain and the relative easy shuttle.
    And then there is the Foothills Trail....

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    Quote Originally Posted by map man View Post
    If you start at Erwin and go south to Hot Springs that is 69 miles in eight days -- between 8 and 9 miles per day. If you like the convenience of privies* and nearby water it's possible to hike shelter to shelter (you can tent near the shelters rather than stay in them) with an eight day itinerary in this stretch with every day being under eleven miles and ending at a shelter (*No Business Knob Shelter does not have a privy):



    If that seems too long you could start at Spivey Gap instead and go south to Hot Springs for a 58 mile hike -- a little over seven miles a day.

    the reason I would stay away from the Smokies is that you have two young novice backpackers along which means you want to keep that itinerary as flexible as possible. The park is not flexible -- you would have to have reservations for particular shelters on specific days.
    +1 on the above.

    Some caveats. It is a bit of a tough stretch. Although, anything from N of GSMNP to Erwin is a tough stretch. 8 days with no zero day and an 11 year old who has limited/no wilderness backpacking experience who will have to grind out 8 consecutive 8 mile days...in late April...likely in the rain for a few of those days...and cold at night...and damp...

    You know your kids better than anyone. But, why late April? Spring Break? Why not wait until Summer Break and the bubble has passed and the weather has improved(so they can lighten their load/misery level)?

  8. #8

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    It could be summer by late April. It already feels more like March then the middle of January up here in NH. But, I guess it will keep bouncing back and forth for a while.

    Anyway, I like the Hot Springs to Erwin section a lot, but it is a demanding hike. North of Erwin is a little easier, but not a walk in the park either.

    Once you do the climb up to the ridge in the Smokies, it's not too bad a hike, but with 3 of you needing reservations for the shelters, that could be a problem getting space. It could turn out you can get into some shelters but not others which would create some longer days then you'd like. Although most of the thru hikers will have already gone through there, there will still be a lot of them, making for full shelters. Although that will be true of anywhere in NC at that time of year, but the Smokies are busy with other hikers too which adds to the confusion.

    In any 8 day window, you can expect to encounter at least one storm, which could be bad high up in the GSMNP, but not so bad in other areas, even if they're not too far away.

    Anyway, it's a tough decision as there are pros and cons to any section you might pick. I've hiked NC NOBO and I've hiked it SOBO. Either way, I'm convinced there is no down hill in NC.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    I realize you were asking about the Hot Springs area; however, when you want to go further north, the state of Maryland would be a great hike! I took my boys there, hiking from Harpers Ferry to Penn Marr at about the same ages... It was a great experience for us all!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by shelb View Post
    I realize you were asking about the Hot Springs area; however, when you want to go further north, the state of Maryland would be a great hike! I took my boys there, hiking from Harpers Ferry to Penn Marr at about the same ages... It was a great experience for us all!
    Agreed, Hot Springs is a great town but well earned after 8 days either way. If willing to drive north a few hours...
    1-Virginia in general is kind of blah but there are definitely sections that could be highly entertaining for 8 days.
    2-SNP is about a 100-108 mile stretch with very mellow stretches, starts and ends in Waynesboro Virginia and front royal Virginia.
    3-State of Maryland and even north up to Duncannon Pa are pretty awesome areas of the trail.
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
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    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

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    Thanks for the information. This seems like a possible trip. The kids have done a decent amount of hiking but never done this much backpacking. I'll probably look at the 7 mile option.
    Quote Originally Posted by map man View Post
    If you start at Erwin and go south to Hot Springs that is 69 miles in eight days -- between 8 and 9 miles per day. If you like the convenience of privies* and nearby water it's possible to hike shelter to shelter (you can tent near the shelters rather than stay in them) with an eight day itinerary in this stretch with every day being under eleven miles and ending at a shelter (*No Business Knob Shelter does not have a privy):



    If that seems too long you could start at Spivey Gap instead and go south to Hot Springs for a 58 mile hike -- a little over seven miles a day.

    The reason I would stay away from the Smokies is that you have two young novice backpackers along which means you want to keep that itinerary as flexible as possible. The park is not flexible -- you would have to have reservations for particular shelters on specific days.

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    I thought about this area as well. I guess it is relatively flat compared to down south. I think it would be cool to show the kids the ATC, I also would love to visit it as well. Thanks

  13. #13

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    One thing to consider is the ups and downs in NC tend to be drawn out. While that can make the up hill easier (and make it seem like it goes on forever), the down hill grade is hard on my knees and seems to be unique to NC. I hiked with a guy all the way from Springer who developed a bad case of shin splints on those down hills on that Hot Springs to Erwin section and had to go home.

    But as long as you take it easy and keep the mileage down, it won't be too bad.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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