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  1. #1

    Default Overnight trip suggestions for a 5 year old's first time

    I've been prepping and packing for a 3 day trip this coming weekend and my 5 year old daughter is begging me to go, so I'd like to plan a 1-nighter for me and her in the Spring. She's done Abrams and Grotto Falls, and loved both of them so I'm confident she can handle anything in the 8-12 mile (round trip) range. All suggestions and/or tips for a kid's first time are appreciated.

  2. #2
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    When I started taking my kids on backpacking trips, I always required that they at lest carry their sleep system and cloths. But guidelines state a pack shouldn't weight more than 20% of your body weight. I found it difficult finding packs that were small enough for their body, big enough to carry their sleeping bad, sleeping pad, and cloths, and remain within the 10lbs limit for my 50lbs boys when they started back packing with me at age 7.

    But that's not what you're asking for. Your looking for a good 1 night back packing trip.

    The rule of thumb I've read is that you shouldn't expect kids to be able to hike more than 1mile per day per years in age. That means about 5 miles per day for your daugher (so 8-12 sounds about right).

    One hike that comes to mind... nothing special but super simple... Porters Creek to #31 and back. It's a little more than 3.5 miles one way, and I recall it was a fairly nice campsite.
    The 1st hike that came to mind, but might be pushing it for a 5yo would be a Gregory Bald Loop. Park at Gregory Ridge Trailhead. Hike the 3 miles of Parson's Branch road to Gregory Bald Trail to #13, then Gregory Ridge to finish the loop. But that's 7 miles and a 2,500 elevation climb the 1st day.

    Speaking of 2,500 elevation climbs, one option would be Alum Cave trail to LeConte shelter. It's about 5 to 5-1/2 miles one way. The only negative I can say is that when ever you stay at shelters, you never know what other people are going to be their and what kind of mature language they might be using.

    However, that gives me another idea... campsite #18. There's a couple of different ways to get there, some as short as 2 miles one way. The campsite is nice beside a creek, and if you cross the creek (from direction of Bote Mtn trail) and turn right, if you keep going a little ways, there is a small campsite out of view from the rest of the larger campsite, with a bear cable right there. It would be a terrific place for you to camp.

    Another easy one is #49. Park in the Smokemont campground. Most of the hike is a gentle climb along a creek. Near the end you cross a trestle bridge and camp by the creek. The only negative is that it's a horse camp, but if you walking down creek a little, you get away from the area the horse campers utilize.

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    Another nice campsite is #60 in the Deep Creek area. It's about a 3 mile hike from the camp ground, nice large camping area beside the creek. If the mileage isn't to your liking, you can go deeper in the woods and try #59 or #58. Then make it a loop hike by climbing Martins Gap and returning via Sunkota Ridge or Indian Creek trail.

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    I took my 5 year old on her first overnight this past summer and I have one general comment. We hiked at a considerably slower pace than we normally do on a day hike and for a couple reasons. We made more time for rock climbing and general goofing off than normal because I wanted to keep it fun and for her to feel like it was her trip. The other factor was that I was much more concerned than I normally would be with a where we were going to sleep, secure our food bag, and find water. I wasn't worried about safety really, I just wanted her to have fun. That being said, have a great trip, take loads of pics. I'm sure the GSMNP experts here will have lots of suggestions for trails and campsites.
    You can walk in another person's shoes, but only with your feet

  5. #5

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    Not GSMNP but Grayson Highlands is tough to beat. Low mileage loop. Great views. And ponies.
    Just pick good weather cause it can be brutal.

  6. #6

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    Thanks for all the suggestions! Iíll keep monitoring this over the coming weeks and months.

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    What are your plans for gear? (child's)

    So exactly WHEN do you plan to go? (Effect gear/clothing needed)

    "Spring" has a wide range of time and temperatures. I know I've specifically taken several trips during "spring break" (late March). Some years have been mild. But our most recent trip, we camped at #23 the 1st night. In the morning, we had frost on the tent until the temperatures warmed up.

    Do you already have a sleep system?
    If not may I suggest a sleeping pad along the lines of the Therm-a-rest Z Lite and plan on finding a way to lash it to the back pack.
    Kids are light-weight enough they don't need thick pads like a Therm-a-rest xLite.
    By lashing it to the outside of the pack, you'll save room in the pack for sleeping bag and cloths. It's especially useful if you can find a way to lash such a sleeping pad vertically rather than horizontally on a child (horizontally effectively makes the child wider and can make navigation awkward at times).
    I originally started with the thin self inflating therm-a-rest pro-lite. But the kids couldn't roll it up. Required too much strength, espeically to roll it up super tight so that it wouldn't take up too much space in their back pack (I can roll-up a pro-lite-regular-size such that it is tight enough to fit in the stuff sack for a pro-lite-small-size). I eventually bought my son an xLite. But even at age 13, he has some issues trying to properly roll it up with the awkward tri-fold. Something like the Z-Lite is a no-brainer. The blue pads you can get at Wal-Mart are cheaper, but I think you might run into issues where it's difficult enough for the child to roll it up. (And I can attest to the fact you want gear that allows the child the best opportunity to pack it up themselves... I quickly got tired of having to stuff my sleeping bag and sleeping pad, only to have to turn around and do it for the kids as well).

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    Hookodooku makes some nice suggestions. Deep Creek loop and #49 Cabin Flats were destinations for my young backpackers and both are great. Kinda far to drive from Knoxville when you've got so many great options on the TN side though. #18 is a great campsite as was mentioned.

    I didn't see them mentioned but 21 and 24 have nice hikes to reach them. And leaving out of Elkmont is cool as you walk past all the abandoned cottages.

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    #18 is a great campsite as was mentioned.


    agreed........

    and there are some really nice private spots on the west side of the creek, going down stream.........

    the main spot at the bridge is nice but if you want some privacy and what not, go downstream on the west side....

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    Quote Originally Posted by ATL Backpacker View Post
    I didn't see them mentioned but 21 and 24 have nice hikes to reach them. And leaving out of Elkmont is cool as you walk past all the abandoned cottages.
    The cabins along the Little River trail are all gone except for the Spence Cabin, a few chimneys and the troll bridge.

    24 (Rough Creek) is one of my favorite campsites in the Park, and is an easy and interesting 5 mile one way hike - flowers, Ramps, salamanders, waterfalls . . .

    IMG_20190416_200349.jpg

    In the spring the lower part of the Rough Creek trail will be covered in wild flowers, well worth a side trip.

    IMG_20190417_093441.jpg

    While it's a beautiful location, 21 isn't really level anywhere in my experience.

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    be careful of 21 and 24.....

    they tend to get closed down every year due to bear activity.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    agreed........

    and there are some really nice private spots on the west side of the creek, going down stream.........

    the main spot at the bridge is nice but if you want some privacy and what not, go downstream on the west side....
    FYI: TNhiker and I are talking about opposite directions at #18.
    I'm talking east side going up stream, he's talking west side going down stream.

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    FYI: TNhiker and I are talking about opposite directions at #18.
    I'm talking east side going up stream, he's talking west side going down stream.



    yeah......

    there's that spot you suggested, which is also nice (stayed there a few years ago) or going downstream there's a few different spots that gets away from the big campsite at the bridge....

    and i believe there are bear cables downstream as well, but its been a few years and cant exactly recall....

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    be careful of 21 and 24.....

    they tend to get closed down every year due to bear activity.......
    This year's closure of 24 was because someone left their food in their tent instead of hanging it and went day hiking. A bear naturally accepted the invitation and took their food.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    yeah......

    there's that spot you suggested, which is also nice (stayed there a few years ago) or going downstream there's a few different spots that gets away from the big campsite at the bridge....

    and i believe there are bear cables downstream as well, but its been a few years and cant exactly recall....
    Roughly how far down stream is the area you're talking about? I've seen a path in that direction, but I just assumed it was a trail the fishermen used (perhaps following the West Prong to Laural Creek road where it joins Laural Creek near a pair of parking areas).

    The area I'm talking about is perhaps 200' from the bridge. While still relatively close, you have to push thru a few bushes to get to it, so you are visually separated from groups camped near the bridge.

    My most recent experience was July 3rd of this year. We had hiked Turkey Pen/School House Gap, and while on the Bote Mtn trail, we passed by a rather large group that was "bringing a party" (we saw the booze containers... and the 14'x12' tent). I knew about this hidden section on the east side and used it to get away from this group. Fortunately they didn't get much of a chance to get rowdy as a heavy rain storm hit between dinner and dark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnacraft View Post
    This year's closure of 24 was because someone left their food in their tent instead of hanging it and went day hiking. A bear naturally accepted the invitation and took their food.



    CS 24 gets shut down every year pretty much.....

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    Roughly how far down stream is the area you're talking about? I've seen a path in that direction



    maybe a thousand feet?

    i'm not sure exactly but it's a little bit down.......

    there's actually a few sites down there to camp........



    The area I'm talking about is perhaps 200' from the bridge. While still relatively close, you have to push thru a few bushes to get to it, so you are visually separated from groups camped near the bridge.


    yeah...

    i've stayed in that spot once before...........

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