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  1. #1
    Registered User Red Sky's Avatar
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    Default Smokies and hammock camping

    Planning a hike from Newfound to Fontana in September, and I understand from other hikers I've talked to that they are requiring you to get a back country permit and reserve a specific shelter each night, but are not actually enforcing the part about sleeping in the shelter (evidently trying to keep people a little farther apart). If this is true, I'm thinking about using my new Blackbird hammock instead of the tent. I understand that good tent spots are not very plentiful. I guess my concern is that the areas around the shelters might not be very good for hammock hanging either. Can anyone give me any insight into what I'm likely to find up there?

  2. #2

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    The trip your planning would always require getting permits for the huts. If I remember correctly, there are several huts in that southern section which are located in open areas with few if any trees in the immediate shelter area, which you will be required to camp at. It maybe best to call them and ask which sites maybe practical.
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    Contact BCO about the enforcement. If there is a shelter you are expected to stay there (with a possible exception for thru hiker permits which you don't qualify for). As a former Smokies ATC Ridgerunner I was expected to have everyone abide by it even if the hanger had to sleep on a hard wood shelter floor without any cushion. Such are the rules of the Great Park. But besides that yes there are hangs nearby all the AT shelters, usually only for thru hikers and trail crews, but perhaps with covid, IDK.

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    Starchild's comment are usually the norm... But this virus is making this a year where things are not normal.

    First of all, the park service is NOT issuing AT thru hiker permits (likely the case for the rest of the year).
    Second, currently hikers with shelter permits are being allowed to tent camp in the immediate area of the shelter. Likely that will hold for the rest of the year, but never know when that might change. Hammocks are subject to the same rules as tents, so anywhere you are allowed to tent, you can setup a hammock.
    Third, hammocks are treated as tent camping, so for now, you would be allowed to hammock at shelters. However, keep in mind that hammocks may NOT be attached to any structure.

    And while there are open areas around shelters for tent, there isn't designed sites for tents, just the regulation that you tent in the general vacinity of shelters... and you should find enough trees near by to comply.

    The biggest issue is not knowing how long they will allow all shelter permit holders to 'tent' at shelters.

  5. #5
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Another consideration is that the window for reserving a spot has been reduced to two weeks.
    Also the maximum capacity of the shelter sites has been reduced to 8 persons. So they will book up quickly.

    For what it's worth volunteers are still on stand down from doing any work within the National Park. IF the number of new Covid cases stabilizes for two weeks we may be allowed to work on the trails but currently Sevier county is one of the states hot spots.
    There has been no work so far this season to clear blow downs or clear weeds.

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    IF the number of new Covid cases stabilizes for two weeks we may be allowed to work on the trails but currently Sevier county is one of the states hot spots.



    and according to the new york times-----one of the top spots for growth in the country....

    https://www.wbir.com/article/news/he...6-2678f0e5d304

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Sky View Post
    Planning a hike from Newfound to Fontana in September, and I understand from other hikers I've talked to that they are requiring you to get a back country permit and reserve a specific shelter each night, but are not actually enforcing the part about sleeping in the shelter (evidently trying to keep people a little farther apart). If this is true, I'm thinking about using my new Blackbird hammock instead of the tent. I understand that good tent spots are not very plentiful. I guess my concern is that the areas around the shelters might not be very good for hammock hanging either. Can anyone give me any insight into what I'm likely to find up there?
    Plenty of hammock spots to answer your question especially with the limitation on the number of people.

  8. #8
    Registered User Red Sky's Avatar
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    Hey, thanks all for the great info. I'll contact the Back Country Office and get the low down before I make a reservation.

  9. #9
    Registered User carouselambra's Avatar
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    FWIW, I recently did a section in GA and the last night camped with a thru-hiker who was SOBO for the bottom ~500 and then flipping to Maine, going SOBO the whole way. I asked him about his experience in the Smokies and he said his experience was that since no thru-hiker permits were being issued, many thru-hikers had purchased whatever shelter was available for the dates (or close to the dates) that they would be going through. As a result, while shelters may have been "sold out", on some nights there were few people at a shelter site and other nights the shelter sites were full/overfull. Of course, we don't know how much of the full/overfull would be due to hikers without any kind of permit.

  10. #10
    Registered User Red Sky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carouselambra View Post
    FWIW, I recently did a section in GA and the last night camped with a thru-hiker who was SOBO for the bottom ~500 and then flipping to Maine, going SOBO the whole way. I asked him about his experience in the Smokies and he said his experience was that since no thru-hiker permits were being issued, many thru-hikers had purchased whatever shelter was available for the dates (or close to the dates) that they would be going through. As a result, while shelters may have been "sold out", on some nights there were few people at a shelter site and other nights the shelter sites were full/overfull. Of course, we don't know how much of the full/overfull would be due to hikers without any kind of permit.
    Thanks for the heads up. I've also heard from a friend who just did NFG to I40 that he had to go on the reservation web site at 2:00 AM in order to get a spot at the shelters he needed. He said that by 2:02 AM the shelters reservations were full.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Sky View Post
    Thanks for the heads up. I've also heard from a friend who just did NFG to I40 that he had to go on the reservation web site at 2:00 AM in order to get a spot at the shelters he needed. He said that by 2:02 AM the shelters reservations were full.
    I did that same route in June and found shelter occupancy opened back up as people changed their itineraries closer to the date. Canít say itíll be that way for you but it allowed me to switch from a less than optimal plan to something better. Called the backcountry office to make the change.

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    the Rona has done two things----cut the spots available in half...........and more people are getting out..........

    and shelters and the popular spots are getting reserved early and taken up......

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    the Rona has done two things----cut the spots available in half...........and more people are getting out..........

    and shelters and the popular spots are getting reserved early and taken up......
    And there are so many other places to go without this problem. Just saying...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    And there are so many other places to go without this problem. Just saying...



    true.....

    but the average, ten million person who takes the yearly vacation to the Park, does not know this.......

  15. #15

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

    but the average, ten million person who takes the yearly vacation to the Park, does not know this.......
    I suppose that could be a good thing
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I suppose that could be a good thing


    yeah........

    my first response was "sssshhhhhhhhhh"..........

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