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  1. #1
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    Default Section Hiking in GA/NC/TN early in the year... what about the crowds?

    I did a 4 night section hike the last September in Nantahala. The trip was great and the crowds were fine. There were two of us and we found that non-shelter camping spots were empty and we used them as oppose to shelters.

    I am starting to think about a 2021 hike, and the first choice is something early in the year (April or May) and somewhere south of Virginia.

    BUT.... considering how many more NOBO Through hikers there are now and add in other section hikers, is that timeframe crazy for crowds? I don't mind seeing people along the way but am more worried about getting an acceptable campsite where you are not packed in. With my experience in September it feels as if the number of hikers went up X3 or more, it might be tough to get a camping spot.

    So am I worried over nothing?

  2. #2
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    Pretty sure that most thru-hikers begin before May. If you schedule your hike in May on the south end of the trail, GA/NC, seems like you'd be behind the bubble. Or if you aimed for the north end of TN and start early in April, seems like you'd be ahead of the thickest part of the crowd.

    Of course nobody can predict what the crowd will be like in a given location on a given date. Just have to go and make the best of it.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Pretty sure that most thru-hikers begin before May. If you schedule your hike in May on the south end of the trail, GA/NC, seems like you'd be behind the bubble. Or if you aimed for the north end of TN and start early in April, seems like you'd be ahead of the thickest part of the crowd.

    Of course nobody can predict what the crowd will be like in a given location on a given date. Just have to go and make the best of it.
    The other consideration in May is that colleges are just letting out, and sometimes you get a large group of students. No problem, just more folk
    The older I get, the faster I hiked.

  4. #4
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    Pretty sure that most thru-hikers begin before May.

    while most have---i have still seem bunches of them in the Smokies May to June.........

    some people dont like to start in the cold.....


    and as noted above, college kids dont get out til May and some of them pull thrus....

  5. #5
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    The other consideration in May is that colleges are just letting out


    in the Smokies along the AT-----you'll see the spring breaker college students in March.......and then some college thru hikers
    along with non thrus, after May....

  6. #6

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    April/May is prime time down there. Thru hiker numbers may be declining by late April, but section hiker numbers are climbing. The area can handle the numbers but the number of small, isolated camping spots is somewhat limited and takes advance planning - like having enough water and the time to hike on if the spot is taken. Mostly you'll be spread out around the shelter area, sometimes densely.
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  7. #7
    Registered User Tennessee Viking's Avatar
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    2021 is going to be weird. Probably 1.5 to 2 times more traffic. Planned 2021 hikers, postponed 2020 hikers, newbie hikers, and your typical section/day hikers.

    You can continually check the hiker registrations on here and the ATC site to figure thru-hiker traffic.
    When warm weather hits is when hikers will be out; mid-March or start of April.

    You can start TN/NC first and work back to GA.
    ''Tennessee Viking'
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  8. #8
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    2021 is going to be weird. Probably 1.5 to 2 times more traffic.

    you think so, even with the number of unemployed folks?

    and yeah, I get it that some people after they lose/quit/whatever their jobs decide to go on a thru....

    but at the end of the day, gotta have some money to do a thru....

    and if people lost their jobs over the summer or what not, that's a long stretch of time til March to start a thru...

    and with many americans living paycheck to paycheck, i would think that would be a hindrance.....

  9. #9

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    So far, about 1200 thrus registered via ATC Feb1-Apr30, vs 2000+ in 2019 and 2020. Still early.

  10. #10

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    I've done GA in late April, late May and early June in 2019 and 2020. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, we'd see maybe 5 people on the trail each day and we had our pick of camping spots without any company. We stayed away from the shelters and stayed at Hickory Flatt Cemetery, Justus Creek, Jarrad Gap, Cheese Factory and Sassafrass Gap. Fridays we'd start to see a few more people on the trail, but we never had trouble being alone at the camping spot we'd planned for. We always went home on Saturday, and without fail, every Saturday was a complete circus at the parking lots and we'd pass by probably 20 times the amount of hikers on the trail as during mid-week. So avoid weekends if you can, wait until at least the last week of April, and hopefully you should be fine.

  11. #11

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    Plan your hike around your schedule, not everyone elses. I have hiked from Damascus south all the way to springer during the early spring time (March to May) and have never had issues with crowding. Sometimes theres more people then others.
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  12. #12

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    I did Georgia the last week of April a few years ago - it was a total zoo the whole time. Plus it rained pretty much everyday. And I think I had walking Pneumonia. It wasn't the best hiking trip I've had. YMMV.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  13. #13

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    I Did a loop in the smokies a few years ago either late April or early may. Dint remember but I made reservations for pecks corner. Got there and shelter was running over with thru hikers. Most had set up tents but a bear came though late and they all got in shelter about 20 minutes before my arrival. I thought they would have been through smokies but there were a bunch and they said a bunch behind them.

  14. #14
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    The shelters could be crowded. Would be a great time to Hammock camp that section. Easy to find solace that way -
    Cheers and happy hiking!
    Doug

  15. #15
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    If you're willing to go a little further north, central VA (Pearisburg to Waynesboro) is not busy in April.
    It's all good in the woods.

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