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  1. #1
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    Default GSMNP Through hike planning help

    Hello all,

    My son and I will be completing a through hike of the GSMNP at the end of May, and I wanted opinions on my daily mileage of those that have completed this section. This is a trip we have been planning for some time. It was cancelled last year due to COVID. It's a trip I've been wanting to do with him before he graduates high school. We will be hiking southbound. We have hiked the A.T. in the past and have completed multiday hikes in the Rockies. Any suggestions ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED. Thank you.

    Day 1 - Davenport Gap to Tricorner Knob 15.7 miles
    Day 2 - Tricorner Knob to Icewater Spring 13 miles
    Day 3 - Icewater Spring to Derrick Knob 19.9 miles
    Day 4 - Derrick Knob to Mollies Ridge 15.5 miles
    Day 5 - Mollies Ridge to Fontana Dam 6.8 miles

  2. #2
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    This seems like some hard days, particularly Day 1 and Day 3. Day 1 is both long, and will have lots of uphill. Day 3 is long and will include some good climbs too.

    You need to either have experience hiking, such that you already kind of know you can do this, or be kind of unusual in your level of athleticism. Personally, I'd try to add a 6th day unless you fall into one of these two categories.

  3. #3
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    Agree with FlyPaper. The hike up from Davenport Gap isn't easy, plus you need to factor in the time it takes to get to the trailhead. Unless you're in a big hurry, slow down a bit and ENJOY the trip.

  4. #4
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    Agree with those above, unless you and your son are already in full hiking condition, including recent long hikes to keep you at peak condition. Otherwise, a long, tough day on the opening day can be a kill-joy.

    Davenport to Cosby Knob Shelter is shorter but still a good day's hike. From Cosby, the next obvious stop is Peck's Corner (or Icewater Spring, if you both want more after that first day).

    Is it really only 6.8 miles from Mollies Ridge Shelter to Fontanta Dam? I think it is more like 10 or 11 miles.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    Agree with those above, unless you and your son are already in full hiking condition, including recent long hikes to keep you at peak condition. Otherwise, a long, tough day on the opening day can be a kill-joy.

    Davenport to Cosby Knob Shelter is shorter but still a good day's hike. From Cosby, the next obvious stop is Peck's Corner (or Icewater Spring, if you both want more after that first day).

    Is it really only 6.8 miles from Mollies Ridge Shelter to Fontanta Dam? I think it is more like 10 or 11 miles.

    Its 11 Miles from Mollies to the dam
    Trail Miles: 4,317.5 - AT Trips: 72
    AT Map 1: 2193.1 Complete 2013-2021
    AT Map 2: 270.2
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 148.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rsmith View Post
    Hello all,

    My son and I will be completing a through hike of the GSMNP at the end of May, and I wanted opinions on my daily mileage of those that have completed this section. This is a trip we have been planning for some time. It was cancelled last year due to COVID. It's a trip I've been wanting to do with him before he graduates high school. We will be hiking southbound. We have hiked the A.T. in the past and have completed multiday hikes in the Rockies. Any suggestions ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED. Thank you.

    Day 1 - Davenport Gap to Tricorner Knob 15.7 miles
    Day 2 - Tricorner Knob to Icewater Spring 13 miles
    Day 3 - Icewater Spring to Derrick Knob 19.9 miles
    Day 4 - Derrick Knob to Mollies Ridge 15.5 miles
    Day 5 - Mollies Ridge to Fontana Dam 6.8 miles
    If you're not confident the answer is 'yes,' and you are soliciting opinions from strangers, then the answer is most likely that your mileages aren't reasonable. (You did pick the best shelters, though, especially if you're tenting.) Speed on the trail is as much a factor of trail conditions as it is about your fitness level. Roots, rocks and steep trails slow down even the fit hikers.



    You haven't mentioned your pack weights. My base weight on a solo trip is ~11 lbs., 13 or so if I'm hiking with my wife. If you're hiking with > 20 lb. base weight plus food and water, it's going to slow you down, no matter how fit you are.

    If Cosby Knob shelter is closed, then Davenport to Tricorner is your only option, but it includes 5,000 gross feet in elevation gain carrying your heaviest load (all your food, enough water to get to Cosby Knob). That's equivalent to hiking out of the Grand Canyon and continuing on several more miles. This is a 10-12 hour hike for a fit hiker with a light pack, longer if you take the side trail to the fire tower.

    Icewater Spring to Derrick Knob is 20.8 miles, not 19.9. This is a 14-18 hour day for a fit hiker. Silers Bald to Derrick Knob is one of the most enjoyable segments of your hike - it would be a shame to experience it at the end of a very long day instead of savoring it.

    Derrick Knob to Mollies is 12 miles, not 15.5, but includes 2.5 very slow, challenging miles between Starkey Gap and Thunderhead that will have you questioning your life choices and the sanity of the trail builders by the time you finish it. Last year we did Mollies to Spence Field (6 mi.) in about 3 hours, stopped for lunch, and did Spence Field to Derrick Knob (also 6 mi.) in about 5 hours.

    Mollies to the Fontana trailhead is 10 miles, with another mile over the dam to the visitor center.

    If you wanted to hike this itinerary, it would be much more manageable in the other direction, if only because the section between Tricorner and Davenport Gap would be downhill, with a much lighter pack since most of your food has been eaten.

    If you want to go south, I'd recommend stopping at Silers Bald (15 mi.) on day 3, and maybe Russell Field (15 mi.) on day 4, with a 13 mi. day 5.

    And whatever you choose, be ruthless about pack weight. Leave the camp chair, leatherman, paperback book and extra clothes at home.

  7. #7
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    To somewhat reiterate a previous comment, if you are unsure enough that you are asking for input from others, then you are trying to bite off too much.
    As a general suggestion, I say try for something closer to an average of 12mpd. Allow yourself so time to do more than just hike all day. Allow for side trips to things like "The Jumpoff" and spending some restful lunches at the shelters you won't be spending the night.
    If Cosby remains closed and if there isn't some specific reason you have tied yourself to the AT, start in the Big Creek area and hike up to Mt Sterling, over to Laural Gap shelter, then Balsam Mtn to pickup Tricorner. If you are not in a hurry and never been to LeConte, take the Boulevard to the top of the mountain and say at the LeConte shelter.

  8. #8
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    Thank you all for your suggestions. I am somewhat limited on my time frame due to my brother flying in for the hike. I realize the first day is long, but I was told by my shuttle driver the Crosby shelter is closed so it is what it is. I would prefer not to do a 20 mile day so I will look at some of the suggestions. I will say we are all experienced hikers and very fit. My brother has hiked all but 10 of Colorado's 14ers, my son is an accomplished track athlete and I run marathons so we are not going into this carrying camp chairs as someone mentioned.

  9. #9
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    First of all, Cosby Knob MIGHT be open come the end of May.
    There's no hard rule, but the typical time frame for a campsite or shelter to be closed due to bear activity is about one month.

    But I'll specifically ask the question...
    Are you tied to an AT Thru of GSMNP?

    If not, you can shorten the hike by doing things like starting from Cosby Campground rather than Davenport Gap.

    And one thing that would be a shame... your current plan to get to TriCorner the 1st day, the distance makes it obvious that you do not plan on a side trip to Mt Cammerer Fire Lookout. If the weather is a good that day, it would be a crazy shame to have hiked all the way to the top of the AT at that point and not take the side trip to the Lookup. But the trail to the lookout is 0.6 miles one way (and the trail gets a little rough towards the end). So you have to allow a little more time than the roughly extra mile (round trip) might suggest.

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