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  1. #1

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    Question Smoky Mountains shelter reservations question

    Okay, here's a dumb question from me. And perhaps I'll call the reservations ranger and ask him tomorrow, but for tonight....

    Section hikers have to call ahead and reserve spots in the GSMNP shelters. We cannot do that more than 30 days ahead. I want to hike the AT through the Park the first week of April, so I expect it to be pretty crowded.

    As I plan to take six days, can I make all six reservations on the 30th day before my first planned night in the Park, or am I gonna have to call back each day for six days, and HOPE I get each successive reservation I need to make the whole thing work?

    An alternative is to wait until 30 days before my LAST night in the Park, but I may find some or all of the shelter spots for the earlier four or five nights all booked by then.

    Clear as mud?

    Rain Man

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    [I]ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit....[/I]. Numbers 35

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  2. #2
    GA --> ME '02-? bigcat2's Avatar
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    It is my understanding that you can reserve consecutive nights as long as you start the first one w/in the 30 window. I've made some 30 days prior and they always ask me where my second night will be. I can only assume from this that you'll be fine to reserve your six nights when you call in.

  3. #3

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    if you are thru-hiking, you do not need reservations. I think that for GSMNP purposes, a thru-hiker is someone who starts the hike 30 miles or more from the park, and hikes the length of the park and hikes out another determined mileage. You may want to check up on that, and just hike a few extra days.
    then you don't need reservations.

  4. #4

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    If I was in that situation I would just fill out a permit when I got there and state that I was thru-hiking. As long as you do that no ranger is going give you the 3rd degree about it, that is if you even see a ranger. You will not have a spot "reserved" in the shelter but it will keep you "legal". Take a tent and if the shelter is full it won't matter.

  5. #5
    Registered User Uncle Wayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man
    As I plan to take six days, can I make all six reservations on the 30th day before my first planned night in the Park?

    .
    Rainman,
    Here's what happened when I called for reservations. The ranger asked for our itinerary day by day and then told me if there was room in that shelter or not. He would not tell me how many others were there, just if there was enough room for my needs. A word of warning; most of the people who shared shelters with us didn't have reservations. So it was still first come, first served, reservations or not.
    Uncle Wayne

  6. #6
    Registered User cutman11's Avatar
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    Default What they said...but...

    I hiked exactly as you are planning, and I called 30 days before the start of the smokies. Got reservations at all spots for the 6 days. When I did the hike, I ended up changing one of them as I arrived earlier in the day than I planned. I called on a cell and changed the reservation that day to the next shelter. As was posted, I have since wondered why I went to all that trouble, when I could have just claimed I was a Thru, and then tented if the shelter was full. Guess I was just trying to be honest. I dont think there is any way for the rangers (who do show up some times) to determine if you are a thru or not. All they can do is see if you have the self registration ticket, and if you claim you are not a thru, then you should have the reservation...but if you dont and you claim you are a thru, then they wouldnt do anything anyway, so the whole thing is predicated on the honor system...which probably means it would make more sense for them to just say the first X number of people have to stay in the shelter, and any extras have to tent nearby.
    Cutman
    GA>ME 2000>2010..... Purist thruhiker in spirit, just with a lotta zeros during townstops;)

  7. #7
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    What aaron said. Just show up at The Fontana Hilton shelter and self-register as a thru-hiker. No big deal.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by L. Wolf
    What aaron said. Just show up at The Fontana Hilton shelter and self-register as a thru-hiker. No big deal.
    However, there is no easy way to do that from the north. The nearest place to self register is Hot Springs, and there was no kisok to self register when I checked there this last summer.

    Among all those pamphlets at the station, there were no self registration forms - lots of maps, no forms - maybe they were out that day.

    The requirement for being a thru was that the hike starts 50 or more miles outside the park.
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  9. #9
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    There is self-registration for SOBOs at The Big Creek ranger station, 1.3 miles from the trail at Davenport Gap. The "50 mile outside the park" rule has absolutely no way of being checked. There ain't enough manpower to do it.

  10. #10
    GAME 2000
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Wayne
    Rainman,
    Here's what happened when I called for reservations. The ranger asked for our itinerary day by day and then told me if there was room in that shelter or not. He would not tell me how many others were there, just if there was enough room for my needs. A word of warning; most of the people who shared shelters with us didn't have reservations. So it was still first come, first served, reservations or not.
    That was the experience I had this summer... and the ranger(s) ensured me on two seperate conversations that I wouldn't need to carry a tent because there wouldn't be anyone in the shelters that didn't have reservations and that I couldn't use a tent even if I had it. They told me wrong and I saw folks who got to a shelter that they had reservations for but there wasn't room for them (because folks were staying that didn't have reservations) so they pushed on to another shelter late. This was a group of about 6 or 8 people and it was cold, wet and almost dark.

    I would recommend going by the rules and taking a tent (or hammock) with me for just in case there is no room in the shelter you have a reservation for. I think it is a bad idea to encourage folks to just claim they are thru-hiking the Smokies (hiking 50 miles before, hiking through the Smokies and hiking 50 miles after the Smokies)... surely that will mess it up for thru-hikers later on if it becomes common practice to abort the reservation system. The Smokies gets lots of hikers and they have a reservation system (even though it may be flawed) to try and make it work.

    Youngblood

  11. #11
    Eagle Scout grrickar's Avatar
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    We started in Hot Springs last year and were shooting for the either Fontana or the NOC. When we got our permit we just told them what day we planned to enter the park and I think we had 5-7 days to exit? Forgive me if that is not correct; I'll check my permit tonight if I still have it. We did not have to tell them which shelter we would be stopping at each night. As Uncle Wayne stated, most of the people in the shelters did not have permits. We went in October and every shelter we stayed in was pretty crowded, but there was room. The only empty shelter was the Fontana Hilton, which we were amazed to find empty.


    Our permit did say thru-hiker, and since we started at Hot Springs and finished at the NOC I think we met their definition of a thru hiker. We called the Ranger office in Hot Springs and first they told us they would not mail a permit, then we told them we wanted to start at first light on Sunday morning and they agreed.
    "If trees could talk, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? Maybe....if they screamed all the time, and for no good reason" - Jack Handey

  12. #12

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    Last Spring the official definition of a thru hiker at the ranger headquarters was a hiker who had started and planned to end more than 100 miles (in each direction)outside of the park. Note, any "thru" hiker that took a ride into "Dollyville" and stayed the night outside of the park technically was in violation of the definition of a thru hiker.
    The reality with our trip was,

    There was no problem making reservations 30 days in advance for our hike thru the park as section hikers. According to the reservations clerk, with the exception of holiday weekends, a week or two in advance usually is good enough. They did note that it was probably better to reserve early and change dates later on if needed.

    The only enforcement of permits we encoutered was at the shelter just north of Clingmans but before Newfound (it is very close to the road. We didnt have any issues the night we stayed but we ran into a couple of folks who got checked the night before and a couple of folks who got fined for being in the wrong shelter (non thruhikers have to reserve specific shelters for specific nights).

    The lack of enforcement of reservations for non thru hikers was quite evident especially in the south end of the park, most of the non thruhikers were ignoring their specific reservations and staying where they wanted. This led to some shelters being full and some empty.

    We never encoutered national park employees except for a boar hunter on the entire trip.

  13. #13

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    Arrow Got my GSMNP reservations!!!!

    Just thought I'd share this feedback. I called today (March 4) (865-436-1231) and got my reservations all the way through the Smokeys, as follows:

    April 4 - Mollies Ridge
    April 5 - Silers Bald
    April 6 - Icewater Springs
    April 7 - Tricorner Knob
    April 8 - Davenport Gap

    Thus, they let me make reservations longer than 30 days out, plus actually it's 31 days to April 4, but they count calendar months, not days.

    I plan to spend Sunday night, April 3, in the Fontana Hilton.

    QUERY - is it convenient to hike one more day out of the Park (as I plan to spend Friday night in the Davenport Gap Shelter)? In other words, any good get off place a day past the Park, or should I just spend Saturday driving home instead of .... hiking?! I'd be happy to hike Saturday, spend Saturday night somewhere, and drive home to Nashville on Sunday.

    Rain Man

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  14. #14
    Registered User Moose2001's Avatar
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    Default Max Patch

    If you have one more day, you might consider hiking on to Max Patch. It's about 16 miles from Davenport Gap Shelter. It would be a hard day but IMHO, it's a place worth seeing. There's a good access road at the base of Max Patch you could get picked up at on Sunday.
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