Peaks and Valleys: A 30 mile GSMNP Loop

Much like life, I believe the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is best understood and appreciated only after both the peaks and valleys have been explored.

The Park’s high country along the Appalachian Trail offers spectacular views and miles of knife’s edge ridgewalking.  However, the lesser known (and lower elevation) trails explore the Park’s vastness, with massive trees, huge creeks, and large mammals (bears and boars) that dwarf the hiker.

We chose a nice weekend loop that offered a taste of everything.  Let’s get walking!

Me, my brother in law Dylan, and close friend Jonathon on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).  As you can see, we’re pretty tough dudes, so the wild boar we stumbled upon in the Park absolutely made the right choice to just keep walking.  April 2017.

1-Smokmont loop
About 30 miles total in less than 3 days, starting/fininshing at Smokemont Froncountry Campground.  Map image scanned from the GSMNP National Geographic Trails Illustrated map (highly recommended for any visits to the Park…it’s a prized possession of mine). Our first day hiking was on the Benton MacKaye Trail, which I have previously walked.


Dylan (at right) at Chasteen Creek Cascade, near our Camp One.  April 2017.


With so much wet, moss, and fungus, the Smokies sometimes resemble a rain forest.  April 2017.


Water stop at Peck’s Corner Shelter.  Photo taken by a very nice ATC Ridgerunner named Chloe.  Thanks, Chloe!  April 2017.


From Peck’s Corner, we ascended further and finally made it to the Appalachian Trail (white blaze on tree in front of us).  April 2017.  Photo by Jonathon.


Jonathon ascends past some really YELLOW fungus.  April 2017.


Protected and undeveloped National Park for almost as far as the eye can see.  Thank you, United States government and citizens, for this beauty and privilege! April 2017.


The high ridges of the AT in the Smokies are beautiful and make for great walking.  Photo by Jonathon.


Charlie’s Bunion on the AT.  April 2017.


Dylan at Charlie’s Bunion.  One trip to this Park highlight is all you need to SERIOUSLY reinvigorate your vertigo.  Steep cliffs in all directions.  April 2017.


Camp Two: a night of serious thunderstorms and a small leak in my tarp.  Click here for a mini gear review from the trip.


Day Three was all rain hiking and I was glad to have my umbrella!  More details about gear stuff in my trip gear review. April 2017. Photo by Jonathon.


Bradley Fork.  Pic taken from the bridge in the previous picture. Big Water!  April 2017.


Almost back to the car and ready for dry clothes and warm food.  April 2017. Photo by Jonathon.

7 thoughts on “Peaks and Valleys: A 30 mile GSMNP Loop

  1. I just found your blog linked through a hike of the Georgia Loop the AOC is planning. I’ve wanted to tackle the Loop for a while now but I’m afraid that 25-30 miles a day is a bit out of my comfort zone =) That said, I’m really enjoying your blog, you’ve posted several trips I want to attempt at a more leisurely pace. I have one question… looking over your various gear lists (very impressive SUL lists!) It seems you only hang your food overnight when required (i.e. GSMNP). Do you take any precautions with your food overnight other than the OpSack? (Not judging, haha, just curious!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a great hike! Part of my the impetus for the “big miles” is a feeling that if I can’t do these hikes over a weekend (or long weekend), I may never do them at all! Plus, I enjoy the training and figuring out ways to reduce my pack weight, which are key components of me pulling it off.

      Other than using the opsack, I don’t cook at camp; try to camp away from shelters and established campsites (that the wildlife know are buffet locations); and sleep with my food inside my pack, under my feet. It’s a calculated risk and not everyone feels as comfortable sleeping with their food.

      What is the AOC and when are y’all going hiking out there?

      I highly recommend using the Benton MacKaye thru-hiker guide for the Loop, as it has an elevation profile (always love that!) and great info on water sources. It has a special section in the back that covers the entire DRT, too.

      Happy Trails and thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gotcha on the calculated risk. It’s a calculated risk just being out there at all lol! Those sound like reasonable precautions, more than most take even when they are hanging their food.

    The AOC= Atlanta Outdoor Club. I don’t hike with them at all really, but I do get their trip emails and have discovered some neat trails and areas just by subscribing to them. Here’s a link to the trip where they linked to your blog…

    I do have Sgt. Rock’s BMT guide and will use it when I do the loop. I also have Guthook’s app, and use Gaia GPS as well. And the appropriate NatGeo map of the area as a paper backup.

    Thanks for getting back to me and happy trails!

    Liked by 1 person

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