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!

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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.

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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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

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Jonathon ascends past some really YELLOW fungus.  April 2017.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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Charlie’s Bunion on the AT.  April 2017.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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

 

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