Premier Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Company

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Appalachian Crest, Valleys & Balds

Highlights

  • The best the Smokies have to offer
  • 3 days on the famous Appalachian Trail
  • Amazing creek valleys, waterfalls, and diversity
  • Sweeping views of the Smokies
  • Backcountry campsites & famous A.T. shelters.
  • Sunset dinner at a stunning grassy bald
  • Great opportunities to see wildlife

Description

Our 6-Day Appalachian Crest, Valleys, and Balds backpacking trip combines the highlights of Great Smokey Mountains National Park into one fantastic 6-day, moderate difficulty 6-day itinerary. During this trek we will experience multiple diverse ecosystems while hiking through lush creek valleys, along scenic ridgeline crests, and over stunning grassy balds. We also spend a large portion of our time on arguably the best section of the Appalachian Trail along the crest of the Smokies. The three days we spend on the Appalachian Trail offer expansive views of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains and beyond. We also follow the original Appalachian Trail to Gregory’s Bald, which is a unique experience.
This trip journeys through a very special environment only found in the Southern Appalachian Range, and it offers amazing bird's eye views of the Park's most popular area, Cades Cove. It is a moderately rated, 6-day adventure that offers plenty for backpacking beginners and veterans alike!
Don't miss this opportunity to complete one of the best hiking routes in the Smokies! Give us a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to learn more or book your spot today.
Click here to have a detailed PDF information packet emailed to you, or request a reservation today. You can also call us at 800-715-HIKE.

 

Photos of the Great Smoky Mountains

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Shuttle to the trailhead: 3-hour drive from Asheville
Hiking Mileage: 5.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600 feet


This multi-day Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip starts out with pick up at your hotel in Asheville. Our shuttle to the trailhead is punctuated by Smoky Mountains highlights that beging to set the context for our adventure. We’ll enjoy views from the popular Blue Ridge Parkway and stop for a bit at the Oconoluftee Visitor Center where we can explore some of the early settler history at the mountain farm museum.

We’ll continue our way up and over the crest of the Smokies to the Tennessee side of the Park. Following a beautiful drive through the Little River Gorge we’ll come to Tremont, an old lumber town established by the Little River Lumber Company. Here we’ll take a scenic route to our trailhead, which starts at the confluence of Sam’s Creek and Lynn Camp Prong at the end of a gravel road. We'll do a final fitting with our packs and say "goodbye" to civilization for nearly a week.

After hiking a short distance we’ll come to the first highlight of many on this trip - Lynn Camp Falls. Here we’ll enjoy a nutricious lunch prepared by your guide before continuing deeper into the Appalachian wilderness to our next stop, Indian Flat Falls. Our camp tonight sits along rushing Lynn Camp Prong and an old historic lumber railway.


Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 6.1 miles
Elevation Loss/Gain: 310 feet / 1710 feet


Today starts with a hearty Appalachian Breakfast and a relaxed breakdown of camp. After packing up we’ll head back to the Greenbrier Ridge Trail to start a climb to the famed Appalachian Trail. The trail follows an old railroad graded bed part of the way, last used by the Little River Lumber company to harvest hardwoods from these unforgiving slopes. We’ll notice how the forest has regenerated itself very nicely while enjoying the obvious ecological changes that accompany climbing to higher elevations. We will finally reach the crest of the Smokies and Appalachian Trail at Sam’s Gap. From here it is a short hike over to our nights accommodations at the Derrick Knob Shelter, where you can relax or mingle with other hikers while your guide prepares a fantastic backcountry supper!


Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1500 feet


Today’s hike boasts some of the best views Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer. Our entire day features hiking along the crest of the Smokies and reaching the summits of two mountain peaks: Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain. During one of these summits we’ll stop for a much deserved picnic lunch prepared by your guide while enjoying the sweeping, expansive views of the surrounding mountain ridges. The end of our scenic hike takes us over an extremely unique environment at Spence field, meadows where locals historically grazed livestock before the establishment of the Park. We'll keep a close eye out for wildlife in this area. Tonight we camp at another Appalachian Trail shelter, Spence Field.


Day 4

Hiking Mileage: 6.1 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1000 feet / 800 feet


Our fourth day is an opportunity to spend another day in the high country along the Appalachian Trail, with fantastic views abounding throughout. After leaving our shelter we will hike over Russell Field, another historic livestock grazing area from the early settler days. Then we’ll cross over Big and Little Abrams Gap, Little Bald, and the Devil’s Tater Patch before getting to tonight's shelter at Mollies Ridge.


Day 5

Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1450 feet / 1250 feet


Today we end our nearly 16 mile section of the current Appalachian Trail at Doe Knob, where we turn onto a former section of the Appalachian Trail (changes made in 1945 made the AT exit the Smokies in the current location, Fontana Dam). The highlight of today is the famous Gregory Bald, where we'll absorb the amazing views of Cades Cove far below and the surrounding Mountains in all directions. Gregory Bald is known for its amazing views and its abundance of the beautiful Flame Azalea, which usually blooms in early summer, turning this bald into a natural work of art. We'll enjoy lunch in the tall grass of the bald, surrounded by wildflowers and views, before continuing on to our campsite. We'll set up camp and return to Gregory Bald for an unforgettable sunset dinner (weather permitting), celebrating the last night of our Appalachian adventure. Often at dusk we spot wildlife migrating from the forests to the meadows to feed. Our hike back to camp in the near dark completes this amazing day of Smoky Mountains wonder.


Day 6

Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3320 feet
Shuttle to Asheville: 2-hour drive


Our final day starts with a relaxing breakfast, after which we'll begin a long downhill trek back to civilization. Initially we pass hoards of blueberry bushes, where we have good chances of seeing a black bear. (The Smoky Mountains are home to one of the densest bear populations on the continent.) We'll pass another bald, then continue down a ridge on an old road, built by a 1920's logging operation, to a beautiful mountain creek. After several creek crossings and a couple more miles of hiking, we will arrive at the remote Twenty Mile Ranger Station and our awaiting shuttle. We'll relax and contemplate our amazing 6 days in the Smoky Mountains as we make our way through the Park back to Asheville.


Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary park restrictions, campsite availability, weather, road closures, guest ability/injury, and natural events like fires and flooding.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Great Smoky Mountains hiking guide
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Asheville, North Carolina to the trailhead and back
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.


Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.


Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Satellite phone


What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent, lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.


What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon), rain gear, and non-cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? Simply click here and complete the form to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 48 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!


Where Do We Meet?

You will meet your guide and group at the Holiday Inn in downtown Asheville (standard rooms are $99-$140 for our guests, 828-225-5550) for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. We're happy to give you a ride to this meeting if you're not staying at the Holiday Inn. Your guide will then pick you up the next morning for transport to the trailhead. For Private Great Smoky Mountains Tours your guide can meet you at any hotel in Asheville at an agreed upon time.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.


Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).


Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Guides

Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.


Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on Smoky Mountains backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum group size of 6 guests and 1 or 2 guides If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 10 and older to join private tours, with final approval on a case by case basis
  • specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis


Weather in the Great Smoky Mountains

The weather in the Great Smoky Mountains varies greatly by time of year. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures in for low elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
         
 
Month
Low Elev
High Elev
 
 
hi
low
hi
low
 
 
January
51°
28°
35°
19°
 
 
February
54°
29°
35°
18°
 
 
March
61°
34°
39°
24°
 
 
April
71°
42°
49°
34°
 
 
May
79°
50°
57°
43°
 
 
June
86°
58°
63°
49°
 
 
July
88°
59°
65°
53°
 
 
August
87°
60°
64°
52°
 
 
September
83°
55°
60°
47°
 
 
October
73°
43°
53°
38°
 
 
November
61°
33°
42°
28°
 
 
December
52°
28°
37°
21°
 
 
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