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Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking Tour
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Appalachia Hiking Tour
Smokies Backpacking Guides
Smoky Mountains Hiking Vacation

Fontana Lake - Hazel Creek


  •   Scenic boat shuttle
  •   Amazing human history of the Smokies
  •   Pristine forests & creeks
  •   Spectacular ridge trails
  •   Peace and quiet at creek-side camps
  •   Great opportunities to see wildlife
  •   Amazing ecology and fascinating history


Please Note: This trip has been discontinued. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes! Check out our main Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking page for similarly amazing trips!

Our Fontana Lake to Hazel Creek Loop features one of the most unique starts and ends to any hike in the Smokies via a motorboat shuttle across Fontana Lake. But that's just the beginning. This trip continues to inspire with wonderful lakeshore hiking, an ascent into the higher mountains, beautiful creekside hiking, towering ridge views, truly breathtaking scenery along Hazel Creek (one of the prettiest valleys in the Park), and phenomenal history including a 19th century cemetery!

The boat shuttle that starts and ends the trip allows us to begin our hike in a remote area, exponentially increasing the sense of wildness on this trip, not to mention the scenic beauty. Fontana Lake is a massive, crystal clear body of water surrounded by lush forests and rushing mountain creeks. On top of that, Hazel Creek is one of the Smokies' most outstanding backcountry trout streams both because of its abundance of fish and its intense beauty. Combine these aspects of the trip with our time in the higher mountains, carefully selected campsites, wonderful backcountry meals, and incredible history, and this trip is one of the best!

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Trip Dates & Booking

Click on a date to register.
You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.
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This trip has been discontinued. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes! Check out our main Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking page for similarly amazing trips!

Don't see your dates? Call us!
We may be able to add new trip dates.
800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to the trailhead: 2-hour drive from Asheville
  • Motorboat Shuttle to Kirkland Creek: ~1 hour
  • Hiking Mileage: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 50 feet

This multi-day Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip begins with pickup at your hotel in Asheville, NC. We'll shuttle to Fontana Lake and begin our adventure on a motorboat ride across the lake. From the lake the mountains stretch up and away from us and are breathtakingly beautiful! Once on the other side of the lake, we'll enjoy a short, very scenic afternoon hike to our first night's camp. We'll pass remnants of buildings built by early pioneers who tried to etch livings in this part of the Smokies. Once in camp we'll enjoy views of the lake, have a relaxing evening and enjoy a big, tasty dinner prepared by your guide.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.8 miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 1080 feet

Today starts with a delicious Appalachian breakfast and relaxed departure from camp. Our hike follows the shores of Fontana Lake, where we'll pass more historic remnants of the remote buildings and homes early pioneers built and inhabited. As we hike you'll hear stories and tales of some of these early visitors. Eventually we leave the lake and hike up a beautiful mountain creek to our second night's camp near a historic logging camp from the early 1900's. Our trail follows the path of a now non-existent railroad used to transport Red Spruce (for World War I airplanes) out of the mountains. The end of our long, scenic hike through Smoky Mountains history ends with a relaxing evening and another fantastic backcountry meal prepared by your guide.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 10.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 2200 feet / 3000 feet

Today starts with a demanding hike up to a forested ridge trail, where sweeping views of the surrounding mountains richly reward us for our efforts. We'll enjoy lunch on a high point called High Rocks, then continue down through a stunning forest to Hazel Creek, one of the Smokies most serene trout streams. We'll pass historic sites en route to our camp on the shores of Hazel Creek at Sugar Fork. The soft murmuring of the creek as we fall asleep in our tents is a refreshing reminder of the peace and serenity that comes with spending time in these spectacular mountains.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: ~7 miles miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: minimal

Today we will enjoy a relaxing start and hearty breakfast before setting off with day packs to explore Bone Valley. Our hike takes us up an extremely scenic river valley to a historic pioneer cabin. The Hall Cabin (registered as a National Historic Site) is the most remote historic building in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We'll enjoy a picnic lunch near the cabin before exploring multiple backcountry cemeteries from the 1800's. These sites well illustrate the hardships that many pioneers faced while trying to survive in this remote wilderness. We'll make our way back to camp and enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the shores of Hazel creek or a hike up Sugar fork to another backcountry cemetery towards Picken's Gap.

Day 5
  • Hiking Mileage: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 480 feet
  • Motorboat Shuttle to Fontana Marina: ~20 minutes
  • Shuttle to Asheville: 2-hour drive

On our last morning we'll sleep in, enjoy one more Appalachian breakfast, and break camp. After breaking camp we'll follow the shimmering waters of Hazel Creek to Fontana Lake and our motorboat shuttle back to the vehicle. On our drive back to Asheville these extraordinary mountains will gradually give way to the smaller hills surrounding the Park. We'll drop you off at your hotel for a much deserved shower and good night's sleep, ending this unforgettable Appalachian backcountry journey!

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

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 (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended)
  • 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
  • Emergency communication device(s)

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, 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? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here 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 72 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.


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.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on Smoky Mountains backpacking trips is 6 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 1-800-715-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)
Low Elev
High Elev

Camping on Backpacking Trips

backpacking tent

Backcountry Sleeping

Tent Camping

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

backpacking meals

Backcountry Cuisine

Fresh & Delicious

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

backpacking campsites

Amazing Campsites

In the Action

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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