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

Ancient Appalachia Loop


  •   Challenging and fulfilling adventure
  •   Solitude on quiet, scenic trails
  •   Old growth forests in The Smokies
  •   Hen Wallow Falls, a stunning waterfall
  •   Sweeping Appalachian views
  •   Amazing natural and cultural history


The Ancient Appalachia Loop Tour combines solitary trails, old growth forests, and some of the most beautiful views in the Smokies in a short, action-packed hike! This trip is an excellent choice for first-time backpackers, families, or for those who'd like to see first hand why this park is the country’s most ecologically diverse - and most visited - national park.

We'll begin along the lower reaches of Gabe's Mountain, passing Hen Wallow Falls on our way through virgin woodlands to our first night’s camp at Sugar Cove. The next morning we'll head up the Maddron Bald Trail to the Albright Grove Loop, where we’ll appreciate a collection of the park's largest and most magnificent trees. We'll camp along a mountain creek and climb to the top of Maddron Bald for out-of-this-world views. A day hike with light packs on the famous Appalachian Trail on day 3 is the highlight of the trip for many guests. Our final day brings us down to our starting point ending our Great Smoky Mountains backcountry adventure.

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Trip Dates & Booking

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You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.
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This trip is only available as a private trip. Give us a call at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to learn more!

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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to the trailhead: 1.5-hour drive from Asheville
  • Hiking Mileage: 4.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1060 feet

On this multi-day Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip we start hiking at a remote ranger station and work our way up a beautiful mountain trail. 2.1 miles into our hike we hit the spur trail for Hen Wallow Falls. This spectacular waterfall drops 90 feet and is one of the most impressive water features in the Park. After enjoying the falls, we'll continue uphill, past hardwood old growth forest with truly massive trees. Eventually we'll reach our campsite, a highly sought after site in a stunning forest setting. After getting settled we'll explore the mountain creek near camp, relax over a hearty dinner, and turn in for the night.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1320 feet

Day 2 starts with a delicious Appalachian breakfast, after which we'll continue hiking past more old growth forest and negotiate several creek crossings. Our trail, due to the extraordinary work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, is one of the best trails Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer. After 1.7 miles on this spectacular trail, we'll come to one of the Park's most impressive old growth forests. We'll enjoy lunch in this forest under Carolina Silverbells, Hemlock, Beech, and Tulip trees spared from the logger's axe a century ago. This grove of giant trees is considered one of the best East of the Mississippi. After lunch we'll continue on to our second night's camp on the edge of a mountain creek. After setting up camp we'll hike to the top of Maddron Bald for an outstanding view of the Appalachians.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.5 miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 2061 feet

Today is a layover day set aside to celebrate this amazing landscape with a day hike you'll never forget! After another tasty breakfast we'll set out to traverse a ridgeline section of the Appalachian Trail beneath the towering Mount Guyot to Tricorner Knob. This section features absolutely awe-inspiring views of the forested folds and high peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains. Don't forget your camera today - you'll want it!

After returning to camp, we'll enjoy a final backcountry dinner and relaxing evening before turning in for a peaceful sleep.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 940 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 3040 feet
  • Shuttle to Asheville: 1.5-hour drive to Asheville

Our final morning we'll break camp and hike up the Maddron Bald Trail to another rugged, adventurous trail. As we descend this trail we'll soak up amazing views of the crest of the Smokies while passing through beautiful Spruce and Fir forests. We eventually pass through Hemlock groves in the lower altitudes and end up at our staring point. From here we enjoy a scenic drive back to Asheville, giving us time to contemplate the amazing four days we've just experienced.

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 ($100).

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)
  • 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and 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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