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Smoky Mountains Hiking Vacation

Smoky Mountains Traverse


  •   Quietest, most scenic trails in the Park
  •   Extended 7-day wilderness adventure
  •   Fantastic campsites
  •   Waterfalls, creeks & lakeshore camps
  •   Wildlife, most notably black bear and elk
  •   Endless views of the Smoky Mountains
  •   Amazing pioneer history and relics


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!

This unforgettable adventure is the most challenging trip we offer in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We traverse the west side of the Park from near Clingman's Dome (the highest point in the Park) to southeastern corner of the Park. Along the way we experience nearly all of the highlights of the Smokies: history, waterfalls, mountain summits, creeks, lakes, big views, wildlife, serene camps and enchanting forests.

This hike begins on one of the first trails constructed after the establishment of the Park, the Deep Creek Trail. The next 7 days take us over high ridges, through lush river valleys, and into some of the most beautiful wilderness in the U.S. Along the way we will pass historic pioneer, lumber and Native American sites. We will explore Fontana Lake and the famous Hazel Creek area, which was home to hundreds of early settlers including Horace Kephart, an author and librarian who campaigned for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On our last day we will climb to an absolutely spectacular viewpoint: the old Shuckstack fire watchtower. Our hike fittingly ends on a descent on the legendary Appalachian Trail to Fontana Dam.

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Trip Dates & Booking

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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!

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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to the trailhead: 1.5-hour drive from Asheville
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 2100 feet

Before we set out on our adventure, we’ll check out the amazing views from Newfound Gap on the crest of the Smokies running along the North Carolina and Tennessee boarder. Then, this multi-day Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip begins with an ascent into the Appalachian wilderness to the head waters of Deep Creek. On the way to our first night's camp along Deep Creek, we will hike through some of the most beautiful forests in the world - literally. The Great Smoky Mountains are renowned for their intensely diverse forests, and your guide will bring this to life by showing you many of the fascinating and intimate details of this unique forest ecosystem.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 8.1 miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain/Loss: 200/1800/1290 feet

Our morning will start with a hearty Appalachian breakfast prepared by your guide. Hiking today takes us down the Deep Creek Trail. This trail was the first built by the CCC in the 30's after the Park was established. From Deep Creek we will head up the scenic stream valley of Pole Road Creek past cascades and rock outcrops to Sassafras Gap, our high point of the day. Today's camp is located along the beautiful Noland Creek and has a wonderful swimming hole.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 8.4 miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain/Loss: 400/1600/1900 feet

We continue our hike down historic Noland Creek on our third morning, passing a historic ranger station and fish hatchery. There's also evidence - if you look hard enough and know what to look for - of the early 20th century Eversole Lumber Company's activity in this area. After our "hike through time" we'll arrive at the Spring Branch Trail, which takes us up and over Forney Ridge to our camp along Forney Creek at an old CCC camp used in the 30's.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.4 miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 400 feet / 1020 feet

Today is all about relaxing and enjoying the amazing biodiversity of the Smokies. We will break camp and head down cascading Forney Creek to Fontana Lake. We will spend the afternoon swimming in the cool waters of the lake, lounging on its shores, and generally enjoying this peaceful, stunningly beautiful area. After lunch, we will climb up an old logging road to our night's camp along Bear Creek. We'll enjoy an important feast to prepare ourselves for Day 5, which is this trip's hardest and most rewarding day.

Day 5
  • Hiking Mileage: 10.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 2200 feet / 3000 feet

We begin today with an ascent up Jump Up Ridge, and eventually we top out on the spine of Welch Ridge. We'll stop for lunch at the end of a spur trail that takes us to a high rocky perch called High Rocks with fantastic views of Fontana Lake. After lunch we'll continue hiking along a spectacular ridge, enjoying amazing views of the surrounding area while breaking in and out of beautiful, mixed hardwood forests. Heading down from Cold Springs Gap we will come to famous Hazel Creek, where we will ford a 25 foot section of this fantastic Creek. Camp this evening is at the confluence of two mountain creeks, whose rushing water will lull us to sleep after a fully deserved celebratory feast.

Day 6
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.8 miles
  • Elevation Loss/Gain: 640 feet / 280 feet

Our sixth morning starts with another hearty backcountry breakfast, after which we'll break camp and hike along Hazel Creek to the Lakeshore Trail. Hazel Creek was historically home to hundreds of early settlers, one of whom was Horace Kephart, a locally well-known author who campaigned passionately for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is widely considered one of the Park’s founding fathers, and after experiencing the breathtaking Hazel Creek area it's easy to understand where his passion came from. Next, We’ll pass by the historic town site of Proctor and make a stop at the historic Proctor cemetery, where a multitude of 19th and 20th century grave sites dramatically illustrate the hardships that the early settlers of this area endured. In our last campsite of this trip we'll enjoy a celebratory dinner and toast to an unforgettable adventure.

Day 7
  • Hiking Mileage: 5.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1980 feet / 2120 feet
  • Shuttle to Asheville: 2-hour drive to Asheville

The last day of this Smoky Mtns. Adventure brings us up to some of our best views of the trip. From the historic Shuckstack fire watchtower we will get an incredible visual of all our prior days' achievements. After soaking up the views we will descend down the famous Appalachian Trail to our trip's end at Fontana Dam. A peaceful shuttle ride back to Asheville gives us time to contemplate the magic of the last 7 days hiking in one of the world's most diverse and beautiful wilderness destinations!

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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