I just got back from an epic trip in the Smoky Mountains. I got to meet incredible people and take in sights that were, for lack of the words to accurately describe them, unbelievable. This is a trip I’ll be thinking about for a long time, and it will open the door to many more experiences in the future.
Our REI guides (Brooke and Jeremy) were the best. They shared their knowledge and experience with us every step of the way and made this trip uniquely special. I even walked away with some GREAT book recommendations thanks to them!
Brooke was kind enough to share a summary of our hikes/ventures. Her notes are shared below with her name.
Arrival in Gatlinburg
I arrived a day early to drive from Knoxville to Galtinburg where I stayed in a hotel for one evening to organize my gear and prep for the upcoming hikes. I also visited the Gatlinburg Sky Park, where I was able to get these incredible photos!
Brooke: “We met up and got right into a beautiful hike full of fall colors on the Little River trail/Cucumber Gap/Jakes Creek. This was a total of 5.5 miles and 500 feet of elevation gain. Then we walked through some of the historic towns of Daisy Town.”
Brooke: “Next, we climbed 8 miles on the Alum Cave Trail with 1,200 ft of elevation gain. We saw Alum Cave, Arch Rock, and Inspiration Point! On the way out of the park, we stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and then drove around Cherokee Orchard Road. Back at camp, we had some lovely campfire time and, of course, a delicious dinner from Beth.”
Brooke: “On day 3, we headed up to Newfound Gap (where Roosevelt stood in 1940 and dedicated the National Park) and headed North on the Appalachian Trail (AT) for 4 miles one way to Charlies Bunion. Here we saw some great views, took some killer bunion pics, and had lunch in the sun. The total hike was 8 miles and 1,600 feet of gain.
The entire AT goes from Georgia to Maine for 2,200 miles, and our man Jeremy has done the whole thing! It goes for about 70 miles in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and is roughly the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina. That means on our hike, we had one foot in each state!”
Brooke: “Bright and early, we packed up and headed to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City. We went zip-lining on eight zips and were 350 off the ground at times! Group 1 had Nate and Jake as guides, and group 2 had Lauren and Alyssa. After lunch at Rivers End, we went rafting on the Nantahala River through class II-III rapids. Our raft guides were Spencer and Robert. We ended the trip driving from the North Carolina entrance to the park all the way to Tennessee. The drive was filled with beautiful views, elk, and turkey!”
I stayed the night in Gatlinburg after our adventure ended, and that allowed for a few of us to have dinner together, and it gave me an opportunity for my first indoor shower and sleep in days. The next morning I used my time before my flight to drive up to Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The weather started out nice, but as I gained altitude it turned into a complete grey out, with rolling clouds pouring over the roads. AND I got some great photos out of it!