We are inviting you to come on a 17.7 mile /3 day Backpacking Adventure that will be sure to leave you with a sense of true history and awe-inspiring beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. The National Park Service established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934. But the Park’s rich history and culture were brewing in the hills long before that. Two backpacking trail-heads are in a very historical campground, Elkmont. Home of what was once the Little River Railroad and the high society vacation spot for the Appalachian Mountain Club out of Knoxville. It’s also been known as a ghost town, where you can explore the remains of a logging community and turn-of-the-century camp resort. What was it like to camp in the early 1900’s? WELL…WE ARE GONNA BACKPACK RIGHT THROUGH IT!
We start off by visiting old homes and cabins right away, hiking directly through the past of old historical Elkmont. You can explore the insides and reflecting on how the early 1900 campers experienced the Smokies. After spending some time among these gems, we head off on an old railroad trail that meanders up in a slight grade in elevation. But the real gem (and what most people hike right by) is a old side trail that has no markings or sign. This trail leads to a true Smoky Mountain gem and is NOT on ANY Map of the Smokies. Our hike will bring us to a hidden Waterfall and spectacular campsite at over 3,000 ft along a spring fed creek. We’ll finish our loop hike with strong finish back to base camp.
Our difficulty rating is based on a scale of 1-5, with a rating of 1 being least difficult, and a rating of 5 being most difficult
- Rating: 4 (only a small section of the trail)
- Backpack Weight:
- 25-35 pounds
- Ave Daily Hiking Distances:
- 4-7 miles
- Most Elevation Loss:
- 2120 feet
- Most Elevation Gain:
- 4120 feet
- Quality of Trails:
- Well maintained
- This trip follows good rock and dirt trails.
We will hike a total of 5 different trails. We do a loop hike around Jakes Gap including Panther Creek Trail, Middle Prong Trail, Lynn Camp Prong Trail, Miry Ridge Trail and then return back on Jakes Creek Trail. Each trail has it's own characteristics. The longest hike of the day will be on our return hike back to Elkmont where we will hike 7.5 miles.
Jakes Creek Trail takes on a whole new feel once you realize what it's hiding. Elkmont is a radical experience, a step back in time that you simply can't have anywhere else. Jakes Creek does make its way uphill, so you'll want to be careful of tree roots and rocks along the way. Heavy rains can dislodge parts of the trail, so make sure you keep an eye out! You'll also find yourself crossing a myriad of creeks, either by foot or along narrow footbridges. This trip could be muddy if we have heavy rains a few days prior.
Temperatures could be warm and in August there will more than likely be bugs. On day 2 will will be over 3,000 feet in elevation so expect a difference in temps from where we start to high in elevation. The Smokies are known for spontaneous Thunderstorms and windy conditions at times. Rain gear is a must. We will camp near water each night. Both campsites have a fire ring and bear cables to hang out food.
There will be a section of our trip that will include steeper than usual grade. This section is the most beautiful, but most difficult. We rate this section a 5.
There are options to buy food and supplies in Gatlinburg, TN. (only a few miles away from Elkmont Campground) Natahala Outdoor Center and a local grocery store.
Day 1 - THURSDAY AUGUST 13TH
Our first day will start as a leisurely and amazing hike to our first campsite. We hike approximately 3 miles. We start our hike at the edge of historic Elkmont Campground where we will visit and tour the old cabins of the Appalachian Mountain Club and see exactly how turn-of-the-century high society pioneers camped in the Smokies. After we hike through town we come to Jakes Creek Trailhead and start our hike on a wide old railroad bed.
This is an easy to moderate trail with a view of old cabins and homes of the past. At some point on our way to our first campsite, we will stop and find a hidden unmarked trail to explore, our first Hidden Gem of the Smokies. This side trip is a very easy hike that includes crossing a foot bridge. This exploration should last about an hour or so, where we will plan to have lunch at this impressive find.
After lunch we continue our hike up Jakes Creek Trail and find our first campsite. We will have several creek crossing on our way to camp. Have high top hiking shoes or boots. This may be muddy in places. Our campsite will have plenty of room and have a water supply from Jakes Creek. We will set up our tents and have a good 'ol fashion campfire.
Day 2 - FRIDAY AUGUST 14TH
We break camp around 9ish after breakfast and start our hike up to over 3,000 feet in elevation. We will have a few river crossings across Jakes Creek. As we gain elevation on Jakes Creek Trail we will leave the sounds of the river below. We will then connect to Panther Creek Trail and hike for 2.3 miles. Several creek crossings later, one of which is wide and deep after rainfall, to finally connect with the Middle Prong Trail. This is where we start climbing on a old logging road that ascends to a little over 3,000 feet. This is a very historic trail with waterfalls and old homesteads. Just as we start hiking, we will pass a chimney from an old homestead on the left side of the trail. Although out in the open, it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention.
We will find our second (and most spectacular) hidden gem of the Smokies. A beautiful cascading waterfall where we will have a nice long break and have lunch. This is a unmarked trail with no trail signs. This will be our oasis where we can soak our feet and relax. No hurries here. There will be lot's of time for photo opps.
As we leave the Falls we will continue to hike up to connect to Lynn Camp Prong Trail. This trail has a few waterfalls here and there and is a steady climb up to our campsite which will be 2 miles away. At the highest point of this trail, we will be at 4,412 feet in elevation. Max Grade: 15% (9°) The majority of the climb will be the next day after our campsite. Once we come to our campsite, we will set up and get ready for a beautiful night of star gazing. This campsite has a nice open view to see the stars. We'll have a nice campfire, relax and share our stories of the day.
Day 3 SATURDAY AUGUST 15TH
We pack up early to make that 2 mile climb to connect with the Miry Ridge Trail. This will be our longest day of hiking with a little over 7 miles of hiking. However, once up and over Miry's Ridge most if not all will be hiking downhill all the way back to Elkmont and our base camp. We will stop at Jakes Gap and have a break and snack. Depending on how the Group feels we can stop somewhere on the 2.9 miles from Jakes Gap and Elkmont to have another break and or Lunch. We should be back to our cars and Elkmont around 3:30 ish to 4:00 PM
On Saturday Night we are going to cook up a storm for you back at our campsite. For those who have not yet seen our Vintage Airstream, you will get a personal tour. We'll have a nice campfire for those who want to stay with us or you can return to your own lodging camp area (if you have made reservations) or Hotel. Gatlinburg is approximately 20 minutes away.
We have put together a suggested pack list for you
*A fitted backpack than can 3 days worth of food. Lightweight no more than 35lbs
Osprey Women’s Aura 50 AG Pack
Osprey Men’s Exos 48 Pack
Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60 Pack
Hyperlite 3400 55Liter Pack
*Pack Cover (covers your backpack if it rains)
*Sleeping Bag – at least a 30-40 degree bag or quit
Big Agnes Buffalo Park 40 Sleeping Bag
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 Quilt
REI Co-op Men’s/Women’s Magma 30 Sleeping Bag
*Sleeping Pad Suggested:
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent
NEMO Equipment Dagger Ultralight Backpacking Tent, 2 Person
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Green 1 Person Ultralight Tent 2020 Version
REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2 Tent
*Headlamp (extra batteries as needed)
**Hiking Poles are encouraged (YOU WILL HAVE SEVERAL CREEK CROSSINGS)
*Good Hiking Boots or shoes with good traction (MUDDY AND WET CONDITIONS AT TIMES)
*Water filtration system (WE WILL BE GETTING ALL OUR WATER FROM CREEKS)
*2-3 Liter Water Platy or equivalent water bottle system
*First Aid Kit – primarily for blisters, burns, cuts, and aching muscles (SHOULD BE VERY LIGHTWEIGHT)
*Cooking Stove MSR Pocket Rocket or stove that uses Isobutane Fuel
*Cooking Pot to boil water/ and eat in
*Lighter - purchased AFTER flights
*Food Storage Bag (MANDATORY: we will have to hang food via “bear bag” system) SUGGESTED:
All of these can be shared if you have a partner.
**CLOTHING: this does NOT include clothing for the trip home
Base Layer Short Sleeve wicking material.
Long sleeve shirt (merino wool is a good option for nights in higher elevation)
Lightweight nylon Socks at least 2 pair
CAMPING or Sitting by the Fire
A mid-weight long sleeve shirt merino wool
Rain Jacket or Wind Breaker (should be same thing)
HIKING: (NO COTTON)
Base Layer Short sleeve
Hiking socks at least 2 pair
Hat or Bandanna
**ALL CLOTHING LIST:
(2) pair of socks
(2-3) pair of underwear
(1) pair of hiking pants (Pants that unzip into shorts would be ideal)
(3) shirts (1) Long sleeve (2) Short Sleeves
(1) pair of shorts *unless your pants unzip into shorts
(1) rain Jacket
(1) hat or bandanna
(1) sandals or lightweight shoes for camp
**Rain pants are optional. However plan in case it downpours and what you will hike in the rain in.
*ALWAYS KEEP ONE LONG SLEEVE SHIRT AND ONE PAIR OF SOCKS DRY.
Compression sack for sleeping bag **Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Recommended
Compression sack for ALL clothing **Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Recommended
Food Bag **Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Recommended OR URSACK
50 feet a paracord to hang food bag. (WE WILL HAVE BEAR CABLES AT EACH CAMPSITE)
Plastic Zip Lock Bags for Food and Garbage
Camera and waterproof camera case (iPhones should be protected incase it rains)
small pad to sit on
If you have any questions e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lodging: Gatlinburg is the closest (and probably the most touristy) town to Elkmont. It is located at the entrance/or end to HWY 441 which is the only road that climbs up and over the Smoky Mountain National Park. Thousands of Tourists visit Gatlinburg each year. You have a ton of options while staying in Gatlinburg, TN. WARNING: Gatlinburg can be a tourist trap so choose carefully and don't over pay. One of the places most Thru-Hikers stay at is.
Motel 6 - Motel 6 Gatlinburg is along the banks of Little Pigeon River, and the Smoky Mountains! We are only 3 blocks from downtown Parkway. Amenities include an outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi. Select rooms have Jacuzzi tubs or fire places. Suites also available.
Chalet Inn Gatlinburg - This Gatlinburg, Tennessee, hotel is located directly behind Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, 16 minutes’ drive from Dollywood. The seasonal, outdoor pool overlooks the Great Smoky Mountains.
Smoky Mountain Camp Area's
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park maintains developed frontcountry campgrounds at 10 locations in the park, click on campground titles below to learn more about each specific campground:
• Abrams Creek Campground
• Balsam Mountain Campground
• Big Creek Campground
• Cades Cove Campground
• Cataloochee Campground
• Cosby Campground
• Deep Creek Campground
• Elkmont Campground (This is where we are staying)
Camping is permitted in designated campsites only, NOT in pull outs or parking lots. Camping is popular year round and the park has a variety of options to enjoy camping throughout the year.
Each campground has restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets. Each individual campsite has a fire grate and picnic table. There are no showers or electrical or water hookups in the park.
Food and Supplies:
There are plenty of places to eat (and drink) in Gatlinburg, TN. If you are looking for Backpacking and or Camping Supplies than the Nantahala Outdoor Center right at the entrance to the Park on HWY 441 is a great place to "GEAR UP".
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
There are two Airports that are convenient to Gatlinburg and Elkmont, TN. You can fly into Knoxville Airport (McGhee Tyson Airport), and be only 1 hour away from Gatlinburg, TN. Or Asheville Regional Airport and be 2 hours away from Gatlinburg, TN Both can vary on price of course. If flying, we would suggest Knoxville and rent a car and drive to Gatlinburg, TN.