This trail is a great way to experience the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. During this trail, you summit Clingmans Dome
- the highest point in the park and in Tennessee. Additionally, you have plenty of scenic views, follow a lively stream, and see tranquil waterfalls. This four-day backpacking trip has it all, with each day averaging 9 miles, allowing you to take it easy on your vacation but still work up a good sweat.
This trail is designed to be done over four days and three nights. You have to reserve your backcountry permits through the National Park Service, which can be reserved up to 30 days in advance by using the following link ( smokiespermits.nps.gov/inde…
). Each campsite comes with a pulley system to bear bag your food, but always bring plenty of rope in case one is defective. Be sure to observe all rules posted by the National Park Services.
You start at the Deep Creek parking lot and begin on the Noland Divide Trail
. After a good few miles of incline, you'll come across the Lonely Pine Overlook. Here you'll be able to take a well-deserved break and enjoy some great views of Bryson City and the surrounding mountains. Once you continue your hike, you'll reach a split point where you do a short hike down to reach your first camp spot, Bald Creek (campsite 61). This campsite is situated next to a lively stream - perfect for refilling your water supplies and providing relaxing noises to fall asleep to. This day is 9 miles.
The next day, you continue on the Noland Divide Trail
until you reach the access road for Clingman's Dome. You do 1.5 miles of road hiking until you reach the summit area for Clingman's Dome. Be ready for a swarm of people -- it can be quite a shock after 14 hours of solitude. You can take advantage of the trash cans at the summit to lighten your load. Then you continue on the AT headed north until you reach the second campsite, Mt. Collins (campsite 106). This shelter has a water source 0.1 miles northbound on the AT, allowing you to refill your water supplies. This day is 10 miles.
Hike south on the AT until you reach the split onto Fork Ridge Trail
, where you follow this trail until you reach the Deep Creek Trail
. You continue on the Deep Creek Trail
until you reach your third campsite, Bryson Place (campsite 57). While hiking on the Deep Creek Trail
you'll be following the river for the rest of the hike. At times you even go off trail and are required to hike along riverside rocks -- make sure you have plenty of balance. Additionally, this day has a several stream crossings, so be sure to bring water shoes. The campsite is a peaceful setting with towering trees and plenty of open space with the sound of the river off in the distance. This day is 10 miles.
Continue on Deep Creek Trail
and you should find yourself back where you started. This day is an easy 7 miles with an extremely small elevation change -- a nice stroll through the woods. You have the opportunity to enjoy three separate water falls nearby the parking area for the Deep Creek campground.
On this hike you can find a wealth of different plants and animals. Since there is a significant amount of elevation, you experience several different micro-climates which contain pine trees, oak trees, dogwood trees, ferns, and many more plants than one can count.