Why did I want to hike the Smoky Mountains? The real question is why not? So I bought a cheap plane ticket to meet my twin brother at his home in Atlanta and drove his BMW to Gatlinburg. He’s an experienced hiker while I’m pretty much a novice so I plain and simple had nothing to lose on this adventure.
Packing List (I Wish I Had Followed):
1. Bring a lightweight traveler’s backpack, not a school one since you won’t be able to fit everything and they aren’t water resistant.
2. Pack a large water bottle or a canteen, hydration is essential despite being overlooked frequently.
3. Pack a light snack such as energy bars or fruits like apples and bananas.
4. Pack a change of clothes and even a swim suit in case you find a swimming hole.
5. Bring a walking stick, they’ll take the pressure off your joints and make uphill climbs that much more bearable.
6. Wear hiking shoes or boots. Slip resistance and ankle support mean everything when hiking and especially climbing.
7. Pack climbing shoes for those really gritty climbs
8. Do not wear jeans or any long sleeves. The air is thinner and you are closer to the sunrays, simply dress light.
9. Acknowledge there is no phone signal, so a map and compass is never a bad idea.
10. Bring carabineers for your keys, shoes, anything else that would be easier and safer attached to a carabineer.
The Smoky Mountains: There’s more than enough miniature parking lots called “lookouts” scattered throughout the mountains for drivers to pull over and grab a picture and take in the view.
Clingmans Dome: One of the highest man-made summits, this hike is only half a mile but a very steep uphill trail.
Clingmans Dome itself is a spiral walkway to an observation deck, here you’re so high you’re above the trees.
A two mile hike passing a series of streams and swimming holes and ending with a brief freehand rock climb.
Downtown Gatlinburg: Gatlinburg is a tourist town, you won’t have to venture far to find plenty of souvenir stores where you can find anything based on mining or Native American pelts and precious stone and minerals that bring tourists in all hours of the day. There are several moonshine bars spread out that offer free tastings at speed bars where generally six different flavors are tried and most jars are sold for around $25 a pop. Flavors range from butterscotch to root beer to old-fashioned lemonade.
Where I Stayed: Located right in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, Bearskin Lodge happens to be the place to stay for a night or a weekend. If you’re a fellow nerd it’s also a Pokestop and their parking lot happens to have a Pokémon gym as well. If you need more reason to book here their complimentary breakfast consists of an unlimited and widespread amount of food and beverages such as bacon and biscuits n’ gravy. There are also always free, fresh made cookies in the lobby.
Wildlife: Elk crossings are common and park rangers will stop traffic just to ensure their safety from cars and supervise pedestrians trying to get a good nature photo.