General

Tennessee’s Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a marked hiking trail and a linear national park that covers over 2100 miles through 14 states beginning in the Chattanooga National Forest in Georgia and ending Baxter State Park in Maine. Much of the trail covers wilderness, but some sections do cross roads and towns. Most of the trail is well-marked and has access to camping areas and shelters. Although some people travel its entirety, covering sections at a time is a great way to build endurance and experience the beauty of each state. Tennessee, for example, is a great place to visit and includes 94 miles of the AT. However, since the trail also runs along the border with North Carolina, the Tennessee portion of the trail actually totals around 280 miles. Through Tennessee, the trail’s elevation ranges from 1326 to 6625 feet at the highest section. Among the top places to hike is the 71-mile section of the Smoky Mountains National Park.

The entire AT is difficult to complete for beginners. Therefore, a prospective traveler can start with smaller segments in areas that are easily accessible by car and begin to work endurance and stamina by traveling sections of the trail. Since the Smoky Mountains section takes roughly seven days to hike, Tennessee is a great place to train. Additionally, the parts of the trail in Tennessee are classified between 1 and 7, which means that the parts of the trail increase in difficulty, thus allowing people to work gradually on more challenging areas.

Getting Prepared

Before hiking, everyone should pack a rain jacket or poncho, two quarts of water per person, extra clothing, a map, food, a flashlight, matches, and a whistle. Even if a person is not planning a multi-day hike, changes in weather conditions or emergencies may make such precautions necessary for survival. Keep in mind the importance of communication and make sure that you have a way to reach emergency services. Before venturing out, take an inventory of your communication articles and visit one of the many AT&T stores in Tennessee to ensure that you have the best coverage while visiting the different areas of the Appalachian Trail.

Get Hiking!

With its great accessibility, Gatlinburg is a great place to start a hike. The town has direct access to parking and is a few miles away from the entrance to the national park. Besides the trail accessibility, everyone can enjoy downtown before heading out. In this section, hikers can experience low to moderate trails, including Baskins Creek Falls, which is accessible via the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The hike is about three miles long, features waterfalls, and has a difficulty rating of 4.91. Roaring Fork also has access to Grotto Falls, which is 2.6 miles long and has a difficulty rating of 3.77.

Among the most distinguished sections of Tennessee’s portion of the Appalachian Trail is the Charles Bunion section. Many consider the 8.1-mile walk as the best part of the entire AT. The trail is relatively strenuous and includes crossing a narrow ridge and handling rocky strips so make sure that you have built up some endurance before trying to hike this part. Generally, people take about four to six hours to complete, and this section is open year-round. The hike begins at Newfound Gap, where there is access to the Appalachian Trail. Hikers will stay on the AT until a short spur trail directs the walkers to the Bunion. For those who want to spend the night, the furthest section before heading back has a shelter.

For those who enjoy walks with a reward in the middle, Mt. Cammerer is the perfect option. This 11-mile hike is divided into two parts, providing those who reach the top with a spectacular view and the opportunity to experience a lookout tower that was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The trail begins on the Chestnut Branch Trail and exemplifies the beauty of the AT. 

 

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