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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN

SOLD OUT! (Put me on the waiting list)

May 2 - May 10, 2015 -- $1250 ★★★

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the country, but despite its popularity and proximity to major population centers, our trek will provide plenty of solitude from the crowds and access to one of the most beautiful displays of wildflowers you can find in the lower 48. Spring is a great time to be in the Smokies just as flowers begin to bloom, trees start to leaf out, and weather becomes temperate.

The park is an amazing wilderness with an abundance of wildlife featuring deer, elk, wild boar, black bears and even red wolves. This trip has most everything you could want in a trek: wildflowers, virgin forest, vistas, wildlife and preserved pioneer dwellings. We will walk you through the picturesque and secluded Cataloochee Valley where elk were reintroduced in 2001, and our itinerary is designed to maximize the chance of encountering these majestic animals.

Even if you have been on one of our Fatpacking trips through the Smokies before, you will want to join us again for a different route that promises to be awe inspiring (as well as perspiring). This trip will take you through virgin forests, clear streams teeming with wild trout, the preserved homes of the former Cataloochee community, high elevation spruce-fir forests, an old fire tower and expansive meadows where elk and turkeys forage. Your guides have spent many years exploring the Smokies and will be ready to help you identify the flowers and wildlife that abounds here and even provide a story or two about the people who once called this isolated valley home.


Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Expect daytime hiking temperatures in the 70s and 80s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s and 50s. However, be prepared for the possibility of day temperatures as high as 90 and as low as 30, with an occasional chance of rainfall and on rare occasion, snowfall. Here is the historical May weather Be prepared for cold temps at high elevation (we had snow one year) as well as warm sunny weather or rain.

Trip Leaders

Bruce Cannon
Dan Shafto


$1250 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from Asheville Airport (AVL), as well as personal equipment and any restaurant meals. You may also be charged for any parking charges for leaving your car at the hotel all week (probably none, but they sometimes charge for this).

Covered expenses include 2 hotel nights, 7 days of trail meals, ground transportation to/from Asheville and the National Park, park permits, insurance, satellite phone and awesome guides..


Our route crosses creeks and streams several times. There are no bridges. Be prepared to wear water shoes and use trekking poles to walk through almost knee-deep water in order to cross these waterways.

While all Fatpacking trips are difficult, this one might be considered somewhat less strenuous than others because of fewer and more gradual elevation changes and solid footing, even if mileages are a little longer.

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Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Drive or fly into Asheville Airport (AVL). The best time to arrive is between around Noon-3PM. However, if you can save a substantial amount on your flight by arriving a few hours earlier or later, then do so.

Call or text Bruce (803) 767-2750 or Dan 781-500-9769 and they will pick you up at the airporst and bring you to Comfort Inn Asheville Airport, 15 Rockwood Rd, Fletcher, NC, 28732, 828-687-9199

Equipment shakedown

Trail mix distribution

Go to Diamond Brand Outdoor Shop, 2623 Hendersonville Rd. • Arden, NC 28704 • 1-800-459-6262 • for last minute equipment if necessary

"Before" measurements taken

Go out for dinner at a local restaurant (Dinner cost not included in trip price)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Second set of "before" measurements taken

All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.

Free Breakfast at hotel

Shuttle to Cataloochie Ranger Station

Begin the hike just past the Cataloochee Campground at the Caldwell Fork Trailhead, elevation 2,600'

Hike 0.8 miles on the Caldwell Fork Trail to junction of the Boogerman Trail

Option 1: Hike 3.9 miles on the Boogerman Trail through virgin forest to the next junction with Caldwell Fork Trail.

Option 2: Hike 1.9 more miles on the Caldwell Fork Trail.

Hike 0.5 miles on the Caldwell Fork Trail to the Mckee Branch Trail

Hike 1.6 miles on the Caldwell Fork Trail to Campsite 41

Camp at Campsite #41, elevation 3360'

Miles today: 6.8. Total miles: 6.8

Possible bailout: Cataloochie Ranger Station

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gently climb 1.5 miles on the Caldwell Fork Trail past three giant poplar trees to junction with the Rough Fork Trail.

Descend 2.9 miles on the Rough Fork Trail past campsite #40 to the Park Road

Hike 0.8 miles on the road past the preserved Steven Woody house to Cataloochee Valley for elk watching

Hike 0.8 miles on the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail to the intersection of the Little Cataloochie Trail

Hike 0.8 miles on the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail to the intersection of the Palmer Creek Trail

Hike 0.4 miles on the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail to Campsite 39.

Camp at Campsite 39, elevation 3040’

Miles today: 7.2. Total miles: 14.0

Possible bailout: Cataloochie Valley

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hike 0.4 miles on the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail to the Palmer Creek Trail.

Gently climb 3.3 miles on Palmer Creek Trail to junction with the Balsam Mountain Road

Hike 0.5 miles on gravel Balsam Mountain Road to intersection with Balsam Mountain Trail

Continue gentle climb on Balsam Mountain Trail for 4.1 miles to the Laurel Gap Shelter.

Camp at Laurel Gap Shelter, elevation 5600'

Miles today: 8.3. Total miles: 22.3

Possible bailout: Balsam Mountain Rd.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Climb 0.2 miles on the Balsam Mountain Trail to the junction with Mount Sterling Ridge Trail

Hike 0.9 miles on the Balsam Mountain Trail to the Gunter Fork Trail

Hike 4.1 miles on the Gunter Fork Trail to the Camel Gap Trail

Hike 1.0 miles on the Camel Gap Trail to Campsite 37

Camp at Campsite 37, elevation 3,000’

Miles today: 6.2. Total miles: 28.5

Possible bailout: Cosby Ranger Station (far away)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hike 4.0 miles on the Swallow Fork Trail to the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail

Hike 1.4 miles along the Mount Sterling Ridge trail to the Mount Sterling Fire Tower

Hike 0.2 miles to the Mount Sterling campsite, #38.

Camp at campsite 38, elevation 5820'

Miles today: 5.7. Total miles: 34.2

Possible bailout: FR 287.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hike 1.6 miles back on the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail to the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail

Descend steadily for 3.6 miles on the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail to camp site #39

Set up camp at campsite 39, elevation 3040'

Day hike 4.0 miles round trip to Cataloochee Valley for more elk viewing

Miles today: 9.2. Total miles: 43.5

Possible bailout: Cataloochie Valley

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hike down the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail 2.2 miles to the Cataloochee Valley and the Palmer Chapel, elevation 2700'

End of hiking portion of trip

Possible bailout: Cataloochie Valley

Miles today: 2.2. Total miles: 45.7

Shuttle back to Comfort Inn Asheville Airport, 15 Rockwood Rd, Fletcher, NC, 28732, 828-687-9199

After measurements taken

Dinner and awards Ceremony (Dinner cost not included in trip price)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Free breakfast in Hotel

Check out of Hotel

Take Free Airport Shuttle

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