Great Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure

From: $560

per person dbl occ

Dates: Apr-Oct - see all dates

Total Days: 3

Activity Level: 3

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7 AM to 5 PM Pacific Time

Great Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure



REI Member, Adult 18+ years: $560

REI Member, Child 9–17 years: $460

Non-member, Adult 18+ years: $625

Non-member, Child 9–17 years: $525

Trip Dates:


  • May 23–25
  • Jul 11–13
  • Aug 1–3
  • Aug 15–17
  • Oct 3–5


  • Apr 17–19
  • May 22–24
  • Jul 10–12
  • Jul 31 – Aug 2
  • Aug 14–16
  • Oct 2–4

Or, book a
private departure .

Group Size: 4-6

Activity Level: 3


  • Backpacking


Primitive backcountry camping, 2 nights

Trip Highlights

  • Explore the magical Great Smoky Mountains on a family backpacking adventure
  • Follow an incredible itinerary designed with the whole family in mind
  • Make memories walking among ancient trees and spotting wildlife
  • Learn backpacking skills and flora identification from naturalist guides
  • Hike 3-7 miles per day at a pace perfect for families

Experience the enchantment of the Great Smoky Mountains on this backpacking adventure designed specifically for families with children ages 9 and up. Nature's distractions keep young minds busy as we stand in awe of giant old growth Hemlock and Spruce, splash through crystal blue streams and pools, and keep our eyes peeled for the diverse wildlife for which the Smokies are famous.

Along the trail our experienced naturalist guides offer instruction for those looking to hone their skills in survival techniques, backpacking basics, and native flora and fauna identification. In the evenings we relax at backcountry campsites and reconnect with Mother Nature through games designed to foster a lifelong love and appreciation for the natural world.

Spend the weekend with us and create memories your family will treasure for a lifetime!

REI Flash 18 Pack

Kids get an REI day pack — Kids traveling on our Family Adventures will receive an REI day pack for their adventure! Kids age 8-17 will receive the REI Flash 18 Pack (while quantities last, colors may vary).

Not traveling with kids under 18? Check out our Great Smoky Mountains Backpack - Appalachian Trail trip.

Learn more about REI Family Adventures and helpful hints for backpacking with kids.

Itinerary Summary

  • Day 1 - Your adventure begins in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
  • Day 2 - Our journey continues as we discover this area's flora and fauna.
  • Day 3 - Soak in some more fun time along the trail before our adventure ends.

See full itinerary

Trip Itinerary and Details

Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.

  • Day 1 - Your adventure begins in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

    Your trip begins today in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We´ll meet as a group at a time and place to be determined and announced by REI Adventures around 3 weeks prior to departure. Today we take a gentle hike alongside a beautiful stream, allowing plenty of time to stop and play in the water, swim and look for salamanders. We'll take our time hiking to this evening's campsite, playing games, exploring the woods, looking for animal tracks and experiencing the peace and quiet of these beautiful woods. We set up camp at our beautiful stream-side site surrounded by Hemlock and Buckeye Trees, learn how to make a small campfire, enjoy a great backcountry dinner, and share stories, before resting for the second leg of our journey tomorrow. Meals Provided: Dinner.

    Hiking Distance: 3-5.2 miles; Elevation Gain: up to 1,500 ft.

    Note on Meals: Bring your own variety of quick foods to be eaten as lunch and grazed on constantly throughout the day each day. Energy bars and drinks as well as trail mix, bagels, salami, etc. are all good choices.

  • Day 2 - Our journey continues as we discover this area's flora and fauna.

    We start the day with a hearty breakfast before breaking camp and continuing on our journey. Today will be a little more of an adventure, possibly hiking up to the high country of the Smokies to enjoy a sea of mountains, or fording a small stream as we get deeper into the woods. We'll have plenty of time to stop and play, getting our hands dirty as we explore the amazing diversity around us. Now that we have experienced the quiet of the forest, our heightened senses will help us find camouflaged animals! Can we see a deer hiding behind a boulder? Is that a bear cub high up in a tree across that creek? What kind of bird sounds like a monkey? We make our way to our next campsite for a delicious dinner and relaxing evening under the stars. After dinner, we may even take a night hike, hoot with the owls or surround ourselves with the thousands of blue ghost fireflys, found only in the Smokies! Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner.

    Hiking Distance: 4-6 miles; Elevation Gain: up to 2,300 ft.

  • Day 3 - Soak in some more fun time along the trail before our adventure ends.

    Our final morning in the Smoky Mountains begins with a healthy breakfast before heading to our cars. Today´s hike may take us down the mountain past small caves and boulder fields. In the summer we might find several berry patches to snack on, enjoy old growth forest of Spruce and Hemlock trees breathing in the scents of Christmas all year long on this stretch of the trail. As we hike, we'll do a scavenger hunt, taste wild foods and relax by a cool mountain stream. We will say our goodbyes and part ways around 3:00pm. Meals Included: Breakfast.

    Hiking Distance: 4-7 miles; Elevation change up to 1,500 ft.

Note on Itinerary

Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, the itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather and terrain conditions. This trip is operated rain or shine.

Important Information about Air Travel

Contact REI Adventures prior to purchasing your airline tickets to confirm the trip has the minimum number of participants required to operate.

Price Includes

Two nights tent camping at a backcountry campsite; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; professional instruction and guiding; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter

Not Included

Transportation from your hometown to group meeting point; park entrance fees where required, insurance of any kind; lunches and snack items (see itinerary for detailed guidance); alcoholic beverages; soft drinks; guide gratuities and items of a personal nature.


This trip is rated Moderate [3] as we plan to hike for 5 -7 hours each day. Adult participants will be carrying their own backpacks weighing 30-35 pounds distances of 4-6 miles daily over varied terrain. To maximize your enjoyment of the trip, we strongly encourage participants to be involved in a training regimen before the trip. Most important to your enjoyment of the trip is your overall fitness level.


Daytime temperatures usually range between 50 – 75 degrees F, with evening temperatures dropping into the 20s - 50s. You may encounter freezing temperatures at some of the higher elevations. Afternoon thunderstorms are a distinct possibility so adequate raingear is important.

Closet Airport(s)

McGhee-Tyson Airport, Knoxville, TN - 65 miles, 1 hour

Asheville Airport, Asheville, NC - 80 miles, 1.5 hours

Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, NC - 180 miles, 3 hours


There is no reliable transfer service from any airport to our meeting place. Anticipate renting a car if flying in for this weekend getaway.

Single Travelers

If you are traveling alone we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. A limited number of single accommodations are available, and are assigned only as necessary.

General Information

This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Weekend Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and detailed pre-trip information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).

We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.

Great Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

Gear Checklist

Provided Gear
  • Tents - 3 season, 4 person (weight shared among group members)
  • Camp Cooking gear
  • Eating utensils, plates, cups
  • Water filter
  • Trip leader first aid kit
Backpacking Gear
  • Backpack : Adults - large internal frame or external frame adults 4000 – 6000 cu"
  • Backpack: Kids - 2000 - 3000 cu" (can be internal/external frame backpack or a large daypack )
  • Pack cover – waterproof
  • Sleeping bag (rated at 20-25 degrees F)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag liner (optional, but comfortable and versatile)
  • Rain jacket and pants, lightweight waterproof and breathable
  • Midweight fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • Mid- or lightweight thermal top and bottom made of synthetic or wool
  • Hiking pants, quick-drying, lightweight (zip-off legs are great) no jeans!
  • Hiking shorts, quick-drying, lightweight
  • 1-2 T-shirts, synthetic
  • 2 changes of underwear
  • Hiking socks, 2 pairs of wool or synthetic
  • Sock liners, 2 pairs of synthetic liners (optional)
Clothing Accessories
  • Sun hat with brim
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Bandana
  • Lightweight wool or fleece gloves
  • Hiking boots: sturdy, stiff-soled, well broken-in
Travel Accessories
  • Lunch items for each day (easily packable, non-perishable items, such as trail mix and energy bars as well as real foods like bagels and cheese, jerky, etc.)
  • Three 1-quart water bottles or hydration system equivalent
  • Plastic bowl, spoon, travel mug with lid
  • Headlamp with spare batteries
  • Sunglasses and retainer strap
  • Sunblock and lip balm
  • Insect repellant (small)
  • Favorite energy snacks and drinks
  • Bic lighter
  • Travel size wet-wipes
  • Toiletry kit: toothbrush & trial-sized paste, pack towel; biodegradable soap for river bathing
  • TP system: toilet paper (not a full roll) & 1 Ziploc quart baggie & 1 Ziploc gallon baggie and orange plastic trowel
  • 1 large plastic garbage can bag
  • Personal first aid kit, small and light with personal medication
Optional Field Gear
  • Trekking poles (highly recommended)
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Ear plugs
  • Camera & accessories

Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.


by PowerReviews
REI AdventuresGreat Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure

(based on 3 reviews)


of respondents would recommend this to a friend.


  • Group camaraderie (3)
  • Guides (3)


    Best Uses

        • Reviewer Profile:
        • Casual adventurer (3)

      Reviewed by 3 customers

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      (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)


      Satisfying adventure despite obstacle

      By gladlycurious

      from Charlotte, NC

      About Me Casual Adventurer, Novice Hikerbackpacker


      • Food
      • Group Camaraderie
      • Guides
      • Once in a Lifetime Experience
      • Quality Equipment Provided


        Best Uses

          Comments about REI Adventures Great Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure:

          It seemed unfortunate to us that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was shut down at the time of our trip. Plan B was hiking a nearby stretch of the Appalachian Trail. It seems that it was much more strenuous than the original hike. However, our guides handled this cheerfully and with respect for our newness to the type of situation. It did give a greater sense of satisfaction in the end but a bit of stress along the way. There was a sense of fun in knowing we did hike on the AT . . however tiny a portion.
          The guides were very knowledgeable and generous to share information on the wildlife of the park. They were kind to think of our needs without patronizing or doing too much for us. It was a perfect mix in that regard.
          Our lead guide communicated with an owl at camp fire time one evening. So fun. And our other guide's warm welcome and genuineness was probably the greatest factor in our overall enjoyment besides the adventure itself and the beauty of the outdoors.

          • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
          • To Learn Backpacking Well, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
          • Why did you choose this trip?:
          • The family orientation of the trip made it right for our needs. The location was doable.
          • What was the highlight of your trip?:
          • Reaching the end of the hike to find incredible vistas, perfect weather, and a sense of celebration with our guide who was incredibly helpful and patient.
          • What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
          • Get good (light) gear. Go with a sense of openness. Practice carrying the weighted pack if you've not backpacked before. Have your child(ren) participate in planning (i. e. researching and purchasing gear, travel plans). Seek to enjoy your fellow travelers and guides.

          (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)


          Great trip!!!

          By uga1991

          from Simpsonville, SC

          About Me Casual Adventurer

          Site Member


          • Activity Level
          • Group Camaraderie
          • Guides
          • Well Organized Itinerary


          • None

          Best Uses

            Comments about REI Adventures Great Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure:

            Would do this trip again. Got to see a bear on the last day. Learn a lot from the guides. Thanks for the great experience made possible by the friendly and knowledgable guides Jamie and Charles.

            • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
            • Active Adventures, All the Details Planned for Me, Destination, I Liked the Itinerary, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
            • Why did you choose this trip?:
            • Wanted to go on a family backpacking adventure with my 9 year old to the Smoky Mountains.
            • What was the highlight of your trip?:
            • Watching the hundreds of fireflies synchronize at night. Playing in the streams next to camp. Meeting another family with similar interests. Enjoying my son having a great time that he still talks about. Playing games with the best guides - Jamie and Charles
            • What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
            • I was only traveling with my son who was 9 years old. We happened to be grouped with another family with a 10 year old boy which could not have been better. Made lasting friendship. Therefore, if possible (but not necessary) travel with family of similar age group.

            (10 of 10 customers found this review helpful)


            I'll never forget this trip!

            By Wabisabi2

            from Northbrook, Illinois

            About Me Avid Adventurer, Casual Adventurer


            • Accommodations
            • Activity Level
            • Exceeded Expectations
            • Food
            • Group Camaraderie
            • Guides
            • Never boring
            • Once in a Lifetime Experience
            • Quality Equipment Provided
            • Well Organized Itinerary


              Best Uses

                Comments about REI Adventures Great Smoky Mountains Family Backpacking Adventure:

                I highly recommend this trip to both unsure and confident explorers. It is a type of vacation that you cannot experience anywhere else.

                • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
                • Active Adventures
                • Why did you choose this trip?:
                • We thought it would be a fun and exotic journey into the majestic wilderness of the Great Smokey Mountains. The trip completely fulfilled and even exceeded our expectations.
                • What was the highlight of your trip?:
                • I would have to say the synchronized fireflies were one of the most amazing sights of the trip. The way that hundreds upon thousands of flying insects could possibly shine together all at the very same time left me breathless. I could not believe my eyes. The fireflies flickered the entire forest on and off right before me.
                • What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
                • Try not to be too inward. Look to be outgoing and adventurous to have the best experience possible. Definitely don't be afraid to try new things!

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