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Great Smoky Mountains Hiking – Luxury Camp & Lodge Based

Trip Length5 Days
Group Size4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$3,349 for REI Members
$3,699 for non-members
DeparturesSep 2023-Nov 2024

Spend five days hiking in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while sleeping in comfort at a safari-inspired camp and cozy lodge.

This hiking adventure reveals the immense beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, filled with waterfalls, mountain meadows, lush forest and iconic Appalachian Mountain views. We climb to a high elevation mountain meadow, visit a 19th century cabin, hike on the famous Appalachian Trail to a fire tower and experience the peacefulness of quiet woodlands.

You may even catch a glimpse of black bears foraging, salamanders plodding along in the undergrowth and hear the call of wild turkeys. Spend each evening in comfortable accommodations in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. After a strenuous day on the trail, nothing is better than a delicious meal and a cozy bed!

We spend two nights at a luxury camp set upon 182-acres of lush, wooded terrain, just minutes from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike through an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site
  • Experience a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail
  • See cascades, waterfalls and the highest bald in the Smokies
  • Stay in comfy canvas cabins and a historic lodge
  • Enjoy some of the best vistas in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members should be capable of hiking 5–8 hours each day (up to 8.5 miles) with as much as 1,800' elevation gain and loss.

  • Hiking

What's Included

Any park or other admission fees or permits, Guides; Round trip transportation from Knoxville, TN to all destinations visited during the trip; all meals and snacks from lunch on day 1 through lunch on day 5.


Canvas cabin tents, 2 nights; historic lodge, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Great Smoky Mountains Hiking – Luxury Camp & Lodge Based
Day 1

Welcome to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Our adventure begins this morning in Knoxville, Tennessee, where we will meet our guides and fellow travelers. After a brief orientation, we transfer to the trailhead to begin our exploration of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We head out on a historic, quiet path called the Middle Prong Trail, which parallels a gorgeous mountain stream with several cascades and waterfalls. We learn about the important logging history of the area before it became a National Park and explore remains of homesteads of both the loggers and the farmers who called this valley home. Later, we check into our safari-inspired canvas cabin tents, complete with hotel-quality beds and private bathrooms, then enjoy our first dinner together. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 4.6 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +/- 700’; Transfers: 2 hours

Day 2

Hike above Cade Coves for an unparalleled view

After a peaceful night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we set out for another full day of outdoor adventure. Our hike along the Rich Mountain Loop trail, Indian Grave Gap trail and Crooked Arm Branch trail reveals the wonderful tranquility of this rich mountain valley. We make a stop at the historic John Oliver Cabin, built in the early 19th century, before continuing our hike with sweeping mountain views and several creek crossings. We avoid the crowds and get a look into Cades Cove that can't be found anywhere else. The expanse of fields and meadows gives us a better chance for viewing wildlife, possibly a black bear or white-tailed deer. Our day finishes at our comfortable camp with time around the campfire. All meals included.

Hiking: 8.5 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +/- 1,600’; Transfers: 2 hours

Day 3

Hike to the highest elevation mountain meadow in the park

Our hike today is to Andrews Bald, the highest grassy bald in the Smoky Mountains, which offers incredible views of the surrounding sea of mountains. Andrews Bald is a double peak situated along Forney Ridge, just south of Clingmans Dome. Our hiking trail to the bald is lush and green as we walk through the temperate rain forest. Enjoy the beautiful flame azaleas and rhododendron blooms in late spring and early summer, and an artist’s palette of colors in the fall. Later, we have a short van ride to our lodge for the next two nights, nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Enjoy the beautiful property and some downtime before convening for a hearty dinner. All meals included.

Hiking: 5.1 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +/- 1,300’; Transfers: 2 hours

Day 4

Appalachian Trail hike to Shuckstack Fire Tower

Our hike today is on the renowned Appalachian Trail. We start at Fontana Dam, the southernmost point of the AT in the Smokies. The trail starts ascending immediately, so we pace ourselves accordingly over 3.5 miles of steady climbing to a fire tower. The 360-degree views are breathtaking from the 80-foot-high tower overlooking Fontana Lake. From this vantage point you can catch views of the Smokies as well as Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests with Cheoah Bald on the horizon. Shuckstack fire tower was built in the early 30s and is one of two remaining towers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tonight, we celebrate our last evening together at a restaurant overlooking the Nantahala River. All meals included.

Hiking: 7.2 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +/- 1,800’; Transfers: 1 hour

Day 5

Anakeesta Ridge to Charlies Bunion

Travel a segment of one of the most famous trails in the world to one of the park’s most unique geological formations, Anakeesta Ridge. Walk between the trees, through a thick forest of ancient, scented spruce and fir, past incredible vistas. Our guides share their knowledge about this boreal forest and the unique plants and animals that call it home. We visit an Appalachian Trail shelter and pause along the trail to savor the panoramic views of the majestic mountains this park protects. We make a stop along the Appalachian Trail at Charlies Bunion, a beautiful rock outcropping providing expansive views. After rounding out our exploration of the Great Smoky Mountains we make our way back to Knoxville. We expect to arrive back in Knoxville late this afternoon. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking: 8 miles: Elevation gain/loss: +/ 1,700’; Transfers: 2.5 hours

Itinerary map for Great Smoky Mountains Hiking – Luxury Camp & Lodge Based

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

Provided by REI

  • Group First Aid Kit

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.