Smoky Mountains Backpacking – Blue Ridge Parkway

Trip Length4 Days
Group Size4-10
Activity level
Starting from
$1,249 for REI Members
$1,339 for non-members
DeparturesOct 2023-Oct 2024

Journey beyond the national park and backpack the Appalachian Mountains in this unique, 4-day hike among diverse landscapes.

Blue Ridge may be known as America’s favorite drive, but it’s a spectacularly scenic place for hiking, too. World-class trails await as we embark on a trip built for backpacking enthusiasts of all experience levels. This trip is a perfect escape to some of the south’s most beautiful landscapes—including cascading waterfalls and epic views.

Backpack Graveyard Fields Trail, visiting waterfalls and a bog along the way. Hike up Black Balsam Knob to enjoy the sweeping, treeless mountaintop views. Greet each sunrise with a fresh cup of steaming coffee and the songs of the birds as a soundtrack. Along the way, local guides share insights about how human influence and natural forces combined to create this unique landscape.

This adventure takes us beyond the borders of the park onto trails that truly showcase the stunning beauty of Blue Ridge. With plenty of opportunities to witness the grandeur of nature, hone backpacking skills and unplug from the trappings of everyday life, this trip won’t soon be forgotten.

Our four-day journey through the Blue Ridge Mountains offers expansive views of Appalachian peaks.

Trip Highlights

  • Experience an epic adventure in beautiful North Carolina
  • Hike among cascading waterfalls and camp at picturesque sites
  • Take in 360-degree views from Appalachian Mountain summits
  • Hone backpacking skills with professional local guides


This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3-4]. We plan to hike for 6-8 hours per day most days on steep, rocky, sometimes exposed terrain, covering distances of 4-8 miles daily with elevation gain and/or loss up to 1750’. Participants will be carrying their own backpacks weighing 35-40 pounds.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip we suggest that you engage in a regular exercise regimen beginning at least three months prior to your departure. Most important to your enjoyment of the trip is your overall fitness level.

  • Backpacking

What's Included

Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted on the daily itinerary; tents; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter; campsite and permit fees; transportation as noted in the daily itinerary.


Backpacking tents: 3 nights.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Smoky Mountains Backpacking – Blue Ridge Parkway
Day 1

Begin our adventure on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

We meet our guides and fellow travelers this morning at the REI Asheville store. After an orientation and gear check, we take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the trailhead to begin our adventure. Our backpacking trip begins on the famous Mountains-to-Sea Trail. After setting up camp, we grab our daypacks and hike to Second Falls and Graveyard Fields with a glimpse of Upper Yellowstone Falls. Our night will be spent camping on the rocky banks of the Yellowstone Prong along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Backpacking 1.8 miles; 660' elevation gain, 230' elevation loss; Hiking 1.5 - 3.5 miles; cumulative elevation gain/loss; 140' - 360'

Day 2

Hike up Black Balsam Knob for epic vista views

We wake to the sound of birds and the smell of fresh coffee. After breakfast at camp, we load our packs and head out on the Graveyard Ridge Trail. Although the trail is rocky and rugged, views into the Shining Rock Wilderness and the river valley below make the effort worth it. We continue on our quest for spectacular views through the day, finally reaching the highest point at Black Balsam Knob. As we make our way to our home away from home, we hike along a former railroad bed on the Sam's Knob Trail while passing picturesque meadows and meandering creeks.

Backpacking 7.6 miles; 1200’ elevation gain, 600’ loss

Day 3

Backpack Pisgah Ledge and Art Loeb Trail

After breakfast at camp, we load our packs and continue along our route. Appalachian peaks appear as rolling waves while tendrils of wispy clouds float skyward, resembling the warm campfires of yesteryear. Diverse terrain and spectacular viewpoints are a source of inspiration for visitors. It's not uncommon for visitors to start planning a through hike along the 1175-mile trail after visiting. Eventually we return to the Art Loeb Trail along Shuck Ridge where we navigate a rocky and steep descent before crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our camp this evening is Deep Gap Shelter where we spend our final night.

Backpacking 5.1 miles; 1725’ elevation loss, 977’ elevation gain

Day 4

Summit Pilot Mountain and return to Asheville, North Carolina

Following breakfast we begin our climb up the narrow and beautiful summit of Pilot Mountain. If weather is on our side, we're rewarded with panoramic views into Tennessee and South Carolina. Our day concludes with a trek down Gloucester Gap, where we'll take our time navigating through the steep and rugged terrain. Back at the trailhead, our shuttle awaits and we make our way back to Asheville. We anticipate arriving back in Asheville late this afternoon. Please note that this time may vary depending on trail conditions; weather; group pace; traffic; and other factors beyond our control.

Backpacking 3 miles; 800’ elevation gain, 1200’ elevation loss

Itinerary map for Smoky Mountains Backpacking – Blue Ridge Parkway

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.

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

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Bear Canister
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Large Plastic Garbage Bag
  • Stoves and Fuel
  • Tent(s)
  • Trekking Poles
  • Water Filter

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.