Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking – Appalachian Trail & Beyond

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4-6
Activity level
Starting from
$949 for REI Members
$1,028 for non-members
Departures Sep 2020-Oct 2021

The Great Smoky Mountains rise up from the surrounding scenery, offering up a taste of the Appalachian trail on this 4-day backpacking trip.

The famed Appalachian Trail provides a rejuvenating path for adventurers each year. We hike only a short section of this classic route, but the journey is challenging for experienced backpackers and fit beginners alike. Along the way, expert guides share their deep knowledge, backpacking techniques and naturalist expertise. The Appalachian Trail provides us with a great opportunity to experience life as a thru-hiker.

Each morning, awaken to the symphony of the forest, a wonderful benefit to life on the trail. We'll trek past expansive mountain views, traverseing narrow ridgelines and walking amongst some of the East Coast's most ancient trees.​ Our trip culminates with gratitude, spending the last few hours among new friends. Those who choose this adventure know why it is among America's most iconic national parks and a choice journey among backpackers the world over.

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Trip Highlights

  • Backpack a stretch of the famed Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains
  • Savor panoramic views, and walk among ancient trees
  • Hike 3.5–13 miles per day over high ridgelines, rocky outcroppings, and open forest
  • Follow expert guides who bring this majestic and historic terrain to life

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3-4]. We plan to hike for 6-10 hours per day most days on steep, rocky, sometimes exposed terrain, gaining and/or losing up to just over 3,000 feet in elevation some days. We will carry packs weighing 30-35 lbs while we hike as well.

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

Transfer from Day 1 meeting location to trailhead; all accommodations; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; professional instruction and guiding; group cooking gear; group first aid kit, water filter.

Accommodations

April-May: Tents. June-November: Combination of tents and primitive shelters.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Welcome to Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Our trip begins at 9am today in beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After introductions to our fellow travelers and guides and an informational orientation to the weekend's adventure we'll transfer to the trail head and begin our exploration of this spectacular national treasure.

Mileage: varies between 3 – 5.5 miles depending on specific route with +/- 1,500-3,000' elevation change.

Day 2

Today we backpack the most remote and diverse sections of trail in the Smokies.

Awaken to the symphony of the forest as we ease into our first day of life on the trail. Depending on our route we may find ourselves traversing the slopes of ancient Mount Guyot, the second highest peak in the Smokies, soaking in the spectacular views at Charlie's Bunion or working on our naturalist skills along some of the most remote trails in the eastern United States.

Mileage: varies between 6.5 – 13 miles depending on specific route with +/- 1,500-3,000' elevation change..

Day 3

The Appalachian Trail awaits and provides us the opportunity to experience life as a thru-hiker.

We'll start this morning with a wholesome breakfast and fresh brewed coffee prepared by our amazing guides. Get ready for another day spent in awe as we hike among old growth Boreal forests and continue our journey along sections of the iconic Appalachian Trail. We'll get a feel for the thru-hiker experience and depending on our route may even have a chance to experience the most challenging sections of the AT in Great Smoky Mountains National Park today.

Mileage: varies between 6 – 13 miles depending on specific route with +/- 1,500-3,000' elevation change..

Day 4

Cherish the last few hours spent among new friends along secluded trails in America's most visited national park.

Today's journey is bittersweet as we continue to soak in breathtaking views and panoramas along our last miles back to the trailhead. Regardless of our route, we'll cherish these last few hours spent in the remote corners of the United States' most visited national park with passionate guides and like-minded new friends.

Mileage: varies between 3-11 miles depending on specific route with +/- 1,500-3,000' elevation change.

Note: Depending on the route you will be following, traffic in the area, trail conditions and other factors beyond our control, your group will likely arrive back in Gatlinburg in the early evening. We'd highly recommend delaying any travel plans until the morning after your trip concludes.

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.

What to pack

Contact Us

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 REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.