With 800+ miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s no wonder that hiking is such a popular activity. Seasoned hikers will find challenges on the more difficult trails, with Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain, Mt. LeConte (by way of Alum Caves), Rich Mountain Loop, Mount Cammerer, and Chimney Tops rounding out some of the most strenuous. First-timers, casual hikers, and kiddos will do best on the easy and moderate hikes, but there are plenty of those to pick from.
When we say hiking, there are generally 2 distinct reactions. Pure excitement from the adventure-seeking set and dread from everyone else. But hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains isn’t just for people ready to commit an entire day (or 2 or 3). There are so many great trails ranging in difficulty that even those who just want a leisurely walk to a waterfall will be pleased. Some are even flat and smooth enough for strollers!
So before you hit the trails (and you should try at least 1!), make sure you’re prepared. This summer, stay safe on the trails with our tips for summer hiking safety. And then check out our cabins so you have a comfortable place to stay when you’re ready to unlace those boots and relax.
Whether you’re on the trails or checking out the attractions downtown, stay safe this summer by staying hydrated. Always have a bottle of water on hand, and if you’ll be out for longer, take a way to purify water in case you run out.
Check the weather ahead of time.
Don’t head out on a trail without knowing what to expect as far as the weather goes. Take a rain jacket if there’s a chance of a shower, and take a light jacket if there’s a chance the weather will fluctuate a good bit while you’re out.
In the words of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a man the Guinness Book of World Records named the world’s greatest living explorer: “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Follow the rule above and dress accordingly. If you’re not sure, dress in light layers that you can easily change. Dressing appropriately also means wearing appropriate shoes. Skip the flip flops and go for sneakers or hiking boots. You’ll forego stubbing your toes on rocks, getting too tripped up, or slipping near waterfalls.
Carry a first-aid kit. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for anything, and you can easily throw a small first-aid kit into a backpack on your hike this summer.
Always hike with a buddy.
Hiking with at least 1 other person is much safer than going it alone. If you get injured, you’ll have someone there to help (or go for help). If you’re a seasoned hiker and you are going out by yourself, be sure you let someone know where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and when you plan to be back.
This is a top summer tip, whether you’re hiking or not. Summer days walking along the Parkway can get especially hot as well, so be sure you’re protecting yourself. When you’re hiking, take along a travel sunscreen so you can reapply without carrying a lot of extra weight in a pack. And don’t forget a hat and sunglasses!
Stay on the trails.
For your safety and the preservation of our natural lands, always stay on the trails. Veering off the trails can damage plant life, cause erosion, and place you in a higher danger of coming in contact with wildlife (you don’t want to meet a black bear up close).
Practice “leave no trace.”
As always, follow the “leave no trace” philosophy. It is simple. Don’t leave any trash and don’t take any piece of nature. It is summed up in the quote “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
Leave the pets at the cabin.
If you’re staying in one of our pet-friendly cabins with your 4-legged friend, know that dogs are not allowed on trails in the national park. There are some areas that allow dogs, but they must be leashed. Check ahead of time and be prepared to make a cozy spot for your pet to relax while you’re away!
GEAR UP FOR A SUMMER HIKE
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge shopping has something for everyone, but the two towns are a hikers’ paradise. Find all the gear you need at great area shops, including:
- The Day Hiker (The Village Shops)
- GSM Outfitters
- NOC’s Great Outpost