Happy 100th to the National Park Service!

Celebrating national parks with the Hike 100 Challenge

This year marks an important anniversary for the National Park Service—100 years! According to the National Park Service website, on August 25, 2016, the National Park Service Centennial will celebrate a full century of maintaining America’s national parks for community recreation, conservation, and historic preservation.

When you visit Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, you’ll have one of those national parks right in your backyard. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. with more than 9 million visitors each year. This park features exciting activities for all its guests to enjoy throughout the year, including picnicking, biking, swimming, fishing, birdwatching, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.

But one of the most popular activities in the park continues to be hiking. With more than 800 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll have the chance to explore scenic vistas, waterfalls, and historic sites—just to name a few. And in 2016, you’ll have the unique opportunity to join other hikers for the Hike 100 event in honor of the National Park Service Centennial!

Hike 100 is a challenge extended by the Park Superintendent to hike 100 miles of park trails by the end of the year, and to help you meet the challenge, the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA)—a non-profit organization that supports preservation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—is sponsoring 10 organized hikes for its members in 2016.

Becoming a GSMA member is easy. Simply visit the Membership page on their website and sign up. By doing so, you’ll be supporting a great cause—the preservation of the Smoky Mountains—and opening yourself up to exciting new opportunities in the Smokies, including a chance at the Smoky Mountain prize package that’s being offered only in 2016. (You have to upgrade to the Chestnut Level or higher to qualify for this prize.)

Once you become a GSMA member, you’re ready to sign up for one, two, or all of the remaining Hike 100 hikes throughout the rest of 2016. Some information about these organized hikes that you should know about include the following:

  • They are offered on a “first-come, first-served” basis and are limited to 20 members each, so you should sign up for them as soon as possible.
  • They cost $10 each for GSMA members; Hemlock members can hike for free.
  • They require a completed GSMA waiver, and you must bring/wear appropriate gear for the hikes (including water, food, clothing layers, and hiking boots).

You can read more about the upcoming hikes and register for them online by clicking here. Here’s a quick glance at the GSMA Hike 100 opportunities coming up in August, September, and October.

August’s Hike—Big Creek to intersection with Swallow Fork (10.2 miles); scheduled for Saturday, August 20, 2016; start time is 8 a.m.

September Hike—Noland Divide to Lonesome Pine and back (7 miles); scheduled for Saturday, September 17, 2016; start time is 8 a.m.

October’s Hike—Chestnut Top to Schoolhouse Gap to Laurel Creek and back (9 miles); scheduled for Saturday, October 22, 2016; start time is 8 a.m.

All of these hikes will have a trail leader, making the GSMA Hike 100 event a great opportunity for you to learn more about the Smokies and navigate new trails. However, keep in mind that these trails are rated moderate to strenuous. Know your limits, and try a few shorter trails through the Smokies first—especially if you’re new to hiking or haven’t been hiking in a while.

For those who do complete the Hike 100 challenge—meaning you’ll have hiked a total of 100 miles or more by the end of 2016!—you’ll receive a Smokies Challenge Hike 100 pin that you can cherish for a lifetime. But remember that hiking with the GSMA is not only the way to achieve this goal. You can also check out a 100-mile hiking plan on the National Park Service’s website and try it on your own.

This is a great challenge for couples or groups of friends to try together. Or you could make this a father-son challenge and plan to visit the Smokies once a month until you complete your Hike 100 goal. If you started out this year with a fitness goal in mind (like losing weight or spending more time in the great outdoors), the Hike 100 challenge is a great way to stay motivated and meet your goals!
Whether you’re doing this for fun, for personal growth, or to bond with a loved one, don’t miss your chance to Hike 100 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year! For cabins located close to the park, call our reservation specialists. We can find you a 1-bedroom cabin if you’re bringing a small group or a multiple-bedroom cabin if you’re bringing the whole family. Call 1-800-684-7865 for more information.

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