Heart thumping, adrenaline pumping as you take in another deep breath of the crisp, fresh mountain air before coming to the opening in the woods. There, beyond the edge of what is your glorious destination, is miles and miles of soul-stirring, hard-earned mountain skyline and beautiful, slow-moving clouds casting dark green shadows over the expansive forestry. Every step more than worth it. There is nothing like the rewarding views of a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Don’t let anything ruin the beauty of your hike! Take all the right precautions before, during, and after your therapeutic exercise along the majestic Smoky Mountain trails found throughout the area. Here at Cabins for YOU, our priority is the most memorable Smoky Mountain getaway for every visitor to the region. So, we compiled this great list of hiking safety tips for you to use as you plan your Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg vacation! Get out and explore Mother Nature and be healthy, rejuvenated, and inspired!
Pick the Right Trail for YOU
The Smoky Mountain region is full of hundreds of hiking trails, which means there are plenty of options for every level of outdoor enthusiast! The allure of defeating the higher altitudes and longer distances may seem like an exciting adventure or a tempting bragging right, but your knees, feet, and back may not appreciate it so much. Have the most enjoyable hike by knowing your limits.
If you are opting to take on the moderate to strenuous trails, know your physical state and be sure to prepare with plenty of stretching and warm-up walks beforehand. Your voyage will be very satisfying when you prepare well and you are able to make it to those breathtaking peaks and overlooks. The easier trails do not necessarily mean sacrificing some incredible views of thick, beautiful forestry, or gorgeous rivers and waterfalls! Here are a few easier trails that continue to be some of the favorites of the Smoky Mountains:
- Andrews Bald
- Laurel Falls
- Porters Creek
Click here for details on these trails and other sublime nature trails!
Dress for the Hike
Once you have figured out what trail you and your party are engaging in, plan your outfit for the most comfortable hike. For shorter trails, most active shoes will work as long as they have ample foot and sole support. Support is important because most of these trails will be riddled with tree roots, uneven forest floors, and rocks – and you won’t want to feel every bit of these under your feet as you make your way along the trail. For longer hikes, consider investing in quality hiking shoes, if you don’t already own a pair.
Hats or scarves are not something you should skip out on, no matter how much hair you may (or may not) have. Little bugs love hiding in the field that is your ‘do, and most importantly, head coverage keeps hard-to-notice ticks out and keeps you warm on colder hikes.
While shorts may be your first choice during the warmer months, you can avoid scrapes from brush leaning into the trails and annoying insects when you wear light pants. When it’s hot outside, wear light leggings, or mid-length socks with your knee-length shorts. Coverage is key, here.
Water, water, and more water
This safety precaution must be included in every step of your hike, before, during, and after! You may not feel dehydrated when you begin your hike, but once it sets in, it’s too late and your body will begin to stress as a natural survival reaction to your lack of water. Drink plenty of water the day before and the morning of to ensure your healthiest hike! Bring water on the trail in easy-to-carry bottles or hydration packs that are super convenient to keep in your backpack. Staying hydrated means you can push yourself a little farther up those mountainsides for the best views!
The same way water is an important part of planning and execution, so is what you eat. You will want to eat a balanced meal before heading out on the trail! Fruit, veggies, and pastas are great sources of energy your body can pull from when you are scaling those steeper hills or navigating those rougher hikes. Eat with plenty of time for your body to digest so you don’t feel fatigued as you begin walking through the woods, and pack light snacks such as nutrition bars or zip-locked fruits and veggies to keep your body in top performance. And remember to take out any trash you take in!
Get Well Rested
While making the drive into the Smokies and heading straight to a trail is totally okay, if you are planning to explore the woods and scenery for an extended time, you will definitely want to better prepare your body with a restful night’s sleep and a short drive to the trailhead. Cabins for YOU offers numerous Pigeon Forge cabins and Gatlinburg cabins situated among the trees or near downtown. Whether you are planning a group hike with a bachelor party or a romantic hike with your special someone, Cabins for YOU has the perfect cabin to wake up, eat a hearty breakfast in the kitchens that are fully stocked with tools and appliances, and relax in hot tubs to soothe your muscles afterwards.
Get Familiar with Your Trail
Plan your travel to the trailhead to cut out stress before hitting the trail! Also, most hiking trails are distinguished by specific colors used as trail markers along the blazed paths. Get familiar with forks and intersecting trails to skip the hassle of getting lost or trying to figure it out after the decision has already been made! Knowing your trail helps with every other step in the planning process: dress, amount of food and water packed, and time allotted to complete the adventure.
Know Your Environment
The Smoky Mountains is a beautiful, untouched natural environment, which means there are some natural dangers such as narrow paths, steep climbs, and, most importantly, wildlife. It is truly an exciting experience to witness serene scenes of deer and elk grazing in the valleys or black bears picking through the bark on trees for their next snack, but interaction is never a good thing. You are a guest in these animals’ homes; treat them with respect by leaving them be. Pictures are great keepsakes, but they are never worth endangering you or the animals, so keep everyone safe by keeping your distance!
Watch the Weather
The Smoky Mountains experience the full range of temperatures present in each season, so keep up with the daily weather reports! In the springtime, rainfall is heavier as the heart-stirring wildflowers bloom and nature comes back to life. Be sure to pack light rain jackets if you are planning a hike from March to May. The winters can get harsh, even in the South. Layer up to fully enjoy those scenic mountain ice caps without freezing fingers and toes! Keeping your eye on the weather reports is an easy way to get the most out of your hiking experience.
Gear Up, but Keep It Simple
Whether you are planning an easy, moderate, or difficult hike, just remember that you are going to be carrying your gear for miles of distance. When packing flashlights, hammocks, and water bottles, make them the most travel-friendly according to the voyage you are taking on. Hiking poles are a great addition to those steeper and higher elevation trails but may be more cumbersome on paved or flat paths, if you have no mobility issues. Here are a few items you will want on every adventure:
- First-aid kit
- Maps of your trail and the surrounding area
It’s Not a Race
Go at your own pace! Now that you have already gotten to know your trail and allotted the day for hiking, enjoy it to the fullest! Take plenty of rest breaks; stop and snap pictures of the gorgeous rivers, falls, and rock formations; and let your mind be soothed and rejuvenated by the sheer beauty of Mother Nature. Keeping a good pace means you won’t over-extend your body and can simply enjoy your time outside in the Smokies.
Make It a Shared Experience
Don’t hike alone! As much as sharing pictures can be nice, the experience is truly one of a kind. Plus, that ensures that if anyone takes a fall, there is someone else there to help you up and assist you with the first-aid kit. Let others know where you are going before you head on your adventure, too, because much of hiking and exploring the outdoors involves checkpoints and accountability. If anything should happen, someone will know exactly where you are and when you should be in certain locations.
Leave No Trace
Look, don’t touch! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was deemed a Federal land to protect this portion of the Appalachians from deforestation and logging industries. Honor nature by leaving her be! Want to go the extra mile? Take a small plastic shopping bag and pick up any trash you see along your walk to keep small critters (and bigger critters) from sniffing closer to the trails or injuring themselves. In the spirit of the great outdoors, leave it better than you found it; that way, every visitor can enjoy the pristine majesty of the Smoky Mountains.