he hiker should be
prepared for a wide range of temperatures and conditions. The temperature
on some hikes can be 10 degrees
cooler than when you left the lower elevation. Combine this with the
fact that the Smokies are also the wettest place in the South, and
you have the possibility for great discomfort in the event of a sudden
storm. The higher elevations in the park can receive upwards of 90
inches of precipitation a year.
Don't judge the complete
day by the morning sky. In summer the days usually start out clear,
but as the day heats up, clouds can build up, resulting in a heavy
shower. Winter is a great time to be in the Smokies, but also represents
the most challenging time as well. Frontal systems sweep through the
region, with alternately cloudy and sunny days, though cloudy days
are most frequent in winter. When traveling in the Smokies, it's a
good idea to carry clothes for all weather conditions.
Be Prepared For All Conditions
Footwear should be
a major concern. Though tennis shoes may be generally appropriate
for some day-hikes, boots should be worn on the uneven trails in the
Park. They support the ankles from sprains and the foot from cuts
Stay on the designated
trail. Most hikers get lost when they leave the path. If you get temporarily
lost, try to retrace your steps until you cross the trail again. Then
its just a matter of guessing which way you were headed when you left
the trail. You will either continue the way you were headed or go
back to your starting point--either way, no harm is done.
Always bring rain
gear and a wool sweater. They don't weigh much and might make the
difference between being miserable or not in the event it rains. As
mentioned earlier, the Smokies get approximately 90 inches of rain
a year. This is good. Its what makes the Smokies such a wonderful
place to be. Don't start a hike if thunderstorms threaten--some of
the most devastating damage ever to the Park has been from great storms
in years past.
Cross streams carefully.
Getting wet, even in summer, could lead to hypothermia, which leads
ultimately to disorientation, poor decision making and, in extreme
circumstances, death. Having said that, don't let a fear of hypothermia,
getting lost, or bears prevent you from the enjoyment to be had by
trekking the trails of the Park.
When we questioned
a Park Ranger about how to react to meeting a bear on the trail, he
smilingly told us the most likely sighting of a bear will be its tail
disappearing over a ridge. Most "incidents" occur when an
ignorant visitor feeds or otherwise harasses
a bear. Our own experiences with Smoky Mountain
black bears have proven this to be true.
To avoid crowds, hike
during the week; avoid holidays; go during the "off" season.
Also, go in the morning before most folks are through eating breakfast;
this is a good time to see wildlife and morning light is great for
photography! You can also avoid crowds by using the outlying trailheads
such as those found at the Cosby and Wears Valley entrances. I'm embarrassed
to say we didn't know these existed for our first 18 visits to the
Smokies. But to our delight, we found new vistas, trails, and landscapes
to discover for the first time.
Plan Your Hiking
Trip With Care
ith a little care and planning, your hiking trip to the Smokies can
be much more rewarding and repay you with more great memories. You
can enjoy not only the visual splendor of the Park, you can view it
without counting out-of-state license plates, and you can get more
fit in the bargain.