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Great Smoky Mountains LeConte Lodge, NC/TN

Apr 8 - Apr 15, 2023 -- $1750 ★★, YOU CANNOT REGISTER FOR THIS TRIP YET AS DETAILS ARE NOT FINAL


Most everyone who has been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park knows about the incredible, full-service mountaintop lodge called LeConte Lodge that is accessible only on foot. Fitpacking is planning to obtain (we will know by November 2022) coveted reservations for this mountaintop retreat in order to cap off a week of backpacking.


Great Smoky Mountains National park is the most visited National Park in the United States, but despite its popularity and proximity to major population centers, our trek provides plenty of solitude and visits some of the most beautiful wooded areas you can find in the lower 48. Spring is a great time to be in the Smokies just as the weather warms up and flowers and leaves begin to emerge.


The park is an amazing wilderness with an abundance of wildlife featuring deer, elk, wild boar, black bears and even red wolves. This trip features many things the Smokies offer: wildflowers, virgin forest, vistas, waterfalls, deep hollows, wildlife, Alum Cave and of course the historic LeConte Lodge.


Even if you have been on one of our Fitpacking trips through the Smokies before -- indeed even if you have been to LeConte Lodge -- you will want to join us again as this trek promises to be awe inspiring (as well as all-perspiring). This trip will take you through virgin forests, clear streams teeming with wild trout (note: our permit does not let us guide commercial fishing trips), high elevation spruce-fir forests and expansive balds / meadows where elk and turkeys forage. Your guides have spent many years exploring the Smokies and will be ready to help you identify the flowers, wildlife and even some mushrooms that abounds here. They may also provide a story or two about the people who once called this remote and natural region home.



Weather

Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Expect daytime hiking temperatures in the 60s and 70s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s. However, be prepared for the possibility of day temperatures as high as th 80s and nights below 30, probably with a day (or more) of rainfall and on rare occasion, snowfall. Here is the historical April weather Be prepared for cold temps at high elevation (we had snow one year) as well as warm sunny weather or rain.



Probable Trip Leaders

Guides TBD

Cost

$1750 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also share one of 2 communal cabins at LeConte Lodge. You will be responsible for transportation to and from Asheville Airport (AVL), as well as personal equipment, restaurant meals and any gratuities for guides. You may also incur parking charges for leaving your car at the hotel all week (probably none, but they sometimes charge for this).


Covered expenses include 1 hotel night, a night in LeConte Lodge (with sit-down dinner and breakfast), 1 night in a frontcountry campground, 5 days of trail meals, ground transportation to/from Asheville and the National Park, park permits, backcountry permits and awesome guides.


Tipping: In order to keep our prices competitive with (and hopefully favorable to) other outfitters, we shamefully can’t pay our guides as much as we think they deserve. Like most other guiding services, we rely on the generosity of our participants to make up this shortfall by tipping the guides. While tips are not required or expected, if your guides have served you well, please consider a gratuity so they can continue living their extravagant lifestyles of eating powdered meals, sleeping in the dirt and pooping in smelly outhouses and small holes they've dug.



Difficulty

While all Fitpacking trips are difficult some of the time, this one might be considered somewhat less strenuous than others because of solid footing and terrain. Plus, we may be able to cache food mid-trip so we only carry half as much as we typically do, rendering pack weights somewhat lighter.



Note

THE DATES ON THIS TRIP MAY CHANGE! Because of the popularity of LeConte Lodge and the size of our group, we have to submit our request 7 months ahead of time. We request a range of dates, but the lodge determines which dates we are ultimately awarded -- if we are awarded any dates at all. We will not know until at least October 8th, so we currently cannot tell the exact dates of the trip or if we can get a reservation at all.


Due to the popularity of our Smokies trips and the fact that the park only allows groups of 8 in the backcountry plus our night in LeConte Lodge, we expect this trip to sell out quickly. We suggest you make your reservation earlier rather than later to ensure your spot. Although this may sound like we're creating a sense of false urgency, we really do expect it to sell out early.


Many of the LeConte Lodge rooms feature double-beds that we are expected to share. The beds are much wider than any 2-person backpacking tent for what it's worth.


Our route may cross creeks and streams at times. There is no guarantee of bridges. Be prepared to wear water shoes and use trekking poles to walk through almost knee-deep water in order to cross these waterways.


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Packing List
Itinerary
Weather
Guides for this trip
Cost
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Itinerary


Saturday, April 8, 2023

Drive or fly into Asheville Airport (AVL). The best time to arrive is between around 9AM-Noon, earlier is generally better. Asheville is a small airport so flights may be limited. If you have to arrive later that may be fine as long as the group can leave Asheville by around 3PM.


Call or text us and we will pick you up and take you to a local hotel where we will assemble -- hotel TBD


You should have already done an online shakedown pre-trip, but guides will still ask you a few questions and give you a "mini equipment shakedown"


Make your own trail mix from our selection of nuts, fruits and sweets


Go to Diamond Brand Outdoor Shop, 2623 Hendersonville Rd. • Arden, NC 28704 • 800-459-6262 • info@diamondbrand.com for last minute equipment if necessary


"Before" body composition measurements taken


All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.


Shuttle to Smokemont frontcountry campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, elevation 2,250’


Guides may take up to an hour and a half to shuttle vehicles within the park to the Alum Cave Trail


Front Country camp at Smokemont Campground, site(s) TBD



Sunday, April 9, 2023

Shuttle to the Thomas Divide Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, elevation 4650'


Begin hiking on one of the lesser used high elevation trails in the Park, the Thomas Divide Trail, elevation 4650'


Hike 1.8 gently undulating ridgeline miles to the Kanati Fork Trail, elevation 5000'


Hike 2.8 gently undulating ridgeline miles to the Sunkota Ridge Trail, elevation 5000'


Hike 0.4 miles on the Sunkota Ridge Trail to Campsite 52, elevation 5000'


Camp at Newton Bald Campsite #52, elevation 5000'


Miles today: 5.0. Total miles: 5.0


Possible bailout: Route 441


Monday, April 10, 2023

Hike 0.5 miles on the Newton Bald Trail to the Mingus Creek Trail, elevation 5000'


Descend steadily 4.7 miles on the Newton Bald Trail to the junciton of highway 441 and Smokemont Campground, elevation 2250'


Cross Route 441 and pick up food cached here pre-trip


hike 1.8 practically level miles on the Bradley Branch Trail through Smokemont (an old settlement, CCC camp and cemeteries) to the Chasteen Creek Trail and the Chasteen Creek campsite #50, elevation 2360'.


Camp at Campsite 50, elevation 2360’


Miles today 7.0, total 12.0


Possible bailout: Route 441.


Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Day-hike 1.4 round-trip miles to the Chasteen Creek Cascade and back to camp, elevation 2360'


Resume a gentle 3.7 mile hike beside the Bradley Fork of the Oconoluftee River on the Bradley Fork Trail to the intersection with the Cabin Flats Trail, elevation 2500'


Proceed 0.8 miles on the Cabin Flats Trail to the Cabin Flats campsite #49, elevation 3250'


Camp at campsite 49, elevation 3250'


Miles today: 5.9, total 17.9


Possible bailout: Highway 441


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Hike back 0.8 miles on the Cabin Flats Trail to the intersection with the Dry Sluice Gap Trail, elevation 3250'


Climb steadily (translation: difficult climb) for 2.9 miles on the Dry Sluice Gap trail, through several forest types until the trail levels briefly


Turn left on the Grassy Branch Trail and hike 2.5 miles to the Kephart Shelter elevation 3636'.


Camp at Kephart Shelter, elevation 3636'


Miles today: 6.2, total 24.1


Possible bailout: Highway 441


Thursday, April 13, 2023

Awaken before dawn to get an early start on a long difficult day, and to make it to LeConte Lodge before the reward of a sit-down dinner begins.


Climb 3.7 uphill (but graded) miles on the Sweat Heifer Trail. Yay, we're on the Appalachian Trail!


Hike 1.0 miles on the AT to the Boulevard Trail.


The Boulevard provides a beautiful undulating hike through a spruce/fir forest along the Anakeesta Ridge with frequent sweeping views of the northeastern side of the Park


Hike 4.9 miles on the Boulevard Trail, enjoying vista after vista to High Top, the crest of Mt. Leconte and the third highest elevation in the Park at 6,593 feet


Gently descend 0.5 miles on to LeConte Lodge. Our lodging includes family style supper and breakfast, and plenty of it. You can purchase souvenirs from the lodge and send a post card with the LeConte Lodge post mark to your family. Llamas will pack out your post card on Wednesday. Our cabins have propane heat, kerosene lanterns and genuine Hudson’s Bay wool blankets for all the comforts of (a 19th century) home. The lodge is only accessible by foot and you have earned it.


Day-Hike 1.0 round-trip miles to enjoy a National Geographic quality sunset from Cliff Top after dinner. Return to enjoy a hot cocoa in the community room, play a board game or sing a song or two (note: singing ability not required).

Miles today: 11.1. Total miles: 35.2


Possible bailout: Highway 441


Friday, April 14, 2023

LeConte Lodge provides a full sit-down breakfast


Steadily descend 5.5 miles from the lodge on the Alum Cave Trail to the Alum Cave Trailhead, elevation 3800'


Along the way we will pass by Gracie's Pulpit, Alum Cave and Arch Rock; the latter two being two of the most interesting geological formations in the Park. The trail actually passes through Arch Rock. Trail renovations on this trail have just recently been completed, and will be a pleasure to walk. The last mile and a quarter especially is an easy stroll all the way to the parking lot


End of hiking


Possible bailout: Highway 441


Miles today: 5.5. Total miles: 40.7


Shuttle back to our local hotel TBD


After measurements taken


Dinner and awards Ceremony (Dinner cost not included in trip price)


This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.


Saturday, April 15, 2023

We will drop you at the Airport or pay for a shared cab / Uber


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