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2015 Recommended Hikes
by Marti Smith, Smoky Mountain 900 Miler
& GSMA's Membership Associate

GSMA's Marti Smith (center) makes hiking a family 
affair with husband Dan (left) and son Shawn on a 
recent trip to Mt. Le Conte Lodge.

June - Twentymile Loop

Twentymile Loop is a nice 7.5-mile hike that includes three trails: Twentymile Trail, Twentymile Loop Trail and Wolf Ridge Trail. This hike is rated moderate due to its length.

Twentymile is a very secluded and beautiful area of the park. Starting counter clockwise with the Twentymile Trail you follow a gradual incline on an old railroad bed. There is logging history in the area, due to the Kitchen Lumber Company.

Twentymile Cascade is on the right about 100 yards after the first foot bridge crossing. In the spring you are treated to an abundant display of Sweet Betsy, a rather rare form of red Trillium.?? Turning left on the Twentymile Loop Trail you cross Twentymile Creek on a foot log. There is an old chestnut stump about midway, so be looking for it. Twentymile Trail is so called because it is 20 miles from the old town of Bushnell, which is now under the water of Fontana Lake.

At the Wolf Ridge Trail sign turn left. This section of Wolf Ridge is also built on an old railroad bed with origins from the lumber company. It is a gradual decline along a stream with five creek crossings over foot logs. After 1.1 miles you will see the Twentymile Trail sign; turn right.  You now have a gentle stroll of only .5 mile back to the Ranger Station along your original starting point.

 

July - The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is probably the most well known hiking trail in the Smokies, but not always the most used during the summer months. An 8-mile round-trip trek along this moderate section is just the thing to escape the hot days of summer.

Starting at Newfound Gap parking lot, hikers will walk through a transitional forest due to damage from the Balsam Wooly Adelgid. Occasional views to the north and south can be seen, and around some bends a breeze may be felt. I like to call those "nature's air conditioning." Enjoy the feeling of being at an elevation of 5,000 to 6,000 feet on this trail. It can be so peaceful and relaxing.

Thornless blackberries that grow at these higher elevations serve as a summer treat. At 2.7 miles the trail intersects with the Boulevard Trail, which takes you to Mt. LeConte. Continue to the right on the Appalachian Trail to reach Charlies Bunion. You'll pass Icewater Springs Trail Shelter and straddle the state line until you reach your destination.

Enjoy the views once you arrive, but please resist the temptation to climb the Bunion, as it causes erosion and can be very dangerous. Return the way you hiked in and observe parts of nature you may not have noticed earlier.  It will be an easier hike upon your return.

 

August - Baskin Creek Falls 

The trail to the falls is not generally crowded as it is not widely publicized.  To get there take Historic Nature Trail Road, at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg, toward the National Park for 3.7 miles. Turn onto the one way Roaring Fork Road. The trail starts .2 mile off of the road to the left. You can park your car at the pull off on the right and walk to the trail head.

The trail weaves through a forest of chestnut oaks, red maples, red oaks, hemlocks, striped maples, and black gums.  At 1.4 miles an unmaintained side trail takes off to the left. This trail can be slippery, so use caution.

Members of the local community used to use the falls as a place to take a shower. You will see why once you arrive. I prefer to bring a snack and be mesmerized by the natural beauty of the falls before returning back the way I hike in. 

 

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