Whether you're prepping for a shady stroll through the trees or a strenuous trek up to Mt. LeConte via the Rainbow Falls trail, the Smoky Mountains offer hiking adventures for all skill and fitness levels. Regardless of how experienced you are or what sort of hike you're planning, here are a few things you should know before hiking the Smokies:
- Gear: Unless you're planning a camping, cold weather or rock climbing excursion, a backpack full of essential day hiking gear like water, sunscreen, insect repellant, batteries, first aid kit, a flashlight, park map and a pair of sturdy boots is all you'll need to enjoy a day in the Smokies!
- Clothing: Dress in layers that can be easily added or removed. Great Smoky Mountains National Park also recommends that you bring a rain-resistant windbreaker, even if it looks like the day will be sunny.
- Safety in Numbers: As with all hiking, it is recommended that you hike with at least one companion and that you let a responsible person know where you are heading and what time you expect to return.
- Dogs: Inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, dogs are generally not allowed on trails. Leashed dogs are, however, allowed at campgrounds, picnic areas, along paved roads and on two short footpaths: the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail.
- Yellow Jackets: Yellow Jacket wasps are common in the Smokies. Yellow Jackets build their nests in the ground, so watch where you step. Yellow Jackets are aggressive when disturbed. Also, avoid wearing perfume or scented deodorants, and if you are allergic be sure to bring an epinephrine kit.
- Bears: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to an estimated 1,500 black bears. They are most active at dawn and dusk in spring and summer. Their behavior is unpredictable, so avoid them if at all possible. If you do see a bear, change direction and move away. If it follows you, act loudly and aggressively. Throw rocks or use a large stick as a deterrent if necessary. Don't run and don't turn away from a bear that is following you [source: NPS.Gov].
Now that you've prepped for your trek, it's time to think about when to take the trip. What are the most popular hiking seasons and destinations in the Smoky Mountains?