The Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains, have a wide range of elevations, making them home to over 400 vertebrate species, 100 tree species, and 5000 plant species. Hiking is the park's main attraction, with over 800 miles (1,300 km) of trails, including 70 miles (110 km) of the Appalachian Trail. Other activities are fishing, horseback riding, and visiting some of nearly 80 historic structures.
Myself and 4 others began Friday morning from Clingmans Dome in 38 degree temps and blowing mist and rain. Once off from the parking lot and below the ridge the wind subsided, however the rain continued into the night.
The route chosen was Forney Ridge trail to Forney Creek trail and out on the Lakeshore trail to the road to no where.
The trail condition was excellent along the Forney Ridge section with obvious maintenance and steps being constructed. This section was mainly composed of large rocks and soil and a gradual decent to the intersection with the Forney Creek trail.
The Forney Creek trail narrowed markedly and contained beds of loose stone and a steeper decent to Forney Creek. Sure footing is a must especially during periods is wet conditions. Many times the footing slipped with the stone or slid across leaves, etc.
Once down to campsite 68 the trail runs along an old rail bed left from the timber harvest back in the day. Remnants of said harvest are still evident with exposed rails, etc. The decent is more gradual as it makes it way along the creek. Several crossings are made, the smaller of which have a single timber for crossing, while others require scouting for a place to cross. In lower water it may be possible to step from stone to stone.
We chose to camp at site 69. Upon arriving, the main site is on a small point on the north side of the trail. There, water is plentiful with several creeks coming together.
From site 69 on down to 74 the trail remains the same although there are several additional wet crossing having to negotiated. Forney Creek picks up in volume and many runs a available for those fishing.
Along in the area where Jonas Creek comes in, horses are along on the trail. There are a couple areas where the trail runs over ridges and away from the creek. However the climbs are not strenuous.
The trail runs by a beautiful old home place evidence by the remaining chimney. This location make for a good break.
Site 74 is very large and adequate for both hikers and riders. Again, water is plentiful from Forney Creek.
The lakeshore trail winds its way up from site 74 across a of couple ridges to the intersection of the Whiteoak trail.
The signage is somewhat confusing however stay to the right and you'll hike over another ridge all along old haul roads/rail beds.
You'll have the choice of bypassing the tunnel of the road to no where or staying left and coming out at the end of the pavement and continuing through the tunnel to the trail head.
The total distance traveled was approximately 15 miles and was moderate in nature. Though the first two miles could take it toll on worn knees and hips.
Total Silence. Make SURE you get to the parking lot EARLY as possible. My GPS said I would get there at one time and I ended up hitting bumper to bumper -- two hours late.
The trail is to the left of the main walk way, to the store and observation deck -- leaving the parking lot.
Long enough to make it a hike, short enough to make it in no time.
For you fellow Eno Nation lovers out there, the end has (from what I found) no real good two trees to hang your Eno -- however there are plenty of spots along the way, in the woods.
A must when visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take the beautiful Newfound Gap Road to the equally beautiful Clingmans Dome Road. The Clingmans Dome Road is closed in the winter, but you can hike up if you are in very good shape and an experienced hiker.
After a wonderful and long day hiking in the mountains, I ended on this flat and easy trail just inside GSMNP. It is beautiful with the large meadow by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum, the pretty river views and the surrounding hills. I even saw several elk resting on the edge of the meadow!
This was a great hike. It was more of an incline than we anticipated,but loved it. We went yesterday which was pretty much at its peak in fall and was simply beautiful. There was something very ominous that occurred after the first 2 miles..my wife and I both experienced a fast pulse in our heads that was the exact same beat 3 separate times in the same location in the back of our heads. I know this sounds strange,but it happened to both of us during 15 min of a section of the hike. So if this happens to you,it will pass! Interesting to say the least though . There were many signs of the early settlers which was great to experience throughout the hike. We did not see the burial sites though. Many river crossings that we had to ford through made the hike more interesting. We brought wet shoes since it's much easier to cross without slipping. I'm sure the water would of been much higher a few months back,but It was up to our knees this time around. The hike on all trails says its 7.5 miles but it's actually a little over 8 miles. We took extra breaks to enjoy the fall colors and of course the incline didn't help. Ha. I highly recommend this hike!