The storied Appalachian Trail (AT) is an irresistible draw for many hikers. For some it’s the only reason they come to Great Smoky. Around 71 of the AT’s 2180 miles pass through the park, and many through-hikers consider these to be the highlight of the entire trail. For the most part, the trail follows the crest of the Great Smoky Mountains, shadowing the shared border between North Carolina and Tennessee.
An excellent time to make the hike is in September or October, when traffic on the trails has dissipated somewhat and autumn leaves are at their finest. In October, however, snow should be expected.
Hikers on the AT sleep in backcountry shelters spaced 3 to 8 miles apart; reservations are required. During the summer, you’ll likely need to make the necessary consecutive reservations well in advance.
Check out the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website (www.appalachiantrail.org) for more information.