As I mentioned last week, our family met up in the Smoky Mountains for the Fourth of July weekend. We rented a lovely cabin and enjoyed family time together.
Hiking for Everyone
One of the activities that we all wanted to participate in was hiking. My oldest daughter and her husband are avid hikers. They’ve done several backpack camping trips in the past few years. Living in Tennessee, it is their goal to hike all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
My second daughter and I have done some hiking (she, more than I) but neither of us were in great shape and didn’t want to attempt a long, vigorous hike. My third daughter and her husband have recently been doing some easy to moderate hiking.
After online research and studying trail maps and descriptions, we came up with a plan. We would hike in separate pairs the first day and then, on the second day, we would all hike a trail together.
Super Simple Hike
My daughter and I hiked to Lower Lynn Camp Falls on the Lynn Camp Prong, part of the Middle Prong Trail.
The trail climbs slowly uphill with a comfortable elevation gain. The trail is a former railroad bed and most of it still retains the gravel base. The trail is wide and generally smooth – it should be comfortable for the use of strollers and wheelchairs.
The trail follows the Middle Prong of the Little River. Shortly after we started hiking (about four-tenths of a mile), we came upon a great view of Lower Lynn Camp Falls. We were a bit confused – we thought the falls were about three-fourths of a mile from the start. We could see that the trail continued on along the river so we decided to hike further.
All along the trail, there were falls and cascades. It was one of the most beautiful hikes I have been on. As we continued on, we found Lynn Camp Falls – at three-fourths of a mile. The trail kept going, but we turned around to walk back after hiking about a mile and a quarter.
An Easy/Moderate Hike
My younger daughter and her husband chose to hike to Abrams Falls. The round trip hike to the falls is just over five miles with an elevation gain of around 260 feet per mile.
Abram Falls are beautiful! The water seems so inviting, but it can actually be very dangerous. Because of the volume of water flowing over the falls, there are rip tides, coves, and hidden traps. Also, the rocks near the falls are slippery, so it is best to view the falls from a little ways away.
A More Difficult Hike
My oldest daughter and her husband planned an ambitious hike of around twelve miles. They would start at the Rich Mountain Gap trail head, hike up the mountain, then make their way down and around to where their car was parked near the Townsend Wye. With this hike, they would be able to complete more trail miles of their goal.
The daughter that was planning to hike with me, got up early to bring these hikers to the trail head. Later, when she and I left for our hike, we dropped off their car at their end point.
When my daughter and I finished our hike, we got in the car and drove to the Abrams Falls trail head. We found my daughter’s car and a place to park our car. We sat in the shade to wait for them. They arrived about 15 minutes later – great timing!
We had a nice picnic lunch together. We were just finished eating and were thinking about packing up when my oldest daughter and her husband walked up. They were not supposed to be there.
Encountering a Problem
In the meantime, the experienced hikers had walked the first four miles of their hike (uphill) when they came to a sign that said the next section was closed. My daughter was frustrated that she had not double-checked all the trails just before they started.
Backtracking down the mountain would have put them nowhere near their car, so they took a different trail down the mountain to try to intersect with us as we headed to Abrams Falls. They waited for awhile, but figured they missed us. They could have continued along the road where we would have driven, but decided to take a shorter walk to try to find us. They knew where we planned to meet for our picnic. In the end, they walked more than their original twelve miles, while only covering four miles of trail.
All of this could have been avoided if we had been able to connect on our cell phones, but there is absolutely no cell signal anywhere in the area. My daughter and her husband are experienced hikers and would have eventually found a ride to their car, so they were not in danger. We were all glad to reconnect at the end of our hikes.
Day Two – Laurel Falls
On our second day of hiking, we had planned to hike together to Laurel Falls.
The Laurel Falls hike is less than two and a half miles round trip. The trail is slightly steeper than the one we had done the previous day with an elevation gain of 314 feet. The trail winds uphill through the trees until it reaches the falls. From there, it is possible to hike on to the top of Cove Mountain, but most people turn and follow the trail back down.
The Laurel Falls trail was busier than the one to Lynn Camp Falls. There were many people milling around the falls area. There was some excitement on the way down though, when we saw a mama bear and two cubs. The area is known to have bears, so we were not surprised.
After our hike, we all stopped at the Townsend Wye for a picnic and some swimming.
A Great Weekend Away
There are 150 official hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, covering a distance of over 800 miles. They range from easy to moderate to difficult. There is something for everyone.
We had a great weekend away – time to enjoy the outdoors, relax and spend time with family. In this year of limited travel, even this short trip was a welcome respite.