Great Smoky Mountains National Park Backpacking (TN/NC) – September 2017



I call this trip my 2017 ‘backup-to-the-backup’ hike. For my annual ‘big’ fall hike I had originally planned on thru-hiking the epic Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in Washington, but I lost that permit lottery. My backup plan landed me a great permit for Glacier National Park, but the terrible late summer 2017 fires in Glacier caused me to cancel that trip at the last minute. To fill the void I decided to do a second 2017 Great Smoky Mountains NP, following up on my June 2017 hike with Travis.

Having chosen GSMNP partly because there were no fires there, and having had no trail closure issues during our June 2017 hike, it didn’t cross my mind that the 2016 Gatlinburg fires might still be affecting the trails. This led me to be a bit too careless in my pre-hike research, with the end result being that on the third day I was ‘trapped’ by a trail closure and had to shorten my hike by one day, bailing out to Elkmont.

The trip ended up being 3 days and about 30 miles. I started at Clingman’s Dome and the trip was supposed to be a counter-clockwise loop following the Appalachian Trail, Goshen Prong Trail, Little River Trail, Rough Creek Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail, and finally the AT back to Clingman’s Dome. But the Sugarland Mountain Trail was still closed from the 2016 fires which gave me no realistic options other than to head to Elkmont and find a ride up the hill to Clingman’s Dome.

Though the trip ended up being different, and shorter, than I planned I was still treated to some fantastic views and was able to immerse myself in plenty of GSMNP’s primordial backcountry. Backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is truly a unique experience, and the ‘wrinkles’ I experienced on this trip simply give me a reason to go back again.

Similar to my other backpacking videos, this one has about 40 minutes of video followed by a 10 minute still picture slide show with music at the end. It is meant to be an ‘immersive’ experience that allows you to come along with me on the trip. If you aren’t interested in ‘riding along on my shoulder’ for an hour long video, just skip to the last 10 minutes of still pictures and you’ll get a good overview of our trip.

Still Camera: Nikon D810 with Nikkor 20mm f1.8 lens
Video Camera: Canon Vixia G40 with Rode Stereo Videomic Pro
Video Editing Software: Sony Vegas Pro 13

  1. Steve Forsythe says:

    Hi Dave…just love your videos…its just like I am sitting there with you. Keep em' coming my friend. Well done camera work and the pics at the end, fabulous!

  2. kragseven says:

    I live in upstate NY. This year has been the same. Cooler temps but killer humidity. I just got back from the Adirondacks. Saturday and Sunday the humidity was up to 98%then the monsoons came

  3. cgriggsiv says:

    Awesome video thank you for showing the AT Trail and all of its splendor I do try to get out every weekend is much as I can now it's pretty much every other weekend you got to hate it laundry and then shopping little things like that must be done first again thank you for showing such wonderful photographs and your videos are fantastic

  4. ChrisfromFL says:

    Hey David, What is the devise you wear on the right shoulder strap of your pack? It says pd on it and has a black and red button.

  5. GQGeek81 says:

    Good stuff as usual. I run through a re-trip check list for my locations.
    A visit to the GSMNP website would have immediately shown you the alerts for the closures.
    If I visit a NFS website for any National Forest in my state, I'll get a sidebar for alerts in any of them in the state.
    There is also a road closure map specific to the BRPWY which can close during bad weather. That one can get you as it's managed by the NPS but runs through many national forest areas that are not part of the NPS.

  6. Clinton Kawanishi says:

    Your videos and photography are just great. I can see you have an eye for photography.
    Clintonk1

  7. GypsyDog says:

    Another great video.  By the way, I live in Washington state and I am on a couple of local hiking forums on Facebook.  Mt. Rainier is often the topic, and I have never heard of a lottery pool to hike around the Wonderland Trail. You need a permit to stay at any of the backcountry campgrounds, and those are available at any of the Ranger Stations in the park.  Certain areas in the Cascade Range require permits, via lottery pool, such as The Enchantments.  However, I doubt that Wonderland Trail is one of them. You will love hiking this trail.

  8. James Lane says:

    ????⛺?????? good video David looks like you had some fun though next time bring me a 3-pack of road flares and get you a fire started in the rain

  9. James Lane says:

    Thanks for the views David always enjoy your videos James Kansas City Missouri ?

  10. First Sergeant Fluffy says:

    Like the great smoky mountains, no entrance fees. I plan to back pack next year. I walk each day 6-8 miles at age 65 and keep in shape. I have a military style back pack and prepared already. Actually my bug out bag. See you on the trails friends.

  11. Cochise231 says:

    Always enjoy your videos just wanted to let you know the name of the Hot sauce your digging is pronounced "Top-a-tio" out here in California It's great stuff I Love it on just about everything Just was wondering what your camp shoes are they look very comfortable and Lightweight are they from xero shoes? I have seen their videos here on Youtube and have been on mind to try out Thank you for sharing your trips

  12. clownpaws says:

    Nice looking hike and some great learnings for everybody on scoping out trail availabilities.  Dude, you do some awesome work and please keep it up!

  13. Jeremy Stroud says:

    All my Smokies trips end up sort of like this. Taught me a lot about enjoying the time in the woods and having a plan B – and C sometimes.

  14. Rick Biggs Sr. says:

    You had me laughing during most of this video…why build a fire then cook on a stove???…and your rations are awful..Tuna? keep hiking enjoy life ….I love your video….

  15. jstevens2010 says:

    Great video. Were you thinking Big Foot in that cave as well as during the night of the Tree Break? I'll be honest I consider it when I'm out there. The Missing 411 stories are a trip. Great videos and thanks for posting.

  16. Ryan Hall says:

    Grab the carbon filter and splice that into your kit. It will take the dirty taste out of the water. Love your videos. Keep them coming!

  17. lee oswald says:

    I think you would like backpacking the Art Loeb Trail in the Pisgah Forest. 31.5 miles. It can be done in 2-3 nights. I did on 3/4 days. You will enjoy 2-3 miles of beautiful views in the Black Balsam. A shuttle service is available. Best to start from the Daniel Boon Boy Scout TH. Hope you find your way into the Shining Rock & Middle Prong Wilderness. Both wilderness are within the Pisgah Forest.

  18. roc31539 says:

    140% humidity makes good sense. Why in Lake Wobegon all the kids are above average. LOL!!
    This is because 5 out of 4 kids don't understand fractions.

  19. shcmoly says:

    They should have posted the closures at all the trailheads. You had a nice adventure at least.

  20. Michael Comins says:

    Nice job, David. I really like the format. You are really natural talking to the camera. I like how you put the stills at the end.

  21. rhettboston says:

    Excellent video!! I always look forward to seeing new ones you do. Keep it up. my brother and I camped in campsite 23 on one of our trips. The next day we hiked UP goshen prong trail to the AT while he started to have fever. He was not fond of that day of hiking. ha. I love backpacking in the smokies so please do more trips there!

  22. potatothorn says:

    Great Video! too bad the tower was closed but you got a lot of great views regardless..i know how you feel about the gravity feed, love my katadyn gravity filter.. Fast and effortless…i usually have Roxana with me but we get a day or so without another person or maybe just a passing car… i usually get a day totally alone on my motorcycle.. like once a year- definitely not something that happens
    often, even in the far desert… haha we heard the ta patio again hahah.. i like the looks of the campsites and you have it all to yourself.. love the sound of the birds in the morning during smurf breakfast… oh no hitting the trail closure, that was rough / glad it worked out ok.. thanks so much for the super sharp video..

  23. Clinton Kawanishi says:

    They should post trail closures at trail junctions so hikers aren’t unpleasantly surprised like you were.
    Clintonk1

  24. Clinton Gfroerer says:

    Just catching up on your videos. I'm sure you get this a lot, but you make very good quality videos. Thanks for all your time and effort, I know how much it takes to make videos like this. They help so much in trip planning for others. Take care, God bless!

  25. Ethan Calk says:

    Loved your video as always. You should get a sponsorship or Patreon and backpack and make these videos full time! 🙂

  26. Jerry Nonya says:

    I have made several videos using a camera, and my phone. Here is my question, what do you use to edit your movies, add music, etc. I would like to start doing this more.
    thanks

  27. Claire Bear says:

    I was just in the Smokies last week. It was beautiful! So glad I got to watch this before my trip, it got me so jazzed to hike. The Reuben you spoke of, amazing! Love your videos! Hike on dude!✌

  28. Diane marley says:

    Great to see the Great Smoky National Park trails after the fires in 2016. Thanks for always being real and the trail humor ; ))

  29. cpoole77 says:

    David, I could not help noticing the “D810” strap in the early part of this video. So you retired your D700 and made the jump? And we’re the stills all done by the D810?
    Never get bored with your videos, ever. You draw the viewers in as if they are your backpacking buds.

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