|Location||Robbinsville, NC. Twentymile Trailhead.|
|Total Elevation Gain||8560 ft|
Of course you’ve never considered backpacking in the Smoky Mountains. Why would you? Not only is it the most popular National Park in the U.S., but it is also just the ol’ Appalachians. Out with old, in with the new uplifts! Gotta go west!
Well, this may be the first time in your life, but you’re wrong. This trip will be a swift way to stifle that doubt. One important thing though–you may want to try for November. I mean, it is the most popular National Park after all. Not much can be done to mitigate that. Mid November will be kind to you in this regard.
Park at the Twentymile ranger station in North Carolina; the stop will be welcome after an upchuck inducing, winding drive through the hills. Hike west, following Twentymile Creek. Here the trail is wide and a bit “meh”. After a brief walk, BE SURE to take a lunch break at the top of Shuckstack Tower. You’ll get incredible views across the Smokies. The tower is safe to climb, I promise*.
As you head north, you’ll find yourself crossing Eagle Creek over, and over, and over, and over… embrace wet feet and cold legs! There are no bridges to help you now.
Not strictly legal, but if you can swing it then try camping at the top of famous Gregory Bald. If you hit the area at the right time, then there should be nobody around to tattle on you. Just make sure to practice good LNT methods. Seriously. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
*as of 2012
- If the river is running particularly swift, high, or cold then you can turn around and complete the loop via a slightly shorter twentymile ridge trail.
- Check out the elevation profile and you’ll realize that the Appalachians are no joke. Prepare your distance expectations accordingly.
- There are good AT shelters you can camp at along the route. The Spence Field shelter en route is quite nice.
- If you’ve got the time, check out the nearby Clingmans Dome.