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Great Smoky Mountains LeConte Lodge, NC/TN

SOLD OUT! (Put me on the waiting list)

Oct 3 - Oct 10, 2020 -- $1400 ★★


Important: Although we are guaranteed our spots in LeConte Lodge, other parts of our route may change somewhat. This itinerary shows the route we traversed in 2018, but we may change it up to see another part of the park. It may also change if some of the backcountry campsites we request are not granted to us by the park 60 days in advance when we apply for them.

Due to the popularity of our Smokies trips and the fact that the park only allows groups of 8 in the backcountry plus our night in LeConte Lodge, we expect this trip to sell out quickly. We suggest you make your reservation earlier rather than later to ensure your spot. Although this may sound like we're creating a sense of false urgency, we really do expect it to sell out early.

Our route may cross creeks and streams at times. There is no guarantee of bridges. Be prepared to wear water shoes and use trekking poles to walk through almost knee-deep water in order to cross these waterways.

Most everyone who has been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park knows about the incredible, full-service mountaintop lodge LeConte Lodge that is accessible only on foot. Fitpacking has obtained coveted reservations for this mountaintop retreat in order to cap off a week of backpacking.

Great Smoky Mountains National park is the most visited National Park in the United States, but despite its popularity and proximity to major population centers, our trek provides plenty of solitude and visits some of the most beautiful wooded areas you can find in the lower 48. Fall is a great time to be in the Smokies just as the weather tempers out, leaves begin to change and insects subside.

The park is an amazing wilderness with an abundance of wildlife featuring deer, elk, wild boar, black bears and even red wolves. This trip has most everything the Smokies offer: wildflowers, virgin forest, balds with vistas, waterfalls, deep hollows, wildlife, Alum Cave and of course the historic LeConte Lodge.

Even if you have been on one of our Fitpacking trips through the Smokies before -- indeed even if you have been to LeConte Lodge -- you will want to join us again as this trek promises to be awe inspiring (as well as all-perspiring). This trip will take you through virgin forests, clear streams teeming with wild trout (note: we are not permitted to guide commercial fishing trips), high elevation spruce-fir forests and expansive balds / meadows where elk and turkeys forage. Your guides have spent many years exploring the Smokies and will be ready to help you identify the flowers and wildlife that abounds here and even provide a story or two about the people who once called this remote and natural region home.


Weather is always an important concern when hiking. Expect daytime hiking temperatures in the 70s and 80s and nighttime temperatures in the 40s and 50s. However, be prepared for the possibility of day temperatures as high as 90 and nights as low as 30, probably with a day (or more) of rainfall and on rare occasion, snowfall. Here is the historical October weather Be prepared for cold temps at high elevation (we had snow one year) as well as warm sunny weather or rain.

Trip Leaders

Chris Frey
Beau Devlin


$1400 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also share one of 2 communal cabins at LeConte Lodge. You will be responsible for transportation to and from Asheville Airport (AVL), as well as personal equipment, restaurant meals and any gratuities for guides. You may also incur parking charges for leaving your car at the hotel all week (probably none, but they sometimes charge for this).

Covered expenses include 2 hotel nights, a night in LeConte Lodge (with sit-down dinner), 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation to/from Asheville and the National Park, park permits, backcountry permits and awesome guides.


While all Fitpacking trips are difficult some of the time, this one might be considered somewhat less strenuous than others because of solid footing and terrain. Plus, we may be able to cache food mid-trip so we only carry half as much as we typically do, rendering pack weights somewhat lighter.

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Saturday, October 3, 2020

Drive or fly into Asheville Airport (AVL). The best time to arrive is between around Noon-3PM, earlier is generally better. However, if you can save a substantial amount on your flight by arriving a few hours earlier or later than the suggested window, then do so. Asheville is a small airport so flights may be limited.

Call or text us and we will pick you up and take you to a local hotel Comfort Inn Asheville Airport, 15 Rockwood Rd, Fletcher, NC, 28732, 828-687-9199

Equipment shakedown

Trail mix distribution

Go to Diamond Brand Outdoor Shop, 1378 Hendersonville Road in Asheville, NC • 800-459-6262 • for last minute equipment if necessary

"Before" measurements taken

Go out for dinner at a local restaurant (Dinner cost not included in trip price)

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Second set of "before" measurements taken

All the items that you won't bring on the trail will be set aside and put in storage.

Free hotel breakfast

Shuttle to the Thomas Divide Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, elevation 4650'

Depending upon the number of participants and vehicles, we may take up to an hour to shuttle vehicles within the park to the Alum Cave Trail

Begin hiking on one of the lesser used high elevation trails in the Park, the Thomas Divide Trail, elevation 4650'

Hike 1.8 gently undulating ridgeline miles to the Kanati Fork Trail, elevation 5000'

Hike 2.8 gently undulating ridgeline miles to the Sunkota Ridge Trail, elevation 5000'

Hike 0.4 miles on the Sunkota Ridge Trail to Campsite 52, elevation 5000'

Camp at Newton Bald Campsite #52, elevation 5000'

Miles today: 5.0. Total miles: 5.0

Possible bailout: Route 441

Monday, October 5, 2020

Hike 0.5 miles on the Newton Bald Trail to the Mingus Creek Trail, elevation 5000'

Descend steadily 4.7 miles on the Newton Bald Trail to the junciton of highway 441 and Smokemont Campground, elevation 2250'

Cross Route 441 and pick up food cached here pre-trip

hike 1.8 practically level miles on the Bradley Branch Trail through Smokemont (an old settlement, CCC camp and cemeteries) to the Chasteen Creek Trail and the Chasteen Creek campsite #50, elevation 2360'.

Camp at Campsite 50, elevation 2360’

Miles today 6.5, total 11.5

Possible bailout: Route 441.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Day-hike 0.7 miles to the Chasteen Creek Cascade and back to camp for lunch, elevation 2360'

Resume a gentle hike beside the Bradley Fork of the Oconoluftee River on the Bradley Fork Trail for 3.7 miles to the intersection with the Cabin Flats Trail, elevation 2500'

Proceed 0.8 miles on the Cabin Flats Trail to the Cabin Flats campsite #49, elevation 3250'

Camp at campsite 49, elevation 3250'

Miles today: 5.9, total 17.4

Possible bailout: Highway 441

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Hike back 0.8 miles on the Cabin Flats Trail to the intersection with the Dry Sluice Gap Trail, elevation 3250'

Climb steadily (translation: difficult climb) for 4.2 miles through several forest types and several stream crossings until the trail levels briefly, then descends the last half mile to the intersection with the Appalachian Trail, elevation 5300'.

Turn left on the AT and hike 0.5 miles to Charlie's Bunion, one of the best view points in the Smokies, elevation 5376'. On a nice day, plan to take a long break here.

Hike 0.8 uphill miles on the Appalachian Trail to Icewater Spring Shelter, elevation 5900'

Note: Due to the popularity of this shelter, it is possible that we may not be able to obtain this shelter reservation. If we do not, we will take an alternate route via the Kephart shelter

Camp at Icewater Spring Shelter, elevation 5900'

Miles today: 6.3, total 23.7

Possible bailout: Highway 441

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Gently climb 0.3 miles on the AT to the intersection with the Boulevard Trail, one of the most popular routes to Mt. LeConte, elevation 6000'

The Boulevard provides a beautiful undulating hike through a spruce/fir forest along the Anakeesta Ridge with frequent sweeping views of the northeastern side of the Park

Hike 4.9 miles on the Boulevard Trail, enjoying vista after vista to High Top, the crest of Mt. Leconte and the third highest elevation in the Park at 6,593 feet

Gently descend 0.5 miles on to LeConte Lodge. Our lodging includes family style supper and breakfast, and plenty of it. You can purchase souvenirs from the lodge and send a post card with the LeConte Lodge post mark to your family. Llamas will pack out your post card on Wednesday. Our cabins have propane heat, kerosene lanterns and genuine Hudson’s Bay wool blankets for all the comforts of home. The lodge is only accessible by foot and you have earned it.

Day-Hike 1.0 round-trip miles to enjoy a National Geographic quality sunset from Cliff Top after dinner. Return to enjoy a hot cocoa in the community room, play a board game or sing a song or two (note: singing ability not required).

Miles today: 6.7. Total miles: 30.4

Possible bailout: Highway 441

Friday, October 9, 2020

LeConte Lodge provides a full sit-down breakfast

Steadily descend 5.5 miles from the lodge on the Alum Cave Trail to the Alum Cave Trailhead, elevation 3800'

Along the way we will pass by Gracie's Pulpit, Alum Cave and Arch Rock; the latter two being two of the most interesting geological formations in the Park. The trail actually passes through Arch Rock. Trail renovations on this trail have just recently been completed, and will be a pleasure to walk. The last mile and a quarter especially is an easy stroll all the way to the parking lot

End of hiking

Possible bailout: Highway 441

Miles today: 5.5. Total miles: 35.9

Shuttle back to our local hotel Comfort Inn Asheville Airport, 15 Rockwood Rd, Fletcher, NC, 28732, 828-687-9199

After measurements taken

Dinner and awards Ceremony (Dinner cost not included in trip price)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Free Hotel Breakfast

We will drop you at the Airport

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