The Crew Building the Next Great American Thru-Hike

In eastern Tennessee, 70-year-old trail builder Peter Berntsen is laying segments of the Cumberland Trail. The path will wend more than 300 miles through deep hollows, spiraling waterfalls, and diverse flora in the heart of Appalachia, at the mountainous edge of the Cumberland Plateau. He lugs an axe and mattock up a rocky and root-riddled stretch meandering through...

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An American Legend – Horace Kephart – His Life and Legacy

Horace Sowers Kephart (September 8, 1862 – April 2, 1931) was an American travel writer and librarian, best known as the author of Our Southern Highlanders about his life in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and the classic outdoors guide Camping and Woodcraft. Kephart’s vision helped to establish Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His life as...

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Just Another Day at Stunning Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

Ho. Hum. Just another day at Roan Highlands. Now, obviously I’m being facetious. Roan Highlands is probably my favorite place to go in all of Western North Carolina, especially in mid-June when it is catawba rhododendron and flame azalea time. It’s exciting to hike on the iconic Appalachian Trail, the views of Tennessee and North Carolina on either side of...

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Middle Prong Trail at Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Perhaps the finest creek side trail in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Middle Prong Trail actually follows Lynn Camp Prong. Lynn Camp and Thunderhead Prong join to form Middle Prong just below the trailhead. You will walk alongside Lynn Camp Prong for the entire length of this hike, passing dozens of swift cascades and two exciting waterfalls. Look for a wide...

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Abrams Falls Trail at Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

One of the most popular hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Abrams Falls at the west end of Cades Cove has the full Smokies package all in one. Here you can find rich, bountiful forest with a floor of colorful spring wildflowers, a rushing creek that provides refreshing nourishment for all the plants and wildlife, good exercise as you climb up and over...

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Conservation Partners Add 1,058 Acres Near Fiery Gizzard Trail To Tennessee’s South Cumberland State Park

The Conservation Fund and The Land Trust for Tennessee, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Open Space Institute (OSI), announced the addition of 1,058 acres to South Cumberland State Park in Marion County. The acquisition connects more than 7,000 acres of protected public and private land, conserves forestland and...

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Tennessee Smokies on My Mind – A Photo Essay

Every April I like to make a two-day trip to the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I usually stay overnight at the Cades Cove Campground. It is a glorious time in the Smokies. The spring ephemeral wildflowers are busting out all over. The weather is warming and the days are getting longer. The rivers, creeks and streams are usually full of cool,...

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Cougars confirmed in Tennessee

At least nine cougar sightings have been confirmed. Tennesee Wildlife Resources Agency said they will be monitoring the natural expansion of the cougar. All of the confirmed sightings listed are in Middle or West Tennessee. There are several possible reports in East Tennessee, but none confirmed by the TWRA. Zoo Knoxville Director of Animal Care Phil Colclough said it...

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Friends of South Cumberland State Park kicks off 2017 hiking challenge

For the past several years, Friends of South Cumberland has presented a hiking challenge each year, designed to encourage visitors to explore South Cumberland State Park’s over 25,500 acres scattered across four counties. Last year’s challenge was called Hike Into History and focused on historical aspects of the park. This year’s challenge, Hiking in Mack’s Tracks, is...

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Roan Mountain State Park named Tennessee ‘Park of the Year’

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) recognized Roan Mountain State Park, located off TN Hwy. 143, as the 2016 Park of the Year for its demonstrated excellence in innovation, sustainability, interpretation, resource management and fiscal responsibility. “All 56 Tennessee State Parks strive and succeed in achieving our mission to preserve and...

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Little River, Cucumber Gap, Jakes Creek Loop at Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Elkmont is a nice area of the Smokies to visit in winter. It’s quiet, historic, alive with waterways, and offers views of the surrounding mountains through the leafless trees. Little River is beautiful as always, the climb up and over Cucumber Gap is invigorating, and the timeless cottages of Daisy Town along Jakes Creek harken back to a simpler time in the...

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Discover Chattanooga-area trails with local hiking groups

One of the major attractions of living in the Chattanooga, TN area is the abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities, which includes many miles of hiking trails close to town. As a new year gets underway, you may be thinking you’d like to get started or do more in the way of hiking some of those trails. Or you may already be an avid hiker who’s recently moved to...

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Fire burns in Tellico Plains area; Trail of Tears a concern

A fire in the Tellico Plains, TN area near Cherohala Skyway is threatening structures as well as a part of the historic Trail of Tears, said Nathan Waters, assistant district forester with the state Division of Forestry. Terry McDonald with the U.S. Forest Service said the fire was reported around 2 a.m. and was covering 30 acres but would likely grow before it is...

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Hiking 500 Miles in the Smokies

The first time I went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park more than 15 years ago I knew it was someplace special. But it took me nearly 10 more years before I ever set foot on one of her trails. Work kept me busy and I had different recreational interests, but when I got serious about hiking around 2008, you couldn’t hold me back. Most of my early hikes were...

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Appalachian Trail from Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina can get pretty warm and muggy in mid-summer. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not exempt from that. So when I hike in July and August I like to head for the high country… and there’s nowhere higher in the Smokies than Clingmans Dome. In fact, it’s the third highest peak in the East and the highest point...

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Key segment of unfinished Foothills Parkway to receive final funding

Good news for Smokies lovers. A 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway in Blount and Sevier counties in Tennessee is a big step closer to final funding thanks to a $10 million federal transportation grant. The unfinished section includes the “Missing Link,” an infamous 1.65-mile stretch that will require nine bridges to span a series of ravines along the...

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Little River and Goshen Prong Trails at Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Little River headwaters region of the Smokies was heavily logged in the early 20th century. As a result, a community called Elkmont sprung up in the valley below to support the lumberjacks and their families. Elkmont eventually became a mountain resort for the well-to-do of eastern Tennessee with its rustic cabins along the river. These days those quaint cottages...

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Appalachian Trail from Yellow Mountain Gap to Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains

You can see them from Roan Highlands. They appear when viewed from Linville Gorge and Grandfather Mountain too. The long, green balds that comprise Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains stick out like limes in a grapefruit basket. And, you can see all those other landmarks from the Hump Mountains. The iconic Appalachian Trail (AT) arrives from the Highlands of Roan to...

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Walking the Cades Cove Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Perhaps the most popular feature in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is a throwback to 19th century living. Cades Cove is a wide, verdant valley surrounded by mountains that today is teeming with wildlife and spring floral beauty. The 11-mile Loop Road around the valley provides an opportunity for motorists, bicyclists, even walkers like me to...

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SAHC helps Rocky Fork State Park acquire tract for public access

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy helped celebrate Earth Day with the closing of an exciting new project which will enable more people to learn about and enjoy the incredible Rocky Fork region. They worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to purchase a 1-acre tract to facilitate public access for Rocky Fork State Park. “This 1-acre...

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Schoolhouse Gap Trail to Whiteoak Sink, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Without a doubt one of the most popular wildflower hikes on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Whiteoak Sink is a basin surrounded by steep hills. In April each year this natural botanical garden comes alive with more than 30 varieties of native wildflowers right alongside the trail for all to enjoy. The name “Sink” comes from the...

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Spring Comes to the Smokies – A Photo Essay

The Smokies can always be counted on for fulfilling the promise of spring renewal. One of the best spots for finding early blooms of exotic native wildflowers is on Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the national park. Along the pathway is a diverse array of flowery goodness including the multi-acre mystical fringed phacelia garden, seemingly home to a host...

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‘Missing Link’ bridges on Foothills Parkway on schedule for completion in 2017

Over the past three decades a 1.65-mile section of the Foothills Parkway known as the “Missing Link” has come to epitomize the setbacks and delays that have beset the project as a whole. When completed, the Foothills Parkway will stretch 72 miles between Cosby, Tenn., to the east, and U.S. Highway 129 to the west. Congress authorized the project in 1944, but...

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Appalachian Trail to Mt. Kephart and The Jumpoff – A Photo Essay

The Appalachian Trail splits the states of North Carolina and Tennessee through most of the breadth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hugging the state line as it traverses the rugged and remote ridges, the AT is a favorite destination for day hikers and thru hikers alike. There is a three and a half mile stretch from Newfound Gap to the summit of Mt. Kephart, and...

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Fiery Gizzard reroute continues, volunteers needed

Despite the wet, cold weather, work is steadily moving forward to reroute the Fiery Gizzard Trail on the Cumberland Plateau, but crews need some helping hands. The Friends of South Cumberland State Park just received a $2,000 Tennessee Trails Association grant that will pay for a heaving-lifting system. Park rangers will use the system to move large rocks, bridge lumber...

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Slickrock Creek Trail to Lower Falls, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness straddles the North Carolina / Tennessee line near the southern borders of the states, with about 75% of its 17,000 acres contained in NC. Six trailheads provide access to more than 60 miles of trail within the designated wilderness, which typically follow ridge tops or drop into the shady drainages. Perhaps the most atypical trail...

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Road Prong Trail to Chimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Chimney Tops is one of the more popular destinations in the Smokies because of its central location, rugged beauty, and challenging access. And challenging it is. While short in distance, the trails that lead to the summit of Chimney Tops are steep and strenuous. Accessible from two trails, one below that climbs from Hwy 441 to the top, and one above that drops down from...

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Popular Fiery Gizzard hiking trail may have to close

The Fiery Gizzard is one of the most celebrated hiking trails in the country, but a land dispute could close the Grundy County, Tennessee trail by Dec. 1, 2015. A private property owner has told the state he will no longer grant access to hikers beginning Dec. 1. “What we have is as land gets sold or passed down to heirs, that handshake agreement, that verbal agreement...

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Hiking Trail Marathon kicks off

Get ready to discover the beautiful trails of Fairfield Glade and Cumberland County, Tennessee. The Cumberland Plateau has some wonderful scenery and now everyone will have the opportunity to get to know it up close and personal. Registration for the Cumberland Plateau Hiking Trail Marathon kicked off Aug. 1, 2015. Just like a marathon race, this hiking marathon includes...

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Bob Stratton Bald via Connector 54A, Nantahala National Forest

Deep in the remote southwestern corner of North Carolina where the scenic Cherohala Skyway climbs to meet Tennessee at Beech Gap, the Bob Bald Connector Trail (54A) climbs a ridge through Nantahala National Forest to Bob Stratton Bald. One of the lush mountaintop meadows the Southern Appalachians are known for, Bob Bald as it is called, straddles a boundary between...

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