Hiking the Smoke Ring Trail Around the GSMNP

“It won’t rain on me,” said Travis “Shepherd” Hall, the long-distance hiker as he descended the Smokies’ Chestnut Top Trail. Hall, who hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2000 (north to south), has made this same claim to fellow hikers who were worried about the weather. When he left a shelter, he says, they would watch in amazement as the rain stopped.

The Smoke Ring Trail (SRT) is Hall’s brainchild, an idea he began to develop seven years ago, to map a route that goes around the perimeter of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Hall, a hair stylist in high demand who works out of Hairpeace in Knoxville, didn’t get a chance to do the 260-mile long trek until last April.

He started on Chestnut Top on April 2, and on April 23 he descended Roundtop Trail and waded across the Little River, his finish line, to complete the circle.

The SRT uses parts of 51 official park trails and a couple of stretches of roads. Hall recommends the park’s $1 trail map for hikers to make sure they turn the right way at trail junctions.

Many people want to hike the AT but can’t get away for six months, he says. The SRT gives you the same biodiversity, scenery, and immersive trail magic as the AT, but you can do it in three weeks, and there are multiple access points where you can see loved ones or go into town or quit, if you have to.

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