Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites visitors to join them for ranger-led hikes across the park on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Hikes will be offered in the Cataloochee, Elkmont, and Cades Cove areas of the park providing an outstanding opportunity for people of all ages to #OptOutside and enjoy the park.
Rangers, park volunteers, and Friends of the Smokies staff will help visitors discover special cultural and natural resources along the hikes. Visitors may also choose to hike on their own and can come to any of the park’s visitor centers throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to receive information about hiking options including several short nature trails that are perfect for children.
“I hope you have the chance to Find Your Park over the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park offers the perfect place to take a stroll with your family or find a quiet place for reflection. I encourage you to spend some time in your park and am thankful for our dedicated staff, volunteers, and partners for making these special hiking opportunities available.”
The park has over 800 miles of trails to explore throughout the year with every season offering its own special rewards. During late fall and winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas revealing stone walls, chimneys, and foundations. These reminders of past communities allow hikers to discover a glimpse of history along park trails.
“It is due to the generosity of individuals giving to Friends of the Smokies that allows us to support programs like these special hikes, improve trails, support educating kids, and help park resources,” said Holly DeMuth, Friends of the Smokies North Carolina Director.
Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 at 10 a.m. – Hike to Abrams Falls in Cades Cove
Join park staff for a 5-mile, roundtrip hike to one of the largest waterfalls in the park. The hike is rated moderate with several steep, rocky sections. Expect 4 hours total for the hike. Participants will learn about the parks 2,900 miles of streams, wildlife that depend on the stream, and the significance of Abrams Creek to the diversity of the park. Meet at the Abrams Falls trailhead, halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road at 10 a.m. The program is subject to cancellation if the weather is bad. For more information, call Cades Cove at 865-448-4104.
Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 at 10 a.m. – Little Cataloochee Trail near Cataloochee
The 5-mile, roundtrip hike on the Little Cataloochee Trail is rated moderate but does have several steep sections. The trail follows an old road that provided access between Big Cataloochee and Little Cataloochee in the past. Stops on the hike include the Hannah cabin, the Little Cataloochee Church and cemetery, and the Cook cabin as well several former homesites.
The ranger leading the hike will have historic photos and maps of the area to share with participants. The guided portion of the hike will end after 2.5 miles at the restored Cook family cabin. Participants can return to their cars at their own pace or further explore the area. Meet at the parking area on the left just after entering Cataloochee Valley. From there, participants will follow the ranger and drive 5 miles to the Little Cataloochee trailhead. The best route into Cataloochee is Cove Creek Road which is accessible from Hwy. 276 near its intersection with Interstate 40. Participants driving to the area on I-40 should use Exit 20 (Hwy. 276 exit) and immediately turn right on to Cove Creek Road. The drive from Hwy. 276 into Cataloochee is 10 miles. Cove Creek Road is a winding, two-lane road and includes a four-mile section that is unpaved. For more information, call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 828-497-1904.
Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 at 9 a.m. – Cucumber Gap near Elkmont
This easy, 4.8-mile roundtrip hike follows the river through a beautiful, cove hardwood forest. Participants will learn about the rich history of the area including the logging operations of the Little River Lumber Company. Expect 3-4 hours total for the hike. One river crossing may be required. Meet at the Little River trailhead at 9 a.m., 7 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont. For more information, call Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291.
What to bring: Weather in the Smoky Mountains can be unpredictable, especially in the fall. Rangers recommend participants dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and bring rain gear. Participants should also bring a bag lunch, snacks, and plenty of water.