After hiking one of the most popular trails yesterday, I thought of a few important things new hikers need to know:
- Hiking etiquette-when hiking on any trail stay to your right when you are passing oncoming hikers. This may mean you have to walk single file if you are with a group. Be courteous to those hiking on the cliff side. If other hikers are coming up behind you, be mindful and let them pass on the left by going single file or by stopping to the side.
- Trail Markers-some trails, especially in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park(GSMNP), have trail markers. At the beginning of a trail, there will be what’s called a trailhead sign. This will tell you the ONE-WAY mileage of the trail. Some trails have brochures you can pick up, some for a donation and some free. These brochures highlight certain aspects along the trail and are denoted by numbered markers on the trail. Some people confuse these with mile markers. They are not the same thing! Usually, if a trail has mile markers, it will say M or Miles on the marker. (I will update after I snap a picture from our next hike) Below is an example of different signage you might see. The first is a trailhead sign you will usually see near the parking area at the start of the trail. This is in one-way mileage. The second picture is of handy markers that were along the trail at Bud Ogle's place. It helps guide you on the trail as it goes rocks and can be hard to tell which way the actual trail goes. The third picture below shows the same concept but in a different way. This particular trail system marks theirs by color. As you can see in the fourth picture, the Sycamore Falls Trailhead marker has a blue flashing on it. Along the trail itself, it will have flashing tacked to trees to indicate the actual trail.
- Pack in-Pack out-There is nothing worse than sitting down on a rock for lunch and learning that it was someone’s potty before you got there because their soggy tissue is still on the ground! Yesterday, on the hike there was an older gentlemen actually cleaning these and other trash off the trail. It’s simple, if you are taking tissues, take a bag to discard them in and carry it out to the trash. The park is not a trash can. For a helpful list of what to pack click here.
- Bear proof cars- don’t leave any food in your cars if you are hiking in areas where there are bear which is all of the GSMNP area. Don’t leave your food wrappers either! Bear have a great sense of smell and will break into your vehicle. It’s not worth it. Hike with your snacks or leave them in the room. If you hike with snacks, see #3!
- Water-always carry water with you! If you happen to fall and break your leg, you may be waiting for help for a while. It’s better to be prepared! On most hikes, we usually carry a bottle for the way in and one for the way out. Longer hikes or hikes that we pack a full picnic for, we take more.
- Pets-pets are not allowed on any trail in the GSMNP. The only trail that allows them that I know of at this point is the Gatlinburg Trail. Check all trail allowances before heading out! Most visitor centers can tell you the rules long before you bring your fur-baby to the woods.
We meet new hikers all the time that aren't prepared, that don't understand the trail systems, wearing the wrong shoes and all kinds of other hiking faux pas. We were there once, too. That's why we are sharing what we know. We are not experts by any means but we want to share what we have learned over the years. Comment below with your hiking questions!