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A bridge over a stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Man with Autism Hikes All 900 Miles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 900 miles of beautiful trails, and Garan Moore has hiked all of them! On April 21, 2018, Garan became the first person with autism to accomplish this incredible feat. Local news station WBIR caught up with Garan and his mother, Theresa, to learn about their amazing story. You can see the full interview with the Moores below:

A Wake-Up Call at Dollywood

The inspiration for Garan’s odyssey in the Smoky Mountains came after a trip to Dollywood in 2012. At the time, Garan was 19-years-old and weighed over 300 pounds. When he attempted to board one of the coasters at the theme park, he couldn’t get the seat belt to fit around his waist and had to get off the ride.Water Ride in Dollywood

This disappointing experience served as a wake-up call for Garan’s mother. She told WBIR, “That was heartbreaking, and just my ah-ha moment.” Theresa began thinking about ways that her son could lose weight.

Soon after their visit to Dollywood, Garan and Theresa started taking walks near their home in Cosby, TN. Before long, the Moores were venturing into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for extended treks through the wilderness.

A Dramatic Transformation

For the past six years, Garan and his mom have gone hiking in the Smokies nearly every week. Theresa told WBIR that her son’s autism never stopped them from hitting the trails. Over time, Garan has become an accomplished hiker who prides himself on keeping up a brisk pace.

By the end of April 2018, Garan and his mother had hiked a total of 1,723.4 miles together, including all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Now 25-years-old, Garan has lost 80 pounds as a result of his hiking regimen. The Moores have returned to Dollywood and Garan was able to enjoy all of the roller coasters at the theme park.

The Smoky Mountains Appalachian Trail on a foggy fall day.Hiking in the Smoky Mountains has been a transformative experience for Garan and his mother. Reflecting on their time in the national park, Theresa told WBIR, “Oh my gosh, the memories we have now. It’s just for us to connect.” Theresa is enormously proud of her son, telling reporter Shannon Smith that Garan is her hero because of his phenomenal perseverance.

The Moores plan to continue their hiking expeditions and hope to hit 2,000 miles in the near future. Garan’s determination is strong, telling WBIR, “It’s too late to stop. I won’t stop.”

900 Miler Club

Garan and Theresa are now eligible for membership in the 900 Miler Club, which honors those ambitious hikers who have conquered every trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As of May 2, 2018, there are only 561 official members in the 900 Miler Club, which was founded in 1995. It’s safe to say that the Moores are part of a very exclusive group!Stunning photo of Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Most Popular Trails in the Smoky Mountains

Has reading about Garan’s amazing journey inspired you to hit the trails yourself? Check out our handy guide to the 5 most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains!