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Smoky Mountain hiking has become a favorite pastime of locals and visitors to the our beautiful Smoky Mountain area. With all the natural beauty to be found, it’s no wonder that this healthy and fun activity is something everyone looks forward to when they visit.
Preparing for your hike is simple, and important, so you can have the best trip into the mountains possible. To help you prepare for your hike, we’ve put together this simple list of Smoky Mountain hiking safety tips that you won’t want to forget.
Clothing and Footwear for Hiking in the Smoky Mountains
- Proper footwear for the trail is essential to staying safe and enjoying your hike. Making sure the shoes or boots you wear fit properly, and are comfortable, is critical. On the shoes or boots you choose, the soles should be sturdy and thick along with treads that give you traction to prevent any slipping when you’re hiking near streams or waterfalls.
- Thick socks make for comfortable feet during a hike, and a second pair of socks should be carried with you just in case your feet get wet while you’re exploring the mountains.
- Dress in layers to regulate your body temperature, and to make sure you are comfortable on your hike. As you hike, you may encounter different elevations in the mountains. The lower elevations always have warmer temperatures than the upper elevations, so it’s helpful to have a small sweater or jacket with you if you plan to hit the higher elevations. Plus, you want to stay warm for when the sun starts setting, too!
- Basic first aid kit. Bandaids, antiseptic ointment and even an ace bandage are perfect for a day in the mountains. Chances are, you’re not going to need any of these items, but it’s always good to have things packed and ready, just in case you encounter a blister or scrape along the trail.
- Bug spray. The Smoky Mountains are absolutely beautiful, but when you start making your way into the mountains, you’ll notice there’s bugs, too. The outdoors is their home, so we recommend avoiding all of the scented perfumes and sprays before your hike (these will attract bugs). If you’re planning on hiking near water sources, you may notice there’s more mosquitos and insects than other places in the park, so just be prepared with some bug spray!
- Map of the trails. Stopping by one of the visitors centers to pick up a trail map will help you to determine exactly which trails will provide you with the best experience for your hike. With more than 800 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, finding out which one has sights you want to see will help you make the most of your time here.
- Water, water, water! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials recommend taking at least 3-4 liters per person to stay hydrated. In the summer, you may need more so plan accordingly. You can also purchase bottles of water at the visitor centers if you forget to pack them with you.
- Energy snacks. We recommend you pack items like beef jerky, trail mix, crackers and peanut butter. These quick snacks are easy to pack away, won’t spoil quickly and will give you an extra boost of energy while you’re hiking. They’re also great for snacking on as you walk or they’re perfect for finding a shady place to sit and enjoy.
- Flashlight. In case you get caught in the mountains after the sun sets, a flashlight will be extremely helpful in guiding your path on your way out.
Pick the Best Smoky Mountain Hiking Trail for Your Group
Every trail is different. Some are more difficult based on the steepness and rugged terrain while others are easier to navigate with minimal steepness and possibly even a paved walkway. Choosing the one that fits the sort of hike you seek and is compatible with your fitness level is important.
If you’re planning a fall vacation in the Smoky Mountains, we recommend taking a look at Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove. You can take a behind-the-scenes look at these areas in our video:
Remind Others of Where You’ll Be Hiking
Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter any sort of problem in the mountains, it’s helpful to let an outside source know where you’ll be and when you plan to return.
- Stay on the trail! It protects you and protects the natural habitat for the animals. When you leave the trail, you do run the risk of losing direction and adding a few extra hours to your hike, so it’s best if you stay on the established trail.
- Keep a pace that everyone in the group can maintain, and keep everyone together. It’s best if everyone stays together to prevent anyone from getting too far ahead or too far behind. This is where it’s beneficial to know the difficulty levels of each trail, so you can make an accurate decision before you start your hike. If you have a large group, and you’re not sure which trail is best, talk to the National Park Rangers at any of the national park visitor centers before you start hiking. They’ll be more than happy to help you choose the trail that’s best for everyone you’re with!
- If you encounter wildlife, don’t approach or feed them. If the animal comes toward you, stay in a group and slowly back away to a safe place. Making loud noises and appearing larger than the animal is also important.
You can find other tips for Smoky Mountain hiking safety by reading our blog about Everything You Need to Know for Hiking in the Smokies.
Taking a hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be a fun way to experience East Tennessee and truly get a feel for the natural beauty of the area. To learn more about the beautiful Smoky Mountain hiking trails and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, CLICK HERE.