Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA autumn landscape at Newfound Gap.Little River off of Tremont Rd. in Great Smoky Mountain National Park with fall colors on displayHikers in the Smokies crossing a creekFall foliage in the SmokiesView from Shuckstack Fire Tower on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina in the fall.Shadows of hikers during sunset, Great Smoky MountainsLeaves changing colors in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkTwo guests on a Wildland Trekking Smoky Mountains backpacking tripLynn Camp Prong Cascades in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in peak October color

Fall Colors in the Smokies Backpack

Asheville, NC

Trip Highlights

  • Dramatic Fall Colors
  • High Mountain Meadows
  • Breathtaking Views
  • Pristine Creeks
  • Historic Fire Tower
  • Appalachian Trail

Description

There’s no better way to enjoy the explosion of fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains than on a backpacking trip, far from the Park’s busy highways and crowded boardwalks. On this trip we hike into the backcountry for 4 days past waterfalls, along mountain ridges, near the shores of pristine creeks, to breathtaking views from high mountain meadows, and along a dramatic section of the Appalachian Trail to a historic fire tower. We’ll be surrounded by the explosion of colors the Smokies are famous for from mid October through early November. Trees like the sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, hickory and more transform from summer shades of green to reds, purples, oranges, pinks, yellows and more, turning the mountains into a kaleidoscope of colors that dazzle the senses.

Be ready to hike, enjoy, photograph and revel in the wonders of the Appalachian fall foliage season on this fall colors backpacking tour you’ll never forget!

Please Note: The Smokies’ fall foliage typically occurs between the last week of mid October and early November, but it is a natural process that varies year by year. We have done our very best to schedule the tour dates for the best chance to see the peak fall colors, but as with many things in nature there are no guarantees. Regardless of the stage of the fall foliage during your tour, it’s a stunningly beautiful area to hike and explore, and a magical season in which to be there. 

Read more …
From
$1150 Per Person
Return Guests get a 10% discount on all Trips!
Trip Type: Guided Backpacking Trip
Difficulty Level:
Solitude Level:
Group Size: 4-6 Guests
Trip Length: 4 Days
Distance: 22MI / 35KM

DIFFICULTY LEVEL 3

Scale of 1-5. 1 is least difficult; 5 is most difficult

SUMMARY OF DIFFICULTY
This hike travels along a wide very well maintained trail all the way to the first camp. Day 3 will have us crossing two creeks right out of camp and then making a short but steep climb to the ridge. Once summiting the top, a quick drop down to camp for night 3. Day 4 will be down hill along a maintained trail back to the trailhead.

Hiking Distances:

4-7 miles

Backpack Weight:

35-45 pounds

Terrain:

Moderately Rugged

Max Daily Elev. ↑↓:

2120 feet

Heights Exposure:

None

Please Note: Terrain, Elevation Gain and Heights Exposure ratings reflect the section or day of the trip with the maximum difficulty of each. Much of the trip is at easier levels. See the trip itinerary for more detailed information. Backpack Weight ratings are estimates that account for Wildland-provided gear, guest clothing, personal items and a share of group food. By packing light it’s often possible to stay on the lower end of the weight range. Pack weights also decrease during the trip.

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS

  • Hiking uphill or downhill with a 35-45 lb backpack for 6-8 hours
  • Maintaining balance and footing on moderately rugged terrain
  • Creek crossings

SOLITUDE LEVEL 2

1 least solitude, 5 most solitude

We rate this Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip a solitude 2. You can expect as much as an hour of solitude at a time.

All North Carolina trips begin and end from Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville has an airport served by Allegiant Air, Delta, United, and US Airways. One can also fly into Greenville, South Carolina or Charlotte, North Carolina and drive to Asheville. It is a 1.5-hour drive from Greenville to Asheville and a 2-hour drive from Charlotte on good roads.

FROM ASHEVILLE AIRPORT
Asheville Airport Express (http://www.ashevilleairportexpress.com, 828-231-1053) and Harry’s Car Service run (828-774-8178) shuttles to and from downtown. Also a number of taxis are usually available on the curb in the Arrivals area.

FROM GREENVILLE/CHARLOTTE
Asheville Airport Express also runs daily vans from Charlotte and Greenville to Asheville.

CAR RENTALS
Avis: 800-331-1212; Hertz 800-654- 3131; National: 800-227-7368; Thrifty: 800-367-2277; Alamo: 800-327-9633

PRIVATE TRIPS

Travel in perfect company by booking a private trip exclusively for your group!

Our sliding scale for private trips is based on the final number of guests in your group. Rates are per person and do not include sales tax, national park fees or guide gratuity. The final rate is based on the actual number of guests on the trip and may adjust based on cancellations or additions.

Please Note: you can also enjoy a private trip at our normal scheduled rates by filling any empty tour to capacity. However, if group members drop from the tour those spots will automatically become available on our website for instant booking. By purchasing a private trip at the rates listed below, your trip will remain exclusive to your group regardless of cancellations. 

PRIVATE RATES FOR THIS TRIP

  • 2 People: Rate x 2.5
  • 3 People: Rate x 1.75
  • 4 People: Rate x 1.25
  • 5+ People: Rate x 1.15

*all rates are per person

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ITINERARY

ITINERARY

Day 1

  • Shuttle to the trailhead: 2-hour drive from Asheville
  • Hiking Mileage: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1200 feet

On this backcountry Smokies fall foliage tour we begin our hike on a historic gravel road build in the 1930’s. Rocks cut by the Civilian Conversation Corps during the Depression give us a glimpse of the fascinating geology of the ancient Appalachians. It won’t be long before we arrive at Twenty Mile Cascade, a charming waterfall deep in the diverse forests of the Smokies. We’ll relax by the waterfall, enjoy a picnic lunch and soak up the fall colors reflecting off the surface of the water. The rest of our first day’s hike is along a creek which gives us almost constant opportunity to appreciate and photograph the fall colors from close up. Eventually we will arrive at camp and settle in for a relaxing evening and our first Appalachian dinner prepared by your guide.

Day 2

  • Hiking Mileage: 6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1550 feet

Yesterday we enjoyed close up views of the fall foliage as we hiked in dense Appalachian forests and along creeks. Today is a layover day to earn landscape-level views of the color explosion. After a delicious, hot breakfast, we will don our day packs and hike to a junction with the Appalachian Trail (AT). We will follow the AT to an amazing, historic fire tower for breathtaking views of the fall colors. Soaring over the tree tops at almost 6 stories tall, the tower gives us an unparalleled vantage point from which to gaze over the surrounding mountains, including Fontana Lake. We will have lunch here, soaking up the spectacular scenery, then return to camp for another relaxing evening and tasty dinner.

Day 3

  • Hiking Mileage: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2120 feet

Today we break camp and make our way to one of the Smokies’ high mountain meadows, called “balds” that will give us more views of the fall colors that surround us. After a hot breakfast we’ll hike uphill along the same mountain creek we followed on Day 1. We’ll reach Long Hungry Ridge, whose namesake is a group of men who were hunting bears in the early 20th century and became stranded for days in inclement weather. We’ll hike by Rye Patch, a historic site that was planted with rye before the Civil War by an ambitious, early Appalachian settler. After approximately one more mile we’ll arrive at Gregory Bald, where we’ll revel in the amazing views of Cades Cove thousands of feet below us and the mountains that surround us in all directions. We’ll enjoy lunch in the tall grass of the bald, surrounded by wildflowers and fall foliage views, before hiking to our campsite a short distance away. We’ll set up camp and return to the meadow for a spectacular sunset dinner and evening photography opportunity, weather permitting.

Day 4

  • Hiking Mileage: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 3320 feet
  • Shuttle to Asheville: 2-hour drive to Asheville

Our final morning begins with a leisurely breakfast, after which we’ll begin our long descent out of the mountains. We’ll hike through another bald, with more 360° views, then continue our trek down a ridge on a historic road, constructed by a 1920’s logging company, to a pristine mountain creek. After crossing the creek several times, we will arrive back at our starting point. With phones or cameras full of spectacular fall foliage images, and our hearts, minds and bodies rejuvenated by the natural rhythms and beautiful settings nature provides, we’ll return to Asheville for the conclusion of our fall colors tour.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes. Normal terms and conditions apply to trips with itinerary changes.

Trip Dates & Booking

TRIP DATES & BOOKING

Click on a date to register. You can also click here to request new dates or book through customer service.

Available to Book

AVAILABLE TO BOOK

This trip is available and bookable online! Click on the date to register now or contact us online to book through our award-winning customer service team!

Going Fast

GOING FAST

This trip has 1 or 2 spots remaining and is bookable online! Click on the date to book now or contact us online to book through customer service.

Request a Reservation

REQUEST A RESERVATION

This trip is exclusively booked through customer service due to logistics with lodging, permits, staffing, availability, or something else. Please contact us online or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453) to request a reservation.

Don't see your dates? Call us! We may be able to add new trip dates.

800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Details

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, backcountry sleeping pad and multi-day backpack
  • High quality, synthetic sleeping bag (professionally laundered after every use) – or bring your own.
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • Trained hiking guide(s) with years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. See Guide Bios.
  • Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Asheville, North Carolina to the trailhead and back
  • Entrance fees and national park permits
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and communication device (InReach Explorer or satellite phone)
  • Mandatory 5% national park fee that passes through directly to Great Smoky Mountains NP
  • A Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and dependents to a discount of 10% off any Wildland hiking trip after your first one (must book directly with us to receive the discount)!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear (see recommendations)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about what to pack.

Meals: What to Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:

  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware synthetic-fill sleeping bags (or bring your own)
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Emergency communication device(s)

Guest Packing List

When you register for this tour you’ll receive access to a printable, downloadable trip information packet with a detailed packing list specific to this trip (click here to see it now.) All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, rain gear, a recommended clothing system, a headlamp or flashlight, a hydration system (water bottles and/or bladder) and other items specific to each trip.

Additionally, some guests choose to bring their own sleeping bag. We supply high quality, synthetic fill bags that are professionally laundered after every trip. Synthetic fill is non-allergenic, insulates when damp and stands up well to repeated washings, but is heavier and bulkier than down. If you’re able to bring your own down sleeping bag, there are multiple benefits. If not, we’ve got you covered!

Trip Logistics

Trip Logistics

How Do I Register?

Reserve your spot today! In the Trip Dates & Booking section of this page, the green and red dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you’re ready to register we’ll email you a link to a registration profile. You’ll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit.

Feel free to call us for more info – we’re here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

You will meet your guide and group at the Holiday Inn in downtown Asheville (standard rooms are $99-$140 for our guests, 828-225-5550) for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. We’re happy to give you a ride to this meeting if you’re not staying at the Holiday Inn. Your guide will then pick you up the next morning for transport to the trailhead. For Private Great Smoky Mountains Tours your guide can meet you at any hotel in Asheville at an agreed upon time.

Click here to see a printable, downloadable trip information packet with more detailed guidance about flights, shuttles, recommended lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day’s pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).

Safety Precautions

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT’s, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. Guides adhere to standardized risk management protocols in case of any potential or actual incident, and all tours carry an emergency communication device and comprehensive first-aid kit. Additionally we have a “24/7” system through which guides or guests can reach Wildland support personnel at any time.

If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time…etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides’ off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Age Restrictions

Age restrictions on this trip are as follows:

  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 8 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in the Great Smoky Mountains

The weather in the Great Smoky Mountains varies greatly by time of year. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures in for low elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
Month Low Elev High Elev
hi low hi low
January 51° 28° 35° 19°
February 54° 29° 35° 18°
March 61° 34° 39° 24°
April 71° 42° 49° 34°
May 79° 50° 57° 43°
June 86° 58° 63° 49°
July 88° 59° 65° 53°
August 87° 60° 64° 52°
September 83° 55° 60° 47°
October 73° 43° 53° 38°
November 61° 33° 42° 28°
December 52° 28° 37° 21°

Accommodations

Accommodations

Backcountry Sleeping

TENT CAMPING

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and synthetic-fill sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

Backcountry Cuisine

FRESH & DELICIOUS

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

Amazing Campsites

IN THE ACTION

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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Trip Reviews

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