Gregory Bald in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkLynn Camp Prong Cascades in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkWildland Trekking backpackers in the SmokiesSilky Autumn Stream in the SmokiesFontana Lake viewed from Shuckstack Fire Tower in Smoky Mountainspink flower bushesWildland Trekking hiker on Gregory Bald in the Smokies

Smoky Mountains Classic

Asheville, NC
5.0 (46 reviews)

Trip Highlights

  • Iconic Appalachian Meadows
  • Backcountry Cascades
  • Sunset Dinner with Views
  • Amazing Pioneer Historical Sites
  • Stunning Meadows & Forests
  • Phenomenal Biodiversity
  • Guides Choice Trip


Our Smoky Mountains Classic – Guides Choice backpacking trip in the Smokies – takes you past waterfalls, along mountain ridges, near the shores of pristine creeks, to incredible views from high mountain meadows, and on a stunning section of the famous Appalachian Trail to a historic fire tower (on the 4-day tour only). We’ll stop to explore the flora and fauna of Appalachia’s amazing forests while we hike and explore on this trip, and we often see deer, elk and black bears as they all rely on the resources provided by the meadows of this area. One night’s camp is close to one of these meadows, so we’ll enjoy a sunset dinner in one of the most magnificent settings imaginable, overlooking the drama of the Appalachian Mountains.

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3 Days From USD
$1025 Per Person
4 Days From USD
$1305 Per Person
Trip Type: Guided Backpacking Trip
Difficulty Level:
Solitude Level:
Group Size: 1-6 Guests
Trip Length: 3-4 Days
Distance: 16+MI / 26+KM


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

This hike travels along a wide very well maintained trail all the way to the first camp. Day 2 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 2. Day 3 will be down hill along a maintained trail back to the trailhead.

Hiking Distances:

4-7 mi

Backpack Weight:

25-35 lbs


Moderately Rugged

Max Daily Elev. ↑↓:

2120 ft

Heights Exposure:


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.


  • Hiking uphill or downhill with a 25-35 lb backpack for 6-8 hours
  • Maintaining balance and footing on moderately rugged terrain
* For an official and complete list of physical requirements, please see our Essential Eligibility Criteria.


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.

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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Trip Itinerary

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

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

On this multi-day Great Smoky Mountains backpacking trip we begin hiking on a graded road that the Civilian Conservation Corps improved during the Great Depression. Rock cuts done by the CCC reveal the amazing geology of this ancient mountain range, which your guide will explain as you hike. We will soon come to Twenty Mile Cascade, a beautiful waterfall tucked in a dense, vibrant forest. We’ll eat lunch by the cascade, then continue our journey down a mountain creek to our campsite. The last part of today’s hike takes us past historic stone walls and foundations, the remnants of early settlers who briefly lived in this area. After getting settled in camp you can relax by the creek or enjoy an afternoon hike along one of the stunning creeks flowing near camp. Our day ends with a fantastic Appalachian dinner and relaxing evening.

Day 2

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

After a hot breakfast, we will leave our camp set up and head to the Appalachian Trail  (AT) to visit a historic fire tower that sits just off the AT. Towering over the tree tops at 60 feet in height, we will enjoy lunch at the old tower-keepers chimney and cistern remains that sit at the base of the steel tower. If you dare to climb the 6 flights of stairs to the top you will be overlooking Fontana Lake and the Dam with 360-degree views! Fontana Dam is the tallest dam east of the Mississippi River that rises over 480 feet in height! After a nice relaxing lunch we will head back the way we camp to enjoy a nice evening back at camp.

Day 3

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

Today is the highlight of the trip and a day you’re not likely to forget! After a hearty breakfast we’ll continue hiking up our mountain creek to Long Hungry Ridge, which got it’s name from a group of bear hunters marooned for days by bad weather and flooding in the early 20th century. We’ll pass Rye Patch, a historic area planted with rye before the civil war by an early settler of the region. Since then, the area has regrown a mixed hardwood forest with a lush, grassy ground cover. After another mile along our trail we come to the famous Gregory Bald, where we’ll absorb the amazing views of Cades Cove far below and the surrounding Mountains in all directions. Gregory Bald is known for its amazing views and its abundance of the beautiful Flame Azalea, which usually blooms in early summer, turning this bald into a natural work of art. We’ll enjoy lunch in the tall grass of the bald, surrounded by wildflowers and views, before continuing on to our campsite. We’ll set up camp and return to Gregory Bald for an unforgettable sunset dinner (weather permitting). Often at dusk we spot wildlife migrating from the forests to the meadows to feed. Our hike back to camp in the near dark completes this amazing day of Smoky Mountains wonder.

Day 4

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

Our last day starts with a relaxing breakfast, after which we’ll begin our long downhill trek. Initially we pass hoards of blueberry bushes, where we have good chances of seeing a black bear. The Smoky Mountains are home to one of the densest bear populations on the continent. We’ll pass another bald, then continue down a ridge on an old road, built by a 1920’s logging operation, to a beautiful mountain creek. After several creek crossings, we will arrive back at the remote Twenty Mile Ranger Station and our vehicle. We’ll contemplate our Smoky Mountains experience as we pass back through the Park on our return trip to Asheville. Our drive back will allow for contemplation of our last 3 days in the Appalachian wilderness and time to plan our next adventure!

3-Day Variation

On the 3-day variation of this trip, we skip the Day 2 hike on the Appalachian Trail to a historic fire tower, and go straight to Day 3 of the itinerary.

Important: this trip is operated as either a 3-day or 4-day itinerary, and is confirmed as such in advance. Variation of trip length does not mean guests can choose to leave a trip or early or extend it a day.

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


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

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


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


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

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, 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.

Travel to Asheville, NC

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.

Asheville Airport Express (, 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.

Asheville Airport Express also runs daily vans from Charlotte and Greenville to Asheville.

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

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.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

Essential Eligibility Criteria (“EEC”) have been specifically identified to help you understand the skills and abilities necessary to participate on each Wildland trip, and they apply uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability.

Once you identify a trip in which you may be interested, please carefully review the EEC and itinerary details. If after reviewing the EEC that apply to your desired trip, you determine you need an accommodation in order to meet the EEC, please contact us prior to registering to discuss your requested accommodation.

The EEC exist for your own safety and the safety and enjoyment of all participants. If you are unable to meet the EEC for the trip, with or without an accommodation, you are not eligible for that trip. If you register and arrive for a trip for which you do not meet the EEC, you will be disqualified from participation on the trip and will be dismissed or evacuated from the trip without a refund.

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)
  • 5 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°



Backcountry Sleeping


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


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.

Trip Reviews

Trip Reviews

  • Average Customer Ratings:

  • 5.0 (46 reviews)
Kathleen F

Challenging and so much fun.

25 days ago

Completed a backpack in the Smoky Mountains, with the guide Francisco. The experience was challenging and so much fun. Francisco has a great sense of humor, a knack for getting everyone talking and sharing stories. He has a world of knowledge regarding the area’s, fauna, history, as well as tips when navigating the backcountry. He is a person who lives and breathes his passion of being in the outdoors. He always made sure everyone in the group was comfortable and our needs were met. Nothing was too much to ask. All the meals were fantastic with fresh veggies and delicious spices. Thank you Francisco for a great memory of the Smoky Mountains!!!

Jessica P

Rewarding Experience

2 months ago

Wildland provided a great experience. The trail and sites were beautiful and we had a wonderful group and guide. John is an excellent guide because he has the technical skills and knowledge of knowing the land, but he also has fantastic people skills. He was able to meaningfully connect with every person (different ages from 14 to 5o something) and fostered a very positive and inclusive dynamic with the group. He is also a great cook! This was a very rewarding experience because we met great people, were challenged by the hike, and had a great leader!

Stacey H

Perfect "getaway" vacation

3 months ago

This was my first backpacking trip and I had the best time! The guide, John, was very helpful and encouraging. Our tour group had hikers of varying skill levels and John did a great job of making sure each of us had the support we needed and had an amazing experience. I immediately felt John had our safety and wellbeing as his top priority and this became extra evident when conditions were worse than we had prepared for. John's knowledge of the trails, National Park, and greater area we were traveling through, gave me more insight and historical context than I expected to receive (which was really awesome). This was the perfect "getaway" vacation for me, someone who lives in a big city, and I will certainly be looking to do another hiking trip with Wildland.

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