This year we are celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service. To honor the first 100 years of the National Park Service and launch into the next century, the Park Superintendent has committed to hiking 100 miles of park trails during 2016 -- and he invites you to join in on this challenge!
Whether you are new to hiking in the Smokies or have seen most or all the trails in the park before, we encourage you to set a goal of reaching 100 miles during this special year of celebration, between January 1-December 6, 2016. You may hike any 100 miles of maintained trails in the park. Your miles can include everything from front country nature trails to the extensive trail network in the backcountry. You may hike the same trail repeatedly or different trails; and you may hike them solo, with a group or even with a guide. The goal is to inspire you to explore and enjoy the many benefits the park has to offer. More information.
When you are ready to take on this challenge, plan your hikes and get out on a trail! Download a mileage log, create your own log, or purchase a 'Hike the Smokies' log book to keep track of your miles. The 'Hike the Smokies' log book is available for $1.00 at the bookstores in the park or on the Great Smoky Mountains Association website.
After you have hiked 100 miles this year, send an email to let us know! You will then receive information about the Hike 100 Celebration on Thursday, December 8, 2016 to receive your commemorative "Smokies Centennial Challenge - Hike 100" pin!
Sample 100 Mile Hike Plan
Gatlinburg Trail - 4 miles
Little River & Cucumber Gap Trails Loop - 6 miles
Chimney Tops Trail - 4 miles
Porters Creek Trail - 8 miles
Ramsay Cascades - 8 miles
Abrams Falls Trail to the Falls - 6 miles
Gregory Bald Trail to the Bald - 9 miles
Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls - 3 miles
Laurel Falls Trail - 3 miles
Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald - 5 miles
Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls - 5 miles
Smokemont Loop Trail - 7 miles
Noland Divide to Lonesome Pine Overloop - 7 miles
Deep Creek & Sunkota Ridge Loop - 13 miles
Cataloochee Divide Trail - 10 miles
Oconaluftee River Trail - 3 miles
Any 100 miles count! Superintendent Cash's 100 Mile Plan is subject to change due to all kinds of factors - like weather, trail conditions, and fitness level of those who hike with him. The important part is that the miles he will cover by the end of the year will be 100.
Hike Events with the Superintendent
In the spirit of the Centennial, many of Superintendent Cash's hikes will be with youth who may be experiencing their first such adventure in the park. There are also public events which will give you the opportunity to hike alongside the Superintendent. These include two front country hikes that are open to anyone who would like to attend and two backcountry hikes which are each limited to 20 hikers. This limit is due to our concern for the resources in the backountry, our attention to Leave No Trace and hiker safety. At this time, there has been overwhelming response to the backcountry hikes.
Front country Hikes, Open to Everyone:
Saturday, August 20, 2016 - Gatlinburg Trail - meet at 9 a.m. in front of the Sugarlands Visitor Center to join us on this hike!
Saturday, December 3, 2016 - Oconaluftee River Trail * Check back for more details about this hike *
Backcountry Hikes, Limited to a maximum of 20 hikers each:
Saturday, June 25, 2016 - a trail in North Carolina
Saturday, October 1, 2016 - a trail in Tennessee
Latest Trail Adventures
Check here throughout the year to see pictures and read about some of the latest trails that Superintendent Cash has explored. You might see something you will want to add to your list! We are so fortunate to be sharing these hiking experience with groups of amazing and inspirational young people. Check out the photo gallery below the hike descriptions for photos of these great hikes!
In March, Superintendent Cash had the opportunity to hike with a group from the Boys and Girls Club of Tennessee Valley. It was a beautiful morning waking along the Little River Trail. The Little River Trail is a great hike for beginners and expeirenced hikers alike. Not only did we enjoy walking along the river but we walked by some of the old historic structures of those that had lived on park land, spotted turkeys and a snail or two, and were graced with some early wildflowers that were just starting to pop up on the forest floor.
We enjoyed the March hike along the Little River Trail so much that we went back in May with a group from Pellissippi State Community College. For many in this group, this was not only their first venture into the park but it was their first hike. They had a great time exploring the trail, checking out the river and enjoying the fresh air. It highlighted how fascinating it can be to explore a place for the first time and (for us) how the same stretch of trail provides a different experience each time you step on it - no matter how many times you have hiked it before.
What should you do to celebrate Earth Day? We thought we should hit the trail with a group of middle school students from Cherokee. Mother nature showered us with some rain but the advantage of that is it really makes the waterfalls spectacular. We were fortunate to be joined by Mark Woods, Superintendent of Blue Ridge Parkway. The hike took us on the Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails to and beyond Toms Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. The Deep Creek area of the park can be busy this time of the year but on this day we had the trail and the falls almost to ourselves! It was an enjoyable and refreshing hike. Had the weather conditions been a little more stable, we would have also hiked up to see Juney Whank Falls. If you venture to Deep Creek take the waterfall loop and check out all three of these waterfalls, each with their own unique character.
A group from Nashville, associated with Stones River National Battlefield Class of 2016 program, joined us on on a hike along the Appalachian Trail, out to Charlies Bunion. The Bunion is one of the iconic places in the Smokies and can be a great spot for a view. The sun was shining when we met at the Visitor Center and by the time we got up to Newfound Gap to begin our hike, we were in the clouds. We were grateful that after the 4 mile hike out there in rain filled, smoky conditions the clouds parted to give some great views from the ridge. The hike out to the Bunion is an 8 mile round trip, with significant gain and loss of elevation along the way - you definitely earn the view!
While most of the Hike 100 Hikes with Superintendent Cash are with youth groups, there are a few events open to the public. On a hot and humid day in June we took a great hike on the Smokemont Loop Trail with a group of adults, all of whom were most certainly Smokies Enthusiasts! These hikes not only give us the opportunity to explore different areas of the park but also enjoy sharing time with different groups of people. The Smokemont Loop Trail begins and ends in the Smokemont Campground. While it does not boast extreme mountain views, it is a beautiful hike among the trees. We were graced with many shades of green and the occasional break in the canopy to catch a distant ridge. For those that wish to enjoy a short walk Smokemont area, and are not up for tackling the Smokemont Loop Trail, there is a nature trail loop worth exploring.
It was time to explore the Greenbrier area of the park with an inspiring group of Junior Naturalists with the Smoky Mountain Field School. We headed out to the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Cabin and were fortunate enough to have members of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club along, some of whom worked on the fixing the roof of that building years ago! We enjoy a jaunt on the Porter Creek Trail which while it is known for wildflowers in the spring, it is a great hike no matter the season. Superintendent Cash also presented this group with their Junior Naturalist Certificates for their participation in a week-long program with the Smoky Mountain Field School.
Purchase Knob and the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center provided the perfect location to begin and end a hike, offering great views! We took a hike along the Cataloochee Divide Trail with a group from the Outdoor Mission Camp, most of whom live in the flat-land of Florida. We headed along the Cataloochee Divide Trail towards Cove Creek Gap which offers the glimpse of a view or two along the way, but the appeal on this day was the brilliant green and the wild nature of the trail. It also passes along impressive natural rock features and Taylor's Turnaround. Even with some elevation gain and loss to deal with along the way on our out-and-back hike, some thunder and walking between some rain drops, a great time was had by all!
We hit the Kephart Prong Trail with a group from Unity Healing in Cherokee. The trail (along with the pring and the mountain above) are named for Horace Kephart, best known as the author of Our Southern Highlanders. The trail is full of history as it passes by an old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, fish hatchery, and of the remnants of a railroad left by the Champion Fibre Company. Two miles in this gently sloping trail our group reached the Kephart Prong Shelter, which is a great spot for a break - by the shelter or by the river!
The rivers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can provide spectacular views. The Big Creek Trail provides hikers with the opportunity to walk alongside the river and also provides views where the trail passes well above the water. On a hot, humid August day we were joined by a group from Asheville Greenworks to explore the Big Creek Trail. This venture presented much to explore, including spides and moss, Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls.
In celebration of connection of Gatlinburg as a gateway community we held a Hike 100 Hike, that was open to the public, on the Gatlinburg Trail. 60 members of the public, local and vacationers, young and old, new to hiking and experience, hiked alongside Superintendent Cash and the Mayor of the City of Gatlinburg, Mike Werner. The Gatlinburg Trail is a 2 mile trail the runs between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Gatlinburg.
Share your thoughts
We welcome you to share your comments and reflections about your hiking experiences as you cover your 100 miles. Email your thoughts to Superintendent Cash and he will reply to some of your messages throughout the year. You can also share you photos and reflections on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainsNPS in the "visitor posts" section and/or on your own Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and tag it with #Hike100.