Thursday, April 27, 2017

Time to Make Plans for Gregory Bald!

Although Gregory Bald is an excellent destination anytime of the year, mid to late June is the absolute best time to make the trek to the summit. In addition to its excellent views into Cades Cove, Gregory Bald provides for one of the best flame azalea shows in the world during this time frame.

In fact, azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet. According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them.

This isn't an easy hike, however, the Gregory Ridge Trail climbs over 3000 feet, and the roundtrip hike is 11.3 miles. But it's well worth it! As mentioned on this blog in the past, I would definitely rate this as one of the top 3 hikes in the Smokies.

Here's a sampling of some of the sights you'll see at the top:


For more information on this outstanding hike, please click here.

If planning to make the pilgrimage to Gregory Bald this season, you may want to consider making Townsend your base of operations. If you've never had the pleasure of staying in the Townsend area, also known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a rental cabin during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smokies Announces Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Tuesday, May 30 through Tuesday, June 6. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at www.recreation.gov.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 28 at 12:00 noon until Monday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (225 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If selected, the lottery winner will be charged a $2.75 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7:00 p.m. The cost will be $1.00 round trip per person, as in previous years, and collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash will be the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $2.75 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Missing Link Construction on Foothills Parkway to Begin

Today the National Park Service hosted a ceremony commemorating the final construction phase of the Foothills Parkway from Walland to Wear’s Valley that has been almost three decades in the making.

“I am looking forward to seeing the hard work of everyone involved in this project come to life as finishing touches are put in to place that will help showcase the beauty of our region to locals and visitors alike,” Congressman John Duncan said.

In April 2016, Congressman Duncan personally wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to express support for the NPS’ application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant that would help meet the budget requirements for this phase.

Since the $10 million dollar TIGER Grant was awarded to the Foothills Parkway last July, the $35 million dollar project can now be completed with $10 million in funds from the NPS and $15 million from the State of Tennessee. Congressman Duncan helped obtain $27 million for the parkway through various transportation and appropriations bills. To actually utilize the funds, a state government or non-federal entity must contribute 20 percent of the cost.

Since the State of Tennessee purchased the right-of way for the entire 72 mile stretch, Congressman Duncan convinced the Federal Highway Administration to consider the value of the land as the 20 percent non-federal match that would allow construction to continue with the procured federal funds.

The 72 mile long parkway project was authorized by Congress in 1944, but conceptualized in the late 1920’s. To date, 22.5 miles have been completed which include a 5.6 mile section in Cosby and 17 mile section from Walland to Chilhowee Lake.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hikers Can Now Register for Appalachian Trail Campsites to Reduce Crowding

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) announced today the launch of A.T.CAMP, a website that allows groups of six to ten hikers to find and register for campsites along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). This system is designed to help groups plan their hikes while avoiding overcrowding and the related natural and social impacts at camping areas.

"The scenic beauty and wildland location of the Appalachian Trail makes it a popular destination for groups seeking recreation and a memorable time with their friends,” said Jason Zink, visitor use manager for the ATC. “But a single group can overcrowd the capacity of many trailside campsites, which not only negates much of the wilderness experience so many hikers seek, but also causes damage to the fragile natural resources of the Appalachian Mountains.”

The A.T.CAMP website, www.ATcamp.org, allows hikers to register a group of up to ten individuals, choose starting and ending locations for their intended hike, and select campsites along their chosen route. Groups will be able to see how many other campers have also registered for these locations and will receive an immediate notification if their group exceeds the quota for campsites they have selected.

“This system is not meant to reserve a spot for a group and does not impose restrictions for campers seeking to stay at the same location,” said Zink. “It’s a voluntary system that provides a tool for groups to plan their hikes, to minimize or eliminate damage and to maximize their enjoyment of the unique Appalachian Trail experience.”

While the current iteration of A.T.CAMP focuses solely on large camping groups, future versions will allow smaller groups and individual campers to register their A.T. camping itineraries. Presently, A.T. long-distance hikers can register their thru-hikes using the Voluntary Thru-Hiker Registration at www.appalachiantrail.org/thruhikeregistration.

For more information or to register an overnight group hike, please visit www.ATcamp.org.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

First Day of Summer in Grand Teton National Park

I realize that we're still a few weeks away from the first day of summer. I'm just reusing the title that Finley Holiday Films used for their outstanding short film highlighting Grand Teton National Park. This excellent short video shows what this beautiful park looks like in June as the snow melts, and the wildflowers and wildlife begin to emerge from a long winter:



With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. Fortunately the park offers a wide variety of outstanding day hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cades Cove Loop Lope Returns

At the Knoxville Marathon last Sunday, the Knoxville Track Club announced that Friends of the Smokies is set to host the Cades Cove Loop Lope on Sunday, November 5, 2017 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Billed as a “one-time-only” event in 2010, the park service approved the highly acclaimed foot race for a return to Cades Cove this fall.

“We are very excited to bring this race back to such a beautiful part of our national park,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “This is a unique way to experience the splendor of the Cove and raise money to protect it for future generations at the same time.” This year, Friends of the Smokies will provide $1.4 million for critical park projects including more than $90,000 in historic preservation and wildlife management programs in Cades Cove.

For GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash, the race marks an opportunity to connect with the next generation of public lands stewards who are active in our national parks. “We are pleased to work with the Friends to offer this opportunity that supports the park and encourages people to use the park for fitness,” said Superintendent Cash. “The park provides an incredible setting for people to improve mind, body, and spirit.”

November’s Cades Cove Loop Lope will offer pre-registered runners a choice of the full 11 mile loop or a 3.5 mile loop course. Registration will open on August 1st and will be hosted by Knoxville Track Club, who will also be timing the race.

More details about this November’s race including cost and online registration will be posted to CadesCoveLoopLope.com in the coming weeks.

If you're considering a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains to do the race, or for any reason at any time this year, please help support HikingintheSmokys.com by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations pages.
 






Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Prepares for 2017 Visitor Season

As spring begins, staff along the Blue Ridge Parkway are preparing campgrounds for visitors, planning engaging family programs, and readying other facilities for the millions of visitors that enjoy the Parkway each year. This historic, 469-mile route, and National Park Service site, is one of the largest designed landscapes in the country, providing visitors with a wide variety of opportunities to make meaningful connections to the nature, history, and culture of the southern Appalachian mountain region.

Visitors to Parkway campgrounds need to be aware of two changes for the upcoming season. Beginning May 1, 2017, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or a state department of agriculture may be brought onto the Parkway. Campers may also collect dead and down wood found in the immediate vicinity of campgrounds and picnic areas.

Additionally, the overnight camping fee on the Parkway will be $20.00. “We are committed to keeping the Parkway camping opportunities affordable and providing visitors with the best possible experience,” said Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods. “The funds generated from camping fees are used to maintain and improve existing campground infrastructure such as picnic tables, tent pads, and visitor facilities.”

The first step in bringing business back to the historic Bluffs operations at Doughton Park, near Milepost 241, will also occur with the reopening of the camp store (previously a gas station) at that site later in May.

Parkway visitors are always reminded to take time to carefully plan their visit. Considering its unique design, the Parkway drive is different than most and this can mean taking extra care to ensure a safe visit. Information is available to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/blri, the real time road map site at www.nps.gov/maps/blri/road-closures/, in any Parkway visitor center, and by following Parkway social media sites with the handle @BlueRidgeNPS.

Schedule of opening dates and times can be found here https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/hours.htm



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
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