Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Offers Workshops on "How to Hike the Appalachian Trail"

For those wanting to learn more about a trek on the Appalachian Trail, now’s your chance! The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will offer 10 classes throughout North Carolina and Georgia in January and February 2016 for people interested in long-distance hiking. Courses will be taught by Hiker Education Accredited instructors, or individuals who have worked with the ATC to offer a comprehensive workshop that encourages enjoyment and protection of the Trail.

The courses will cover all aspects of planning a long-distance hike on the A.T., from essential gear to the diversity of the Trail experience. Participants are encouraged to find their own personal approach to hiking the Trail, while also includes being well-prepared, responsible hikers.

For a full list of workshop dates and locations, please click here.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Sees Record Number of Thru-Hikers in 2015

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) continues to see a record-breaking number of hikers who pass through its Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which is considered the psychological midpoint of the 2,190-mile long Appalachian Trail (A.T.). This increase can partially be attributed to the recent releases of “A Walk in the Woods” and “Wild,” two major motion pictures depicting hikes on long-distance trails.

According to the ATC’s records as of this December, 1,385 northbound thru-hikers, or those who walk the A.T. from Georgia to Maine, have passed through Harpers Ferry, resulting in an increase of 9 percent over last year’s data. The number of southbound thru-hikers, or those who walk from Maine to Georgia, has increased by 14 percent to total 192. The number of those who choose to thru-hike the A.T. in an alternative, non-contiguous way that disperses use has increased dramatically, with 291 people passing through Harpers Ferry, an increase of 139 percent.

Upon arriving at the ATC’s Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, hikers who are attempting to complete the entire Trail are photographed in front of the iconic “Appalachian Trail Conservancy” sign. The picture, along with other information about the hiker, is documented at the Visitor Center. This year the ATC has seen not only a significant increase in the amount of long-distance hikers who stop at the Visitor Center to be photographed, but also an increase in visitation overall. Since the release of “A Walk in the Woods” on Sept. 2, the number of visitors at the Center has increased more than 50 percent. The movie has sparked interest in the A.T. among a broad range of people, inspiring new audiences to learn about and explore this national treasure.

“These numbers reveal the importance of a proactive stewardship plan that will address the impact of growing numbers of hikers on the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, the ATC’s executive director. “With the help of our partners, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy plans to meet the challenge of ensuring all hikers are able to have a high quality hiking experience.”

The ATC’s plan to protect the A.T. hiking experience, which is currently being implemented by A.T. stakeholders, focuses on four main areas: hike planning and registration; a visitor use analysis; the creation of new campsites and restoration of existing sites; and an increase in education and outreach initiatives. The ATC is seeking $1.3 million to fully implement this stewardship plan.

To learn more about how the ATC intends to protect the A.T. hiking experience, visit


Friday, December 18, 2015

Tennessee State Parks Kick off New Year with First Day Hikes

Tennessee State Parks will sponsor free, guided hikes on New Year’s Day. Each state park will host its own special hike in the first few days of the New Year.

The First Hikes begin at 10 p.m. on December 31st at Pickett State Park. Norris Dam, Roan Mountain, Tims Ford and Mousetail Landing state parks will host midnight hikes. The First Hikes will continue throughout New Year’s Day with morning, afternoon and evening hikes.

“Our First Hikes have been very popular and we are excited to continue this series in the New Year,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said. “The First Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family.”

From Reelfoot to Henry Horton to Roan Mountain and every state park in between, the 2016 First Hikes are designed for all ages and abilities. Some hikes will be approximately one mile in length and tailored for novice hikers, while others are lengthier and geared toward more experienced hikers. For a more in-depth look into planned First Hikes in your area, please click here.

Tennessee State Parks’ First Hikes of 2016 are part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is a trek to Everest Base Camp in your future?

Is a trek to Everest Base Camp in your future? Perhaps after watching this short video you might be enticed to put this epic trip on your bucket list!

Ian Taylor, one of the newest advertisers on our Rocky Mountain, Glacier and Grand Teton hiking websites, recently sent me a link to one of his videos showing what it's like to trek to Everest Base Camp.

To date, Ian Taylor Trekking boasts a 99% success rate on this trek. That's important to know, especially when you consider that this round-trip trek takes 16 days to complete. No doubt, this trip isn't for everyone - trekkers will reach heights above 18,000 feet after ascending to the summit of Kala Pattar on day 11.

In addition to Everest Base Camp, Ian also offers guided climbs on peaks in the Mt. Everest region, as well as Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mont Blanc in France, Denali in Alaska, and Mt. Rainier in Washington, among many other trips.

For more information on this awesome trek, as well as all the other guided trips Ian offers, please click here.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.

Hiking in the Smokies

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Smokies Announces 40th Annual Festival of Christmas Past Programs

Great Smoky Mountains National Park announces the 40th annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration scheduled on Saturday, December 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The event, sponsored in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, is free to the public.

The festival will include old-time mountain music, traditional harp singing, mountain craft demonstrations, and living history walks. Demonstrators will show visitors how to make historic toys, games, rag rugs, apple-head dolls, quilts, homespun thread, and apple cider throughout the day. Visitors can also experience these traditions through hands-on activities including make-and-take craft stations.

“Around Christmas time, people gathered in churches, homes, and schools where they celebrated the holiday through music, storytelling, and crafts,” said North District Resource Education Supervisor Stephanie Sutton. “The Festival of Christmas Past allows us to pause and remember some of these traditions.”

The popular Christmas Memories Walk will be held at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Costumed interpreters will lead a short walk from the visitor center and talk about life in the mountains during the holidays. Through this living history program, visitors will experience the spirit of the season in the mountains during the early days.

The full schedule of events at the Sugarlands Visitor Center includes:

• 9:30 a.m.- Old-fashioned Harp Singing

• 11:00 a.m.- Old Time Music with Boogertown Gap Band

• 11:00 a.m.- Christmas Memories Walk

• 12:00 p.m. - Old Time Music with Lost Mill String Band

• 1:00 p.m.- “Stories from the Past” presented by the Smoky Mountain Historical Society

• 2:00 p.m.- Appalachian Christmas Music and Storytelling with Mike and Kathy Gwinn

• 2:00 p.m.- Christmas Memories Walk

•3:00 p.m.- Bill Proffitt and South of the River Boys

If you do plan to visit the Smokies this Christmas season, please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Appalachian Trail Volunteers Report Record Number of Hours in 2015

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy announced last week that a record-breaking 6,827 volunteers reported approximately 272,477 hours in maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail during the 2015 fiscal year. Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T., resulting in a volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.

The record number of both volunteers and hours reported reveals a loyal commitment to the Trail. Volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 131 full-time workers and contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor, monitoring and removing invasive species, supporting teachers in the Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program, assisting A.T. Communities near the Trail, and preparing for the ATC’s biennial conference, the organization’s official member gathering held every other year.

The ATC’s volunteers represent 31 A.T. Maintaining Clubs and Trail Crews; Visitor Center and regional office volunteers; and participants in additional ATC programs, such as TTEC and the Appalachian Trail Community™ program. Though Trail maintainers are perhaps the most visible, volunteers also participate in many other activities, from community outreach to local, regional and Trail-wide management efforts.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy exists because of the generosity, talents and support of our volunteers – they are the very soul of the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, executive director of the ATC. “The record number of volunteers and volunteer hours reported for fiscal year 2015 illustrates a continued dedication to the preservation and management of the Trail.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit


Monday, November 23, 2015

Great Smokies Offers Black Friday Hiking Options

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is inviting visitors to join them for a series of ranger-led hikes across the park on Friday, November 27. Hikes will be offered in the Cataloochee, Elkmont, and Cades Cove areas of the park providing an outstanding opportunity for people of all ages to #OptOutside and enjoy the park.

Rangers, park volunteers, and Friends of the Smokies staff will help visitors discover special cultural and natural resources along the hikes. Visitors may also choose to hike on their own and can come to any of the park’s visitor centers throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to receive information about hiking options, including several short nature trails that are perfect for children.

The park has over 800 miles of trails to explore throughout the year with every season offering its own special rewards. During late fall and winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas revealing stone walls, chimneys, and foundations. These reminders of past communities allow hikers to discover a glimpse of history along park trails.

Here are the ranger-led hikes being offered this Friday:

Friday, November 27 at 10:00 a.m.– Hike to Abrams Falls in Cades Cove
Join park staff for a 5-mile, roundtrip hike to one of the largest waterfalls in the park. The hike is rated moderate with several steep, rocky sections. Expect 4 hours total for the hike. Participants will learn about the parks 2,900 miles of streams, wildlife that depend on the streams, and the significance of Abrams Creek to the diversity of the park. Meet at the Abrams Falls Trailhead, halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road at 10:00 a.m. The program is subject to cancellation if the weather is bad. For more information, call Cades Cove at 865-448-4104. For more information on this outstanding hike, please click here.

Friday, November 27 at 10:00 a.m. – Little Cataloochee Trail near Cataloochee
The 5-mile, roundtrip hike on the Little Cataloochee Trail is rated moderate but does have several steep sections. The trail follows an old road that provided access between Big Cataloochee and Little Cataloochee in the past. Stops on the hike include the Hannah cabin, the Little Cataloochee Church and cemetery, and the Cook cabin as well several former homesites.

The ranger leading the hike will have historic photos and maps of the area to share with participants. The guided portion of the hike will end after 2.5 miles at the restored Cook family cabin. Participants can return to their cars at their own pace or further explore the area. Meet at the parking area on the left just after entering Cataloochee Valley. From there, participants will follow the ranger and drive 5 miles to the Little Cataloochee trailhead.

The best route into Cataloochee is Cove Creek Road which is accessible from Hwy. 276 near its intersection with Interstate 40. Participants driving to the area on I-40 should use Exit 20 (Hwy. 276 exit) and immediately turn right on to Cove Creek Road. The drive from Hwy. 276 into Cataloochee is 10 miles. Cove Creek Road is a winding, two-lane road and includes a four-mile section that is unpaved. For more information, call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 828-497-1904.

Friday, November 27 at 9:00 a.m. – Cucumber Gap near Elkmont
This easy, 4.8-mile roundtrip hike follows the river through a beautiful, cove hardwood forest. Participants will learn about the rich history of the area including the logging operations of the Little River Lumber Company. Expect 3-4 hours total for the hike. One river crossing may be required. Meet at the Little River trailhead at 9:00 a.m., 7 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont. For more information, call Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291. For more information on this hike, please click here.

What to bring: Weather in the Smoky Mountains can be unpredictable, especially in the fall. Rangers recommend participants dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and bring rain gear. Participants should also bring a bag lunch, snacks, and plenty of water.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Prescribed Burn in Cataloochee to Begin Tomorrow

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials will make a final attempt at a 600-acre prescribed burn in the Canadian Top project area adjacent to Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. Weather permitting, burn operations will begin on Saturday, November 21. Crews should be able to complete the burn on Saturday, but smoke may be present in the area through Sunday. The burn unit is located on Bald Top and Jesse Ridge adjacent to the Little Cataloochee Trail between Davidson Branch and Mossy Branch.

This prescribed burn is one in a series of low-intensity controlled burns used over a number of years to restore the oak woodlands on the area's upper slopes and ridges. This will be the second time fire has been used on this site as part of that restoration effort. Fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region. The controlled burn will be conducted by national park staff and is being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

"One of the goals of the prescribed burn is to improve elk forage and habitat," stated Great Smoky Wildland Fire Module Leader and Burn Boss, Shane Paxton. Over time, the increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows. Roads and trails will remain open to the public though temporary closures to the Little Cataloochee Trail may occur if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.


National Park Service Unveils 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Designs

Designs for commemorative coins honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS) were unveiled today during a ceremony at the Department of the Interior. NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and National Park Foundation (NPF) President and Chief Executive Officer Will Shafroth joined Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios for the unveiling.

Public Law 113-291 authorizes a three-coin program of $5 gold, $1 silver and half-dollar clad coins with designs emblematic of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Pricing for the National Park Service Commemorative Coins will include surcharges—$35 for each gold coin, $10 for each silver coin, and $5 for each half-dollar clad coin—which are authorized to be paid to the NPF. The funds are to be used for projects that help preserve and protect resources under the stewardship of the NPS and promote public enjoyment and appreciation of these resources.

"When fully realized, the potential impact derived from the commemorative coin sales will be tremendous," said Shafroth. "The funds will improve trails, introduce more young people to the parks, and connect our citizens to the history and culture of our nation."

The gold coin obverse (heads side) features John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt with Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome in the background. Inscriptions are "LIBERTY," "2016" and "IN GOD WE TRUST." United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart designed and sculpted the obverse.

The gold coin reverse (tails side) features the NPS logo, with the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM" and "$5." Everhart also designed and sculpted the reverse.

The silver coin obverse features Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful geyser and a bison, with the inscriptions "LIBERTY," "NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNIAL," "IN GOD WE TRUST" and "1916-2016." United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna designed and sculpted the obverse.

The silver coin reverse depicts a Latina Folklórico dancer and the NPS logo, representing the multi-faceted cultural experience found in America’s national parks. Inscriptions are "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "$1" "HERITAGE," "CULTURE” and "PRIDE." The reverse was designed by Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Chris Costello and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.

The clad half-dollar obverse features a hiker discovering the majesty of the wilderness and a small child discovering a frog hiding in ferns, celebrating the diversity and breadth of the NPS. Inscriptions are "LIBERTY," "2016," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "1916" and "NATIONAL PARK SERVICE." The reverse was designed by AIP artist Barbara Fox and will be sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso.

The clad half-dollar reverse features the NPS logo, with the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "HALF DOLLAR," "STEWARDSHIP" and "RECREATION." The reverse was designed by AIP artist Thomas Hipschen and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles L. Vickers.

The United States Mint will announce the coins’ release date and additional pricing information prior to their release in 2016. The commemorative coin is one of many incredible ways to celebrate the 2016 centennial.

Sign up to receive information about the coin sales kick off and view the coin designs at


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Interview With Rescuers of Smoky Mountain Backpackers

I ran into this video the other day. It's an interview with a couple of backpackers and thru-hikers. You may or may not recall this story, but a couple of backpackers on the Appalachian Trail had to be rescued over Easter weekend this past April, one of which was hypothermic and had to be air-lifted. These interviews are with some of the first responders - backpackers - who detail the events that occurred on the day the events unfolded:

During his recovery, Brad Phillips, the man who was rescued via helicopter, was interviewed by WBIR from his hospitable room. You can view this short clip here.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Colors Near Peak at Lower Elevations in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report this morning. According to the latest report fall colors are reaching their peak at the lower elevation. Here's the latest:
Over the past week the colors in lower elevations have really come alive. There is now a mixed bag of bright yellows and reds with still some green. High elevations along with some middle elevation areas have completed their cycle and lost their leaves. Lower elevation areas like Oconuftee, Cataloochee, Greenbrier, Cosby, Elkmont, and Deep Creek are alive with color. Little River Road will probably offer the best driving experience over the next seven to ten days.

Depending on the weather, these areas should continue to have vibrant colors for the next week to two weeks. Some recommended low elevation hikes include Deep Creek to Indian Creek Loop Trail, Gabes Mountain Trail, and the Old Surgarlands Trail.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fall Colors at Peak in the Smokies

According to recent postings and photos published on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Facebook page, fall colors have reached their peak at the middle and lower elevation of the park. Since rain is expected to move into the area on Sunday and Monday, now is the time to get out and enjoy the autumn colors while you can. In fact, the forecast for tomorrow is absolutely perfect for a hike in the park.

If you need any help on where to hike tomorrow or Saturday, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And, if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Smokies Asks Visitors to View Bears Responsibly

Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists remind the public to allow bears to forage undisturbed on natural foods during this critical feeding period before winter hibernation. Bears depend on fall foods such as acorns and grapes to store fat reserves that enable them to survive winter. This year, these foods in the park are extremely rare leading bears to move long distances in search of food.

Many bears have been reported well outside the park boundary including several sightings in busy, downtown communities and neighborhoods. Recently, a mother bear with a GPS-monitoring collar and three cubs traveled over 20 miles from the Elkmont area of the park to downtown Sevierville, TN. Local residents are reminded to keep residential garbage secured and to remove any other attractants such as bird feeders and pet foods.

In addition to greater movement in search of food, bears are also foraging on less-desirable mast such as hickories and walnuts. Park staff have reported as many as eight different bears visiting a single hickory tree to feed on nuts. Park officials are temporarily closing areas around these scarce food sources to allow bears access to forage. Visitors are reminded to respect these closed areas to give bears an opportunity to eat undisturbed and build up fat reserves for the winter. Photographers are reminded to use telephoto lenses to capture photographs and to remain at least 50 yards from bears at all times.

“There were no cherries this year and the hard mast is marginal at best,” said Smokies Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “Because food is scare, bears are trying to access individual trees in areas they normally would not during good food years.”

Feeding bears is illegal and all food waste should be properly disposed of to discourage bears from approaching people. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park. If approached by a bear, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves creating space for the animal to pass.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.


Fall Colors in Smokies Nears Peak at Middle Elevations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report this morning. According to the latest report:
Middle elevation areas throughout that park are nearing peak this week. Lower elevation areas still have a lot of green, but recent cold nights and sunny days have jump started color development in the foothills.

High elevation areas are now past peak and most trees have already lost their leaves. However, views from Newfound Gap Road and other high elevation roads such Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain will be beautiful as you look down into colorful middle and lower elevation areas. Foothills Parkway and roads in the communities surrounding the park should also provide good viewing opportunities over the next week or so.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Smokies Records Highest September Visitation in History

Visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is up 5.5 percent through September 2015. Over 8 million visitors have come to the park so far this year. The increase has led to record months of visitation in both May and September with visitation surpassing 1 million visitors during each month. In September, the park welcomed 1,081,773 visitors, the most ever since the park began recording monthly visitation in 1979.

With over a million visitors during each of these shoulder-season months, the park is well above the ten-year average of 750,000 visitors during May and 900,000 visitors during September. The increased visitation has also led to increased use of the park's two main visitor centers, campgrounds, and backcountry campsites. Overall, overnight camping in the frontcountry is up 8.7 percent in 2015, while backcountry camping is up 11.4 percent.

"The Smokies continue to be one of the premier destinations in the southeastern United States," said Superintendent Cassius Cash. "This record setting visitation on our shoulder seasons reminds us that no matter when you come to the Smokies the opportunities for exploration, relaxation, and discovery are endless whether you're on one of our busy scenic roadways or less traveled areas."

This year's record setting visitation follows the park's busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors came to the national park, an 8% increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Smokies Hosts Birds of Prey at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to a special birds of prey program presented by Doris Mager on Sunday, October 25 at 10:00 a.m. The program will be on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Known as "The Eagle Lady", Ms. Mager has been working with raptors for over 35 years. She has cared for over 80 injured eagles and hundreds of other raptors, housing up to 36 birds at one time. In 1983, she established an educational and research group called Save Our American Raptors (SOAR). Part of her research work included conducting aerial surveys of bald eagle nesting sites for scientists studying the population and habits of birds in the wild.

Ms. Mager continues to travel throughout the U.S. doing educational programs with a 34-year-old great horned owl known as E.T., screech owl, and American kestrel. Mager's program provides a unique opportunity for visitors to see raptors up close as they learn about features and habits of these fascinating birds. After eight years of providing programs at in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this will likely be Ms. Mager's last appearance as she will be moving away from the area.

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road approximately 2 miles north of Cherokee, N.C. For more information about the program, please call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at (828) 497-1904.

For more information on birds in the park, please see


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smokies Plans Prescribed Burns in Cades Cove and Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced a series of controlled burns within the Cades Cove and Cataloochee areas of the park. Both operations could begin as early as Monday, October 26th.

Park fire management officials are planning a series of controlled burns within the Cades Cove area of the park, weather permitting, which could begin as early as Monday, October 26, and may continue intermittently through mid-November. Fire managers have identified multiple fields totaling approximately 300 acres for fire treatment. These controlled burns will reduce woody encroachment into the fields, help perpetuate native herbaceous species, reduce exotic plant species, and maintain the historic landscape of the cove.

During prescribed fire operations, visitors may experience brief delays due to activities adjacent to the loop road or smoke. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones. If smoke is present, keep windows up and headlights on, and do not stop on roadways. Staff members will be present at overlooks to answer questions during operations.

The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use but brief delays or temporary closures of adjacent roads and trails may occur to ensure public safety during operations. Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burns.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials are also planning a 600-acre prescribed burn in the Canadian Top project area adjacent to Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin as early as Monday, October 26, and may continue intermittently through early November. The burn unit is located on Bald Top and Jesse Ridge adjacent to the Little Cataloochee Trail between Davidson Branch and Mossy Branch.

Fire managers plan to use a series of low-intensity controlled burns over a number of years to restore the oak woodlands on the area's upper slopes and ridges. This will be the second time fire has been used on this site as part of that restoration effort. Fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region. The controlled burn will be conducted by national park staff and is being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

"One of the goals of the prescribed burn is to improve elk forage and habitat," stated Great Smoky Wildland Fire Module Leader and Burn Boss, Shane Paxton. Over time, the increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows. Roads and trails will remain open to the public though temporary closures to the Little Cataloochee Trail may occur if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is the Smokey Bear Ad Campaign Effective?

So I was listening to late night radio the other night when I heard the latest Smokey Bear PSA for the umpteenth time. For some reason the tagline phrase at the end of the commercial, “9 out of 10 wildfires are started by humans”, stood out for me this time. We’ve all heard that statistic a million times, but have you ever considered that this is basically the same stat that’s been cited since the launch of the Smokey Bear campaign?

In 1944 the Smokey Bear campaign was launched with the mission of creating and maintaining public awareness of wild fires. The campaign's original catch phrase, "Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires", was proclaimed on the very first campaign poster (seen on the right). According to the Smokey Bear website, “Fire prevention was a real concern since 9 out of 10 wildfires were human caused during the period 1946 to 1950.”

However, that same statistic continues to be cited today in current Smokey Bear commercials, as well as on the NPS Fire and Aviation Management website, the Insurance Information Institute website, and various national forest websites. According to a graph published by EcoWest, using data from the National Interagency Fire Center, the percent of human-caused wildfires has remained fairly constant between the years 2001 and 2012 (red line):

So the question that came to mind while lying in bed that night was how is it, or why haven’t we seen a significant decrease in the number of human-caused wildfires since the Smokey Bear campaign was launched more than 70 years ago? No doubt the campaign has been highly successful in raising awareness of the issue over the years. According to the Ad Council (which runs the Smokey Bear campaign), “96 percent of U.S. adults recognize him, and 70 percent are able to recall his message without prompting.” That's an incredible statistic – one that every marketer in the world wishes they could claim! But why haven’t we seen an improvement in the number of human-caused wildfires over the last 70 years?

In defense of the Ad Council, they also state on their website that “Most importantly, the average number of acres lost annually to wildfire has decreased from 22 million in 1944 to an average of 6.7 million today.“ A quick glance at annual wildfire data published by the National Interagency Fire Center would seem to confirm this claim. However, at the bottom of that report, it notes that annual wildland fire statistics
“is provided through Situation Reports, which have been in use for several decades. Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures above prior to 1983 shouldn’t be compared to later data.”
Interestingly, the number of fires reported before 1983 is far greater than the years that follow, though the number of acres burned is comparatively constant (the data only goes back to 1960). From my point of view, the claim from the Ad Council appears to be an “apples to oranges” comparison, and therefore isn’t valid. Moreover, it appears the Ad Council is comparing one year – 1944 – to the most recent 12-year average, which isn’t a statistically valid way of comparing the two time periods. As you can see in the chart below (published by the Insurance Information Institute), the total number of acres burned each year fluctuates widely (graph shows number of acres in millions from 1980 to 2014):

It’s very possible that 1944 was an outlier year. An average from that time period, with valid data using the same collection methods and from same sources as used today would be the only correct way to measure this claim. Which brings me back to my original question: why haven’t we seen an improvement in the number of human-caused wildfires over the last 70 years?

Is it possible that our collective conservationist ethic hasn’t improved, or is less now than in years past? It would seem unlikely, but I don’t have any data to support or refute this assertion.

Is it a generational phenomenon? In other words, is it a lesson, or an awareness issue, that each generation has to learn as they come of age? A review of the statistics on the ages of all the human-caused wildfires over the last 70 years would prove (or disprove) that theory. Unfortunately I don’t have access to those statistics, but they would be interesting to see, and would be the only logical reason why we haven’t seen an improvement in this problem over the last several decades. Indeed, it does appear that the Ad Council tries to target younger people, especially when you consider the campaign tactics that have been used over the years. However, can you really say that the campaign has been successful when the needle hasn’t moved in 70 years?

What are your thoughts? Is there another reason for the problem that I'm overlooking? Is there a more effective way of dealing with the issue? Is the Ad Council wasting our federal tax dollars on a problem it hasn’t fixed?


Friday, October 16, 2015

Smokies Fall Color Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report this morning. According to the latest report:
High elevation areas are past peak as of this week with most trees having already lost their leaves. Anywhere above 4,500 feet fall colors are nearly all the way through their cycle and any leaves left will drop soon. However, views from Newfound Gap and other high elevation overlooks will be beautiful as the middle and lower elevations begin to pop with color over the next few weeks and into November.

Weather forecasts for significantly lower overnight temperatures through the weekend will accelerate the middle and lower elevations transition. There are several locations along Newfound Gap Road, Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads, and the Foothills Parkway where visitors will begin seeing this progression over the next 10-14 days. There is still plenty of green in the middle elevations, which may cause a patch fall color presentation.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your Ultimate Guide to Horseback Riding in the Smoky Mountains

Below is a guest blog by Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States with over 9 million guests per year, and this year you should be one of them! With breathtaking views, fascinating wildlife, and a variety of activities to choose from, the park has something for everyone to enjoy. Horseback riding in the Smokys is an exciting way for guests to take in the incredible sights and is a beloved activity by locals and visitors alike.

Experience Horseback Riding in Gatlinburg Tennessee

During your stay at the many cozy and relaxing Gatlinburg cabins available, you can explore the beautiful scenery and learn about the history of the area, all while sitting atop a gentle and majestic creature. Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or have never even been in the saddle, this will be an experience in the mountains that you won’t soon forget. When you go horseback riding in Gatlinburg, be sure to check out some of our favorite trails.

Smoky Mountain Riding Stables

For a peaceful walking tour with stunning mountain scenery, try horseback riding with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables. Perfect for riders of all skill levels, their well-trained horses will lead you through trails inside the park where you’ll be surrounded by lush woods and flowing mountain streams. You might even come face-to-face with native wildlife including wild turkeys, deer, or black bear! You can also receive 45 minutes of free horseback riding with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables when you stay with Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg for four days. It’s a great deal and a great way to experience the Smokys like never before.

Cades Cove Riding Stables

Experience over 6,000 acres of exceptional woodland when you take a horseback tour with Cades Cove Riding Stables. Located in the East Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove has rich natural and cultural history that will be explained by your knowledgeable guide. You’ll venture trails that transverse 5,500-foot mountain peaks, and will have plenty of chances for awesome photos. Plus, their horses have been handpicked for calm temperament, athletic ability, and willingness to please, so you’re guaranteed to have the best riding experience possible.

Smokemont Riding Stables

You and your family will love choosing from one of three amazing rides when you visit Smokemont Riding Stables. Travel through forests and across the Oconaluftee River during their hourly ride, or take their waterfall ride where you’ll climb a steep mountain trail for magnificent views of the scenery and a waterfall. On the four-hour ride, you and your horse will follow a wooded trail along the river and can stop to admire two cascading waterfalls. It’s the perfect way to spend the day exploring the natural beauty of Gatlinburg.

Start Your Smoky Mountain Adventure

Now that you know some of the best places to horseback ride in the Smoky Mountains, it’s time to start planning your trip! With over 550 miles of trails open to horses, riding through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect way to spend the day in Gatlinburg.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Caught on Video: 4 Hikers Survive Suspension Bridge Failure

Sorry, but it's been quite a few years since I've brushed up on my high school French, but you really don't need to know the language to know how frightening this had to have been for these four hikers in New Zealand. The video was published a few days ago by Adrien Whistle, presumably from France. Based on the Google translation, the video essentially states that one of the main cables of the suspension bridge broke as the four hikers were crossing it, at which point they fell 8 meters (26 feet) into the river. Fortunately there were no serious injuries. It's pretty crazy that the whole episode was caught on film:


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Smokies Fall Color Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park updated their Fall Color Report yesterday afternoon. According to the latest report:
Fall color continues to progress in the high elevations of the park. Many high elevation areas (above 4,500') are near, to slightly past, peak this week. Areas around Newfound Gap are colorful now. There is still a significant amount of green at the higher elevations though, which means color will continue to develop over the next few days. Views along the first half of Clingmans Dome Road and in the higher reaches of Newfound Gap Road should be good though early next week.

Middle and low elevations are still predominantly green with a scattering of fall color here and there. But signs of change are becoming more noticeable. Some vibrant reds have developed on dogwoods, sourwoods, and a few maples. We're also starting to see a bit of yellow developing. The vivid red leaves of Virginia creeper vine are very noticeable climbing tree trunks now. Overall however, there's not a great deal of fall color in the lower elevations yet -- the season here is still two or three weeks away.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rock Slide Forces Trail Closure in Pisgah National Forest

Due to an active rock slide the Point Lookout Trail will be closed. Pisgah National Forest is asking hikers to avoid this area for your own safety and the safety of personnel working to reopen the trail, as heavy equipment will be on the trail. The Pisgah National Forest, McDowell County and the Town of Old Fort are working to have the slide removed and the trail reopened in time for fall colors.

A follow up notice will be issued when the trail is reopened.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Smokies Fall Color Report

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has just published their late September Fall Color Report on their website. According to the report:
The main fall leaf season is still several weeks away (mid to late October), but color has begun to develop over the past week in high elevation areas. Many birch trees are showing muted yellows, and species such as witch hobble, sumac, and blueberries are sporting red leaves at higher elevation. It's still early in the season though, so colors should continue to develop over the next week or two along the crests of the mountains.

At low to middle elevations, dogwood trees have a reddish cast that will develop into brilliant reds later in October. Species such as sourwood and red maple are also turning red. And the brilliant reds of Virginia creeper vine can be seen climbing the trunks of many trees. Overall however, the forests are still very green at these elevations. There's not a lot fall color to see yet -- just scattered trees here and there.
You can read the full report on the national park website.

If you need any help on where to hike this fall, please take a look at our fall hiking page.

And if you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Smokies Closes Whiteoak Sink Area to Protect Declining Bat Populations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the closure of the Whiteoak Sink area effective now through March 31, 2016 to limit human disturbance to bat hibernacula and help hikers avoid interactions with bats. Park biologists will be monitoring the site throughout the winter collecting population, ecological, and behavioral data that will inform resource managers developing a long-term protection plan. An extended closure through late spring may be recommended if the winter data suggests such an action would increase the chances for survival of a significant number of bats.

The Whiteoak Sink area is primarily accessed from the Schoolhouse Gap Trail between Townsend and Cades Cove. This closure includes the area bounded by Schoolhouse Gap Trail and Turkeypen Ridge Trail west to the park boundary. The Schoolhouse Gap and Turkeypen Ridge trails will remain open.

Park biologists have reported dramatic declines of cave-dwelling bat populations throughout the park. The decline is thought to be due to white-nose syndrome (WNS). Infected bats are marked by a white fungal growth on their noses, wings, and tail membrane. The skin irritation damages skin tissue causing the bats to wake from hibernation during winter months. Once aroused, the bats burn energy at a much faster rate depleting stored fat. With no food source available during the winter, the bats soon die.

Infected bats exhibit unusual behavior including flying erratically during the day, even during winter months, and diving down toward people. They may be seen flopping around on the ground around cave openings.

“We first confirmed the presence of WNS in the park in 2010,” said Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “The impact has been devastating. We estimate that some of our cave-dwelling bat populations have already declined by 80% and we are doing everything we can to both slow the spread of the disease and protect the remaining animals by closing caves and areas near caves to the public.”

The park is home to 11 species of bats including the federally endangered Indiana bat and the Rafinesque's big-eared bat which is a state listed species of concern in both Tennessee and North Carolina. Bats play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance as the primary predators of night-flying insects. Biologists estimate that an individual bat can eat between 3,000 to 6,000 insects each night including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is cooperatively working with other parks and federal, local and state agencies across the country to protect bats and manage cave habitats. In an effort to prevent the unintentional spread of WNS by people, the park closed all of its 16 caves and two mine complexes to public entry in 2009. Ongoing research in the Smokies includes monitoring bat populations in the winter during hibernation and tracking bats in the summer to determine habitat use. A recent plan released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aimed at stabilizing the dramatic decline of the Indiana bat identified hibernacula found in the Sinks as one of only 13 sites across the country identified as critical habitat for this endangered bat. Wildlife biologists have determined that giving the bats the chance to survive includes establishing protective zones surrounding critical habitat caves.

Humans are not susceptible to WNS because the fungus requires a cold body temperature to survive, but skin-to-skin contact with bats should be avoided due to other transmittable diseases such as rabies. Bats are the only mammal species in the park that have tested positive for rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats. For human safety, it is important not to touch or handle a bat. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that individuals should seek immediate medical attention if they have had skin-to-skin exposure to a bat.

For more information about bats, please the park website at


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Get On the Trail" Fall Hiking Series

Join Friends of the Smokies and fitness expert Missy Kane once again for another series of hikes this upcoming fall. Each Wednesday throughout the month of October, Missy and Friends will hike a different trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Ms. Kane was an Olympic runner and a Pan American Games medalist.

"Get on the Trail" is a great opportunity for people who are new to the area, or are new to hiking, as well as people who just want to know more about the Park.

The dates for this year's spring series are: October 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th:

October 7th
Cove Mountain Trail from Sugarlands Visitor Center
Easy, 5-6 miles

October 14th
Old Settlers Trail
Moderate, 6-7 miles

October 21st
Rich Mountain Loop
Difficult, 8.5 miles

October 28th
Cataloochee Divide from Purchase Knob to Double Gap
Moderate, 7-8 miles

The cost is $20.00 per hike, with aspecial gift and free membership to the Friends of the Smokies being provided by Friends and Missy. You must register by calling 865-541-4500 (Covenant Call Center) as space is limited.

Now celebrating it's 17th year, Get on the Trail with Friends and Missy has raised more than $140,000, with proceeds going towards the support for the preservation and protection of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For more information, contact Sarah Weeks at Friends of the Smokies, 1-865-932-4794 or


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pisgah National Forest Posts New Restrictions for Big Creek / Waterville Area

The following is prohibited within the Big Creek/Waterville area on the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. This area that is approximately one-quarter mile south of Walter’s Power Plant, between Big Creek and State Road 1332 (along the northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park):

1. Camping is prohibited unless it is in an authorized area.

2. No alcoholic beverages.

3. Follow horse riding rules and regulations as posted.

4. Do not build / maintain a campfire or stove fire.

5. Follow car parking rules and regulations as posted.

6. Use of bicycle, motorcycle, or motor vehicle of any type is prohibited.

7. Area is closed at sundown and opens again at sunrise.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Battles Graffiti

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers remind visitors that graffiti not only detracts from the natural beauty of the park, but can also permanently damage irreplaceable resources. Park resources including one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States, backcountry hiking shelters, live trees, stone walls, bridges, and tunnels have all suffered from a range of small markings with ball point pens to elaborate markings with permanent marker to lewd and offensive spray paint messages that leave the park in worse condition.

Park rangers and volunteers educate visitors about the lasting implications of defacing the park's natural and cultural resources through education programs, signs, and graffiti-removal program. Unfortunately, graffiti can seldom be removed from log structures without destroying historic wood which makes removal virtually impossible. "Bob Was Here" signs were installed at a variety of locations within the park to help deter the park's 10 million visitors from leaving permanent marks on structures and long trails that damage park resources.

"The staff at Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains committed to preventing and removing where possible graffiti in the park," said Superintendent Cassius Cash. "The National Park Service, our neighbors and visitors, have an equal responsibility to ensure that this park is preserved unimpaired for the next generation."

Those caught tagging the park can face serious consequences including arrest. Those arrested could face fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. Last month, five men were arrested at the tunnel at the end of Lakeview Drive near Bryson City, NC for defacing park property.

"We appreciate the hard work of the park rangers for cracking down on people who mark or deface the peoples' Park," said Swain County Commissioner David Monteith. "People who visit our National Park should not have to put up with that."

For more information about participating in the park's volunteer program, please visit the park website at To provide information regarding graffiti in the park, please contact the park at (865) 436-1230.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Key Milestones in Hiking

Over the last several decades the sport of hiking has become increasingly more popular. According to the latest Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, 11.4% of all adults in the United States participated in hiking in 2013. But the burning question to a modern-day trekker such as myself, is when did people take to the trail for pleasure? Ever since our predecessors began walking on two feet humans have used bipedal mobility to hunt, explore, migrate to another territory, or trade goods with another community. At some point we as humans figured out that there doesn’t have to be a utilitarian reason for walking. We discovered that joy can be found by simply traipsing through the woods, seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, admiring the beauty of a wildflower, marveling at the roar of a waterfall, or soaking-in the awe-inspiring views from a mountain top. Is this a recent phenomenon, or was this something that humans always had a natural urging for? Here are a few of the key milestones in the history of hiking that’s led to its popularity today:

~3300 BCE: In 1991 two German tourists found the mummified remains of “Otzi, the Iceman” at roughly 10,530 feet in the Ötztal Alps along the Austrian–Italian border. Although scientists aren’t sure what this 5000-year-old man was doing at that high elevation, there are some that believe that Otzi may have been one of the first hikers or mountaineers.

125: The 2nd century Roman Emperor, Hadrian, hiked to the summit of Mt. Etna on Sicily to see the sunrise.

1778: Thomas West, an English priest, published A Guide to the Lakes, a detailed account of the scenery and landscape of the Lake District in northwestern England. The guide helped to popularize the idea of walking for pleasure and “to encourage the taste of visiting the lakes by furnishing the traveler with a Guide”.

1786: The beginning of modern mountaineering is marked by the first ascent of 15,771-foot Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps.

1799: Williams College (of Massachusetts) President Ebenezer Fitch and two others climb Mt. Greylock.

1819: Abel Crawford, and his son Ethan, blaze an 8.5-mile trail to the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. This path is the oldest continually used hiking trail in the United States.

1830: A crew of 100 students and professors from Williams College blaze the Hopper Trail to the summit of Mt. Greylock. Later that same year students would build a wooden tower atop the same mountain. The tower was maintained into the 1850s, and was used for sightseeing and scientific observations.

1854: The beginning of the systematic sport of modern mountaineering as we essentially know it today is marked by the ascent of the Wetterhorn in the Swiss Alps by Sir Alfred Wills. His book, Wanderings Among the High Alps, published two years later, helped make mountaineering fashionable in Britain, and ushered in the systematic exploration of the Alps by British mountaineers These events also marked the beginning of the so-called “golden age of alpinism”.

1857: The world's first mountaineering club, the Alpine Club, was founded in London.

1863: Professor Albert Hopkins of Williams College founds the Alpine Club of Williamstown, the first hiking club in America. The stated purpose of the organization was “to explore the interesting places in the vicinity, to become acquainted, to some extent at least, with the natural history of the localities, and also to improve the pedestrian powers of the members”

1867: John Muir begins a 1000-mile walk from Indiana to Florida, which he recounts in his book, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. The trek launched a lifetime career of hiking and wilderness advocacy. His conservation efforts, books and articles would help to establish several national parks during and after his lifetime.

1872: Yellowstone becomes the world’s first national park after legislation is signed by President U.S. Grant.

1876: The Appalachian Mountain Club, America’s oldest recreational organization, was founded to explore and protect the trails and mountains in the northeastern United States.

1876: Newtown, England entrepreneur Pryce Pryce-Jones designs the "Euklisia Rug", considered by many to be the forerunner of the modern sleeping bag. The rug included a wool blanket with a pocket at the top for a sewn-in, inflatable, rubber pillow. Once inside, the camper (or soldier) folded the blanket over and fastened it together, thus keeping themselves “snug in a rug”.

1879: One of the first hiking clubs in England, the 'Sunday Tramps', was founded by Leslie White. These early “rambling” (English for walking) clubs sprang up in the northern areas of England as part of a campaign for the legal "right to roam", a response to the fact that much of the land in England was privately owned.

1922: Lloyd F. Nelson submits his application to the U.S. Patent Office for his "Trapper Nelson's Indian Pack Board", which is acknowledged to be the first external-frame backpack. The "Trapper Nelson" featured a wooden "pack board" as its frame. On the frame was a canvas sack that contained the hiker's gear, which rested on the hiker's body by two canvas shoulder-straps. Prior to his invention hikers used a rucksack, which was essentially a loose sack with shoulder straps.

1930: The Green Mountain Club completes construction of the Long Trail, making it the first long-distance hiking trail in the United States.

1937: America's first “grand” trail, the Appalachian Trail, was completed in August of 1937. A forester by the name of Benton MacKaye conceived the idea in 1921.

1948: Earl Shaffer becomes the first person to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

1967: Climber Greg Lowe invents the internal frame backpack. The “Expedition Pack” also featured the first adjustable back system, first side compressors, first sternum strap and the first load stabilizers.

1969: Bob Gore accidentally stretches a solid polytetrafluoroethylene tape by almost 800%, which forms a microporous structure that was roughly 70% air. The discovery was introduced to the public under the trademark of "Gore-Tex", which became the first breathable, waterproof, and windproof fabric.

1992: Ray Jardine introduces the concept of ultralight backpacking with the release of his book, The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook. During his first PCT thru-hike Jardine’s pack weighed just 25 pounds. By his third it was less than 9 pounds. “Ray’s Way” of thinking has led to several innovations that have benefitted both backpackers and hikers.