Is Newton Bald Trail in the Smokies a Strenuous Hike?

Spring has sprung. Join Friends of the Smokies for our April Classic Hike of the Smokies and catch the season’s early wildflowers!

Our next hike is Tuesday, April 8th to Newton Bald. This hike is strenuous in difficulty at 10.5 miles round trip with a total elevation gain of 2,800 feet.

Please note that the majority of this elevation gain is realized in the first 5 miles as we climb to the bald. After descending along Mingus Creek, we’ll visit historic Mingus Mill and learn about preserving the way of life of the area’s 19th century inhabitants.

But what is strenuous?
I find characterizing hikes as easy, moderate, or strenuous one of the most difficult part of leading. Yet everyone expects each hike to have such a rating. In my hiking guides, I resisted labeling hikes this way–and my wise publisher, Milestone Press, was OK with that. Instead, I gave all the numbers I could think of–distance, elevation gain and some idea of the terrain.

The latter can be subjective but you can distinguish between smooth dirt trails or rocky surfaces. Is the trail well maintained like in the Smokies or will you have to go over and under blowdowns? Is the trail well marked, again like in the Smokies, or will you spend time and energy trying to find the trail?

Most Smokies trails are well switched backed so hikers just have to plod along uphill instead of climbing straight up. Ever hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire? After hiking in the Northeast for years, I thought that I had died and gone to hiking heaven when I started hiking in the Smokies. Still that doesn’t help those who hike in the Park almost exclusively and want to differentiate between hikes and figure out if the hike is too strenuous for them.

When you define strenuous, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to get tired and sweat. Do you look at being tired as good or bad? What is your tolerance for exhaustion?   

I saw this definition at
Defining strenuous or vigorous exercise is largely a matter of perception, as it depends on how hard a particular activity feels to you. Someone who is out of shape may find a brisk walk quite strenuous while a marathon runner may not find it the least bit challenging. Your heart rate can tell you how strenuous your body considers an exercise to be. In general, the more strenuous the exercise, the faster your heart will beat.

Most definitions of strenuous I found discuss the health benefits of exercise. It’s very clinical but doesn’t capture the fresh air, flowers, trees and good friends that walk with you. I exercise at the gym to be fit enough to hike, but I don’t hike just for exercise.

So is the Newton Bald/Mingus Creek Trail hike strenuous? Yes, probably. But so what?

The details
Classic Hikes are $10 for Friends members and $35 for non-members, who will receive a complimentary 1-year membership. Members who bring a new friend hike for free. You can pay in advance with credit card over the phone (828-452-0720). Brent can also accept payment on the morning of the hike as cash or check.

Please come prepared for all weather, dress in layers, and bring a pack lunch and plenty of water. Participants can meet in Asheville, Maggie Valley, and Cherokee. Carpool details given upon registration.


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