Getting Trail Fit in the Southern Appalachians

MST off the Parkway
MST off the Parkway

So you’ve decided that this year you’ll get on the trail with a group.

You’ve read all there is to read about group and guided hikes but you’re still concerned. How do you know that you’ll be able to keep up? Here are some thoughts on how to gauge yourself on the trail.

Make sure you have the right equipment, food and water for the day. Start early in the morning and plan for an all-day hike. You should be able to walk about two miles an hour plus time for breaks.

Terrain makes a big difference. In general, trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are better maintained and have easier terrain than the national forests. State parks are even more soft-core.

But no matter where you go in the Southern Appalachians, we don’t have flat trails here.

In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kephart shelter
Kephart shelter

a. Walk the Mingus Creek Trail from Mingus Mill to the intersection with Deeplow Gap and back down. The trail climbs 1,600 feet in 2.75 miles one-way. It’s almost all downhill on the way back.

b. Take Kephart Prong Trail from the trailhead on US 441 to Kephart Prong Shelter. The trail climbs 800 feet in two miles, so four miles round trip. It’s almost all downhill on the way back.

On the Blue Ridge Parkway – Always check that the section of Parkway you’re heading for is open. Use this real-time closure map.

a. Walk from the Folk Art Center to the Haw Creek Overlook and back on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST). Altogether, it’s 4.9 miles with 900 feet altitude.

b. From the French Broad River Bridge parking area, cross the bridge and follow the MST to Walnut Cove Overlook (MP 396.4) and back for 7.2 miles and about 1,200 ft. ascent.

c. A good metric is Mt. Pisgah (750 ft and 3 miles round trip). How many Mt. Pisgahs can you do back-to-back?

There’s no better time than now to get out and hike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *