The only way to get to LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is to hike up a mountain. To stay the night, you need to make reservations far in advance. We sent in our reservation request in August last year and then waited till the October 1 drawing of names. We did not get our first choice of dates (mid-October for the fall colors) but got our second choice of April 5.
When the date got near, it was still cold and snowy at the top near the lodge. So we bought Stabilicers and IceTrekkers. We also had to pack layers since the weather at the bottom trailhead was fairly warm, but it was freezing at the summit.
We started on the Rainbow Falls trail in the morning with the weather a little cold and foggy. As you can see on the elevation chart below, the trail goes up and up almost constantly. Due to rain and snow in recent days, the trail was quite muddy.
It was good that we brought the ice cleats as the last 1.5 miles of the trail was covered with snow and ice.
We got to the LeConte Lodge in the afternoon and enjoyed some amazing views.
After dinner, I went to Myrtle Point for a nice view of the sunset.
There was no electricity in our cabin, but it was warm due to a propane heater.
The next morning, weather was a little warmer. We had planned to go down the Bullhead trail, but it had not been cleared after the winter storms, so we headed back the same way we had come. Here’s the map for our return hike.
On our way back from the smokies, we drove on the Foothills Parkway and Deals Gap, which was a lot of fun.
For Amber’s birthday last fall, we went camping in Cloudland Canyon. We camped in the walk-in campground which was nice and secluded, but full due to the season.
Here’s our first day’s hike, around the West rim loop.
On the second day, we went to see the waterfalls and the overlooks near the park office.
Here are some photos.
In October, we usually head to North Georgia to hike, enjoy the nice weather and see some fall colors. This time we booked a room at the Len Foote Hike Inn which can only be reached by hiking 5 miles from the Amicalola Falls State Park.
Here is our hike path from Amicalola Falls to the Inn.
On our return the next day, we decided to take the Appalachian Approach trail which connects Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain.
It was an easy introduction for our trip to LeConte Lodge in the spring.
Raven Cliff Falls are beautiful falls located near Helen, GA.
Raven Cliff Falls Trail
Getting to Cohutta Wilderness is not easy as you have to drive for more than 20 miles on unpaved roads and then there’s the issue of arranging cars so you can do a point-to-point hike. On the other hand, Lake Conasauga campground is beautiful and Cohutta Wilderness has a number of great hikes.
We took Tearbritches trail to Bray Field, then followed the Conasauga River trail and finally the Hickory Creek trail for a total of 6.45 miles.
The next day, we did a short hike near the campground.
And here are some photos.
The Bear hair Gap Trail starts in Vogel State Park and takes you to the Blood Mountain Wilderness.
Do go on the half-mile spur trail for a nice view of the lake.
This loop trail requires driving on Forest Service Road 42 for a while to get to the trailhead, but the unpaved road is in good condition and the Appalachian trail is always busy.
Basically, the loop consists of sections of the Appalachian and Benton MacKaye trails which crisscross each other a couple of times in this area around Rich Mountain.
A nice loop trail up Blood Mountain is to start on Jarrad Gap trail from Lake Winfield Scott, then go on the Appalachian trail and return to the lake via the Slaughter Creek trail.
Tallulah Gorge State Park would be fun to go kayaking. But even from the rim it’s very pretty in the fall.
Here’s the Tallulah Gorge South Rim Trail.
North Rim Trail:
Trail to Inspiration Point:
Brasstown Bald is the highest peak in Georgia. There’s a short 0.5 mile hike from the parking lot to the summit which we have done more times than I can count. It has really nice views in the fall.