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Fontana Loop Professional Review and Guide
"If you like a combination of mountains and lakes, this moderate hike is for you and any younger or inexperienced backpackers you may wish to bring along—though the mileages may be a bit challenging for the uninitiated. Start your trip on a boat that takes you on the pleasure ride from Fontana Marina to Hazel Creek. Hike up a modest grade on Hazel Creek Trail through a valley steeped in settler and logging history to camp at Sugar Fork, one of the Smokies’ best campsites. Then backtrack down Hazel Creek to cross over into the Eagle Creek watershed on a newer section of Lakeshore Trail to camp on Fontana Lake and simultaneously enjoy a tumbling stream and a mountain-rimmed lake. On the way back, pass more human history, still on Lakeshore Trail, to reach the intersection with the Appalachian Trail, then walk over Fontana Dam, the highest in the East, to Fontana Marina."
--Johnny Molloy, Day & Overnight Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Menasha Ridge Press).
Check out a video of this trail at: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/HSM-Backpacking-Inc/111211578921759?ref=mf
Great trip overall...pretty crowded campsites, but all are some of the best in the Southeast US. Be aware that the unmaintianed trail is a VERY unmaintianed trail. 12 of the creek crossings were up to our knees our higher. Will definately be going back.
The scenery was great, the lake was a beautiful aqua-marine color. The description of the trail left one important item out. It says to contact the marina for a drop off and pickup to start the trail. We stopped by the marina and the charge was $25 per person, since we have a family of 4 that was $200 round trip, which I find to be too much. The staff at the marina were not friendly and their only advice was to buy a map, which we had already purchased. We did not let this get us down. We picked out another trail that did not require a boat ride from the marina and it was great. I will have to say that the AT is a very challenging and breath taking trail. We heard of lots of bear sightings, but we did not see any. Did see one rattle snake, pay close attention to the rock out croppings.
Sereral of the camp sites were closed because of the the bear attivity. The closest shelter on the AT was 11 miles from Fontana Dam.
The poor rating was based on the cost of the boat ride not on the trails.
All of the AT shelters in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park require reservations in advance, so plan your trip ahead of time and get ready for some great hikes.
Also do not get any water from the Fontana Dam Welcome Center, the water was terrible.
The hike should get four stars just for the scenary. The lake is beautiful! The guys who work at the marina are really nice and can give you good advice. They actually told us that the Lakeshore trail has been closed and is no longer maintained. There is a new trail that you have to take. It cuts about 3 miles off, but it was worth it. We actually did it in a day. And you don't have to ford 17 streams! I think you can still take the other trail, but they reported that it was much harder to stick with the trail and that many people get lost. If you get a park trail map, you will see the new Lakeshore trail on it. Enjoy!
We hiked in from Fontana Dam to eagle creek. The hike was nice. Definately good for a beginner. A experienced hiker looking for a challenge may be bored. If this is the case, you can make a nice loop using the AT. There are several large creek crossing''s anywhere near fontana lake, so bring you''re tennis shoes. We spent a relaxing second day and night at campsite 90. It is one of the best fishing spots in the park, and the volume of visitors shows this. The neatest thing about the whole trip is the old rusty cars along the lakeshore trail. There is one that is wedged up against a tree. I tdefinately leaves the mind wide open to imagine what happened. Definately recommended
If you like beautiful streams and mounitain side views this is for you! I took my 10 year old twin boys for their first backpacking trip. It was a challege for them the second day due to the 2.4 mile climb on the second day, but down hill and rolling terrian from that point. Make sure you take stream crossing gear because you cross 17 streams the second day. The first camp site was spectacular, because of the stream beside the camp site. My twins stated they would rather go backpacking then go to Disney World! Enough Said! Thanks E-Trails...
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