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Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park
by Kevin Adams (Falcon Guides)
It would be hard to pick a better spring hike in the Smokies than this one. For wildflower lovers, this is about as good as it gets. Although most people do this trip as a day hike, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time studying or photographing the wildflowers, a great option is to spend the night at Campsite 31 and backtrack the following day. Start up the gravel road and soon come to a great view of Porters Creek at a washout. A little farther along you begin noticing relics of life before the park was established, such as rock walls and old homesites. Cross a small creek branch on a bridge and pass a nice patch of crested dwarf iris, just up the hill. An old cemetery lies to the right, and just beyond it is an old rusty vehicle sitting 100 feet into the woods. The road soon crosses a larger stream, this one with the option of wading the ford or crossing on a foot log. Kids love this one.
This is an easy in and out trail. It was great for my first backpacking experience. Campsite 31 is well kept. The stream that runs adjacent to the campsite is a bit tricky to scramble down to and back up from, but it is doable. There is not much wood available for fires. Sleeping in the old growth hemlock forest is a real treat.
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