GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites visitors to join a park ranger for a guided hike on Friday, Nov. 24 or a service opportunity on Saturday, Nov. 25. Hikes will be offered near the Elkmont Campground, providing an opportunity for people of all ages to #OptOutside and enjoy the park.
Rangers and park volunteers will help visitors discover special cultural and natural resources along the hikes. Visitors may also choose to hike on their own and can come to any of the park’s visitor centers throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to receive information about hiking options including several short nature trails that are perfect for children.
The park has more than 800 miles of trails to explore throughout the year with every season offering its own special rewards. During late fall and winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas revealing stone walls, chimneys, and foundations. These reminders of past communities allow hikers to discover a glimpse of history along park trails.
9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24 – Cucumber Gap near Elkmont
This easy, 4.8-mile roundtrip hike follows the river through a beautiful, cove hardwood forest. Participants will learn about the rich history of the area including the logging operations of the Little River Lumber Company. Expect 3-4 hours total for the hike. One river crossing will be required. Meet 9 a.m. at the Little River trailhead, seven miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont. For more information, call Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291.
9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 25 - #OptOutside with Service
Help clean fire pits and perform other maintenance tasks around the Elkmont Campground to care for one of the park’s busiest campgrounds. It is particularly important to keep the area free of trash and food scraps to help protect wildlife. Expect three hours total for the service project and then join rangers for an optional hike to Huskey Branch Falls. Bring a sack lunch and hike along the nearby Little River Trail to the falls and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The hike is a moderate 4.3 miles roundtrip and is expected to take three hours. Meet 9 a.m. at the Elkmont Campground Office, seven miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont. For more information, call the Volunteer Office at 865-436-12665.
What to bring: Weather in the Smoky Mountains can be unpredictable, especially in the fall. Rangers recommend participants dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and bring rain gear. Participants should also bring a bag lunch, snacks and plenty of water.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/grsm.
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