Autumn Glory in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14265A, Lodge


  • Discover Great Smoky National Park in its glorious fall colors
  • Choose among hikes each day that vary in scenery, length, and difficulty
  • Lodge at an environmental education center in the heart of the Park


  • Daily hiking led by naturalist guides
  • Lodging and all meals
  • Evening programs, including environmental issues and Appalachian music 


DatesOct 19–24, 2014
StaffFrancy Rubin

Trip Overview

The Trip

Great Smoky National Park contains the last large piece of the southern Appalachian forest and some of the richest biological diversity in the United States. It has more than 100 species of native trees, more than 1,500 flowering plants, and 200 species of birds. From the spruce fir forests on the highest peaks to the hardwood forests in sheltered valleys, we will experience the beauty of hiking in deep woods and the magnificent views from exposed ridgetops at the height of fall color.

We’ll stay in the Park at the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont, a residential environmental learning center affiliated with the University of Tennessee.  Here we will eat, sleep, and join Tremont’s educational and entertaining campfire programs.

Tremont’s naturalist staff will offer multiple hiking options of varying difficulty and terrain choices for our group each day. The number of options will depend on our final group size. Transportation to and from our trailheads is provided in large passenger vans. Additional participant carpooling will be needed for any hike if the number of hikers exceeds the van’s capacity.


Each day begins with a hearty breakfast and packing a trail lunch. We travel to our trail location for the day’s hike and return mid to late afternoon to relax and/or socialize. We meet briefly before dinner to discuss and choose the following day’s hikes. Each evening we have the opportunity to participate in the evening’s program such as Appalachian storytelling, live traditional mountain music, black bear ecology, and discussion of environmental issues.



Getting There

Knoxville’s McGee-Tyson Airport is the closest airport to our location, which is approximately an hour's drive southeast. Tremont offers a shuttle service from and to the airport for a nominal fee. More detailed information will be provided to all trip members.

Accommodations and Food

Our trip begins and ends at Tremont. We will sleep in Caylor Lodge, a heated/air-conditioned building with men's and women's dormitories and modern bathrooms and showers. Single and couple’s rooms are not available, though there is an option for tent camping.

Tremont’s cooking staff provides a variety of breakfast choices and a hearty evening meal. There is an array of food choices from which to pack our lunches each day. Vegetarian options are always available. Tea, coffee, and snacks are available most hours. Any participant with more specific food requirements should notify the leader when applying.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is suitable for active and agile hikers in good health who can comfortably maintain a level pace of 2+ mph and can walk without difficulty, uphill or downhill. Most of the hikes offered are in the range of five to 10 miles and up to 1,500-foot ascent and descent. Any hike, no matter how easy overall, may contain sections of strenuous and challenging terrain with steep elevation gains and losses, or rock-hopping across stream crossings. Trails are often rocky and slippery when wet.  We will not rush, however, and we will stop to rest and learn about our surroundings as we hike.  Hiking in the months before the trip at the difficulty level we will experience is essential for your enjoyment of the trip.

The Great Smoky Mountain Institute requires a brief medical and liability waiver form that will be provided to all participants.

Equipment and Clothing

You will need to bring hiking clothes, daypack, rain gear and boots. Casual clothes are appropriate for meals at the Tremont facility. Bedding and towels are provided. A more detailed list will be provided to all trip members.  



  • Both Earthwalk Press and National Geographic have excellent trail maps covering the entire Park.


  • Adams, Kevin, Hiking Great Smoky Mountain National Park A Falcon Guide, 2003.
  • Hiking Trails Of The Smokies, Great Smoky Mountain Association, 2003.
  • Frome, Michael, Strangers In High Places.
  • Brown, Margaret Lynn, The Wild East.
  • Kephard, Horace, Our Southern Highlanders.

These and other publications are available through the Great Smoky Mountain Association, and at gift stores in the Park visitor centers.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 after the public and Congress recognized the devastating impact of commercial logging in this area, one of the last old-growth forests in Appalachia. On this trip we will learn about the environmental issues facing the Park today and what we can do to help. Air pollution from outside the Park, acid rain, and ground level ozone are continuing challenges. Non-native insects such as the hemlock wooly adelgid threaten to destroy old-growth hemlocks. The southern pine beetle, wild hogs, and poaching of black bears are additional challenges we will discuss.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Francy Rubin is an early retired physical therapist/athletic trainer who loves having time to spend outdoors. She is a strong believer in the concept of “giving back,” and has lived this motto through activities ranging from weekly trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail to five years spent volunteering in Mexico. She now serves as a volunteer Sierra Club leader for trips across the United States, Europe, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean. Come join her in nature!

Assistant Leader:

Paul McKown has led domestic and international Sierra Club Outings since 1991. Paul is an avid photographer and many of his on-trip photographs appear in Sierra and other publications. Paul's favorite eastern hiking destination is the Smoky Mountains and he loves to share his favorite hikes with enthusiastic trip members.

Contact the Staff

Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture.
Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.

Try Another Trip

By Date