View Full Version : Ideas for back country requested

07-29-2014, 05:42 PM
First time to the Smokey's this year. Work has been crazy.

My son will be returning to University of Kentucky for his sophomore year at the end of August and we'd like to do some hiking, fishing and camping in the park before he gets back.

For those of you who know him, yes, Daniel is 19 and a sophomore in college. Hard to believe.

I've fished a lot in the mountains but not been to back country campsites.

Which ones are close to some water and somewhere that won't kill a 54 year old guy hiking into?

Also, what's the process? Go to the visitor center and ask for a campsite?

I'm not a stranger to back country camping, just haven't done it in the park.

Thanks guys and gals,


07-30-2014, 03:12 PM
You just reserve the sites you want online.



07-30-2014, 03:33 PM
Thanks. Will check out the reservation site when I get home from work tonight.

Quick question on good campsites. If you don't want to post here can you send any suggestions you may have to me via email?
(Jeffnles1 "at" MSN dot Com)


David Knapp
07-30-2014, 03:42 PM

The Park Trail map (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/GSMNP-Map_JUNE14-complete4-2.pdf) is worth consulting in deciding which site you want to hike to.

For an easy hike, you might consider #24 above Elkmont. Just know that you are within an easy day hike of the trail head and will have to potentially compete for water with both backcountry campers and people hiking in for the day. Also, #24 has been closed for a little while now due to aggressive bear behavior. Bears ruin tents there on a fairly regular basis.

#50 is just upstream from Smokemont a short distance and would give you access to upper Bradley Fork and its tributaries. I've not stayed at that one but the water in that area is pretty.

Finally, #60 is an easy hike upstream on Deep Creek from the campground area. Just recognize that as you fish upstream from that campsite, Deep Creek is flowing through a gorge that you can't just climb out of. You have to either finish the gorge and hike out over the ridge or retrace your route back downstream. I haven't camped here either but have hiked by it.

Most of the easy to access backcountry sites see a lot of traffic from all kinds of people including fishermen so just know you will likely be competing for water, especially if you go on a weekend.

You are welcome to email me for more info if you have any specific questions on the water around any of these sites...

07-30-2014, 03:48 PM
Thanks. I have a trail map and will check into this.

We'll be going Monday through Wednesday so hopefully miss a lot of the weekend traffic.

Fishing is on the agenda but mainly I want to spend a few days hiking and camping with my son before he heads back to college for the winter.

Ideally a site we can get to the water and fish but not absolutely necessary given the plan to just spend some time in my "happy place" with my son.

Byron Begley
07-30-2014, 04:07 PM
Hi Jeff,

I like campsite #23 on the Goshen Prong Trail. I think it is 8 miles in from Elkmont but the grade is tolerable. You will be right at Fish Camp Prong, one of my favorite streams in the Park. Goshen Prong and another brook trout stream form Fish Camp Prong there. It's been a few years since I camped there. I think I could make it and I'm 9 years older than you. It might take me all day though with a full backpack. You won't need waders, just boots. Have fun. Check for closings due to bear activity.


07-30-2014, 07:02 PM
I concur with David on #50. It is 1.3 miles from the parking area and very hikeable. I have had two Achilles' tendon surgeries and have done that hike with no problems. I have also done #39 as well. Both have good fishable water close by. Look out for horse poop though. Not sure how they fish this late in the summer though. I just have my boys carry most of the weight. :smile:

07-31-2014, 11:34 AM
Hi Jeff,

I like campsite #23 on the Goshen Prong Trail. I think it is 8 miles in from Elkmont but the grade is tolerable. You will be right at Fish Camp Prong, one of my favorite streams in the Park. Goshen Prong and another brook trout stream form Fish Camp Prong there. It's been a few years since I camped there. I think I could make it and I'm 9 years older than you. It might take me all day though with a full backpack. You won't need waders, just boots. Have fun. Check for closings due to bear activity.


Three weeks ago a buddy and I did a three day fathers-sons trip from Clingman's Dome to Elkmont(16.5mi-be careful with the Trail Map mileages!) We parked a car at Elkmont and drove to Clingman's to start up high and go down hill. The first day was a tough 7.4mi to Site #23. Above #23 fishable water is really only accessible for about 2mi. #23 is a great site and as Byron says there is plenty of water to fish below it...almost 8mi of it all the way to Elkmont.

The second night we stayed #24 (~4mi from #23 and 5mi from Elkmont). From #23 to #24 the hike is easy going and there is plenty of water above and below #24. #24 is a large sprawling site with at least 4 tent sites to camp. Bad news is NPS has recently closed #24 for bear activity...you might call the Backcountry Office (865-436-1231) to see if they will open it back up in time for your trip.

Another site you might look at is #31 over near Greenbrier. From the TOPO map it looks to be a gentle 3.7mi for the parking lot to the site. I have fished and hiked parts of Porter's Creek but not all the way to #31...so no personal experience with that site. Fishing is plentiful though!

Lastly, for a bit more adventure, you could give Hazel Creek a try. Drive to Fontana, park at the marina and take the pontoon shuttle over to the old town of Proctor. They drop you off and the first campsite #86 is just a short 0.5mi easy hike. Base camp there and you have more water than you can sun up to sundown in two days. The hiking is very easy and is the old road bed through Proctor. The trail follows the creek the entire way. Not sure how the fishing is in August on Hazel Creek but the spring and fall are magical. And the shuttle will pick you up generally @ 10, 1 or 3 on your exit day.

07-31-2014, 12:09 PM
I have only backpacked on the NC side of the park but if you have the time to drive there, Noland, Forney and Hazel are all worthwhile. Also someone posted this fishcamp spreadsheet a while back and I saved the link. Has a lot of good info on the distance to sites, elevation change, difficulty etc.


07-31-2014, 12:48 PM
I concur with #23; I'm heading there tomorrow. :-) The hike is extremely easy on the Little River Trail portion; on a weekend you will encounter senior citizens in the first few miles. Once you are hiking along the the Goshen Prong trail the hike becomes more difficult but I still consider the hike easy. You may come across a downed tree or two but the grade is still slight. You hike right next to the river and there are many beautiful cascades along the way.

Site #24 is a wonderful site, especially considering all of the use it gets. Unfortunately some of that heavy use includes folks who don't follow LNT and bears end up getting attracted. I have personally encountered a bear at this site 2 times in the past 20 years. An encounter is unlikely but be aware it happens here more than most sites. I would not hesitate to stay there in the future.

I haven't stayed at #50 before, might have to check out site in the future.

I'd suggest getting some better maps than the park PDF. They really help with planning in addition to what you carry. I really like these waterproof National Geographic maps.
#316 "Cades Cove/Elkmont GSMNP" 1:40000 scale
#317 "Clingman's Dome / Cataloochee GSMNP" 1:40000 scale
#229 "Great Smoky Mountains National Park" 1:70000 scale

I typically carry the #229 map and either 316 or 317 on a trip. I prefer the detail of the 316 and 317 maps but it doesn't hurt to have the 1:70000 map along as well.

JoeFred, a member of this board makes some excellent fishing maps which are also useful in hiking.

Have FUN!
- Matt -

07-31-2014, 03:17 PM
Campsite 70 or 69 would be great on Forney. You can catch a slam in that area too. If you hike in from the bottom it's not too bad.. I'd consider doing both sites if you are going to be out there for a couple of days.

07-31-2014, 03:54 PM
Everybody, thanks. I'll have to get my trail maps out and start planning it out. I have one of those waterproof Nat Geo trail maps plus my handheld GPS has topo for the Smoky Mtn area.

This is going to be fun assuming a 54 year old guy can keep up with a 19 year old college kid. :eek:

08-04-2014, 04:37 PM
Just made reservations at 23! Will give a full report.

Rog 1
08-06-2014, 09:27 AM
There is actually an island before you get to the campsite....be sure to walk back down and fish up the right hand side...also, as you hike in there is a bluff where the trail narrows and you are high above the Fish Camp Prong....go back and fish up through this section...was always a favorite of my grandfather and uncle....has some flat water in it that offers some good dry fly fishing....spent a lot of time up there when you were able to drive up to the forks of the river....them good old days. Really too much good water up there to choose from...good luck and let us know how you do.

08-14-2014, 07:00 PM
Guys, thanks for all the suggestions and well wishes. We had a great trip. Hiked up to 23. What wonderful water. In fact, after the rains and thunderstorm all night Monday and much of the morning Tuesday, there may have been too much water if that's possible. Some of it was pretty hard and fast and a little stained.

We still managed a few brookies and some rainbows about a mile downstream from camp. We're going ack to that spot again in the future.

8 mile hike with great looking water the whole way. A fellow could spend his entire life fishing that water and probably not hit it all.

Below are some photos from our trip and journey.



well-fed little rainbow.

08-14-2014, 07:07 PM
a few more pics




08-14-2014, 07:53 PM
Looks like a great trip. I took a break at that same rock on my hike in. Saw a bear at that rock on my hike out.

Byron Begley
08-18-2014, 04:00 PM

I am glad you had a good trip. I worried about the rain on your behalf but it turned out to be fine. I was hoping you didn't back out after seeing the forecast. I guess you didn't take your Martin guitar with you. I didn't see it in any of the pictures.