If you haven’t already heard by now, a good number of us are planning on hiking the Trillium Gap Trail this Saturday (4/14). Plan for this taking up all of your day on Saturday. The Fuller’s will be meeting people at Laurel’s parking lot and leaving at 8:00 AM. Since a good number of us will already be near Gatlinburg, we plan on meeting up with them at the Rainbow Falls trail head around 9:00. There will be two different groups on this hike to suite different skill/fitness levels.
One group will be going at a slow pace looking at wildflowers. Grotto Falls will be probably be the turn around for this group. The distance of this hike is 3.6 miles one way (with the option of 1.4 miles on the way back if one person picks up the van and drives to an alternate trail head). About 1000 feet in elevation is gained over the 3.6 miles. This will allow ample time for the wildflower lookers to identify flowers along the trail while the other group is hiking to the summit.
The second group will be hiking to the top of Mt LeConte. This is a VERY STRENUOUS hike. We will be returning via the Rainbow Falls Trail. Total distance of the hike is 15.3 miles with the possibility of extra miles if you want to go to the Cliff Tops, High Top, or Myrtle Point peaks. Over 4000 feet in elevation is gained from the trail head to the LeConte Lodge.
Regardless of what group you choose to go with, there are a few things you need to have. Water is essential; 1 liter minimum, 2 liters recommended. You also need to pack a lunch, since everybody will probably still be on the trail come lunch time. Don’t use this trip to break in new shoes! If you have severe allergies and are likely to go into anaphylactic shock if stung, let someone else know if you have epinephrine with you. If you have asthma, remember to bring you’re inhaler. The weather should be nice on Saturday, but I recommend always having a poncho or packable rain jacket with you just in case the weather turns. Finally, I recommend a headlamp/flashlight too. There should be enough daylight that it won’t be necessary, but you never know. Always better to have it and not need it then to not have it and need it. A camera is also a nice thing to have. 😉
The return time will largely depend on the group hiking all the way up to the top of LeConte; unless all the people that rode the van just do the wildflower hike to Grotto Falls. I imagine that the people that hike to the top of LeConte would be returning to the Rainbow Falls trail head parking lot no later than 5:00. If time is a concern for you, but you still want to do just the wildflower hike, you can always drive yourself. (Parking at the Rainbow Falls trail head, will probably fill up fast). To get to the trail head, take US 441 (Chapman Highway) to Gatlinburg. Turn left at traffic light #8 (Airport Road). (While I don’t imagine the traffic will be too bad in Gatlinburg, they are doing construction around that light, so I would probably come in via the Gatlinburg Bypass, so you would turn right at traffic light #8.) Just over half a mile, the road comes to a 3 way intersection. You want to stay to rightmost of the three roads. The parking for Rainbow Falls is pretty well marked about 2.7 miles from that funky intersection.
Let me know if you want to go. If you do want to go, let me know if you want to meet at the church or at the trail head and which group (wildflower or summit) you want to be a part of. If you’ve got any other questions, go ahead and ask.