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Fontana Lake Smoky Mountains 10-05-17

Our Fontana Lake to Hazel Creek Loop features one of the most unique starts and ends to any hike in the Smokies via a motorboat shuttle across Fontana Lake. But that’s just the beginning. This trip continues to inspire with wonderful lakeshore hiking, an ascent into the higher mountains, beautiful creekside hiking, towering ridge views, truly breathtaking scenery along Hazel Creek (one of the prettiest valleys in the Park), and phenomenal history including a 19th century cemetery!

Description

The boat shuttle that starts and ends the trip allows us to begin our hike in a remote area, exponentially increasing the sense of wildness on this trip, not to mention the scenic beauty. Fontana Lake is a massive, crystal clear body of water surrounded by lush forests and rushing mountain creeks. On top of that, Hazel Creek is one of the Smokies’ most outstanding backcountry trout streams both because of its abundance of fish and its intense beauty. Combine these aspects of the trip with our time in the higher mountains, carefully selected campsites, wonderful backcountry meals, and incredible history, and this trip is one of the best!

Itinirary

Day 1

Motorboat Shuttle to Kirkland Creek: ~1 hour
Hiking Mileage: 2.6 miles
Elevation Loss: 50 feet

We’ll shuttle to Fontana Lake and begin our adventure on a motorboat ride across the lake. From the lake the mountains stretch up and away from us and are breathtakingly beautiful! Once on the other side of the lake, we’ll enjoy a short, very scenic afternoon hike to our first night’s camp. We’ll pass remnants of buildings built by early pioneers who tried to etch livings in this part of the Smokies. Once in camp we’ll enjoy views of the lake, have a relaxing evening and enjoy a big, tasty dinner prepared by your guide.

Day 2

Hiking Mileage: 9.8 miles
Elevation Loss/Gain: 1080 feet

Today starts with a delicious Appalachian breakfast and relaxed departure from camp. Our hike follows the shores of Fontana Lake, where we’ll pass more historic remnants of the remote buildings and homes early pioneers built and inhabited. As we hike you’ll hear stories and tales of some of these early visitors. Eventually we leave the lake and hike up a beautiful mountain creek to our second night’s camp near a historic logging camp from the early 1900’s. Our trail follows the path of a now non-existent railroad used to transport Red Spruce (for World War I airplanes) out of the mountains. The end of our long, scenic hike through Smoky Mountains history ends with a relaxing evening and another fantastic backcountry meal prepared by your guide.

Day 3

Hiking Mileage: 10.2 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2200 feet / 3000 feet

Today starts with a demanding hike up to a forested ridge trail, where sweeping views of the surrounding mountains richly reward us for our efforts. We’ll enjoy lunch on a high point called High Rocks, then continue down through a stunning forest to Hazel Creek, one of the Smokies most serene trout streams. We’ll pass historic sites en route to our camp on the shores of Hazel Creek at Sugar Fork. The soft murmuring of the creek as we fall asleep in our tents is a refreshing reminder of the peace and serenity that comes with spending time in these spectacular mountains.

Day 4

Hiking Mileage: ~7 miles miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: minimal

Today we will enjoy a relaxing start and hearty breakfast before setting off with day packs to explore Bone Valley. Our hike takes us up an extremely scenic river valley to a historic pioneer cabin. This cabin (registered as a National Historic Site) is the most remote historic building in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch near the cabin before exploring multiple backcountry cemeteries from the 1800’s. These sites well illustrate the hardships that many pioneers faced while trying to survive in this remote wilderness. We’ll make our way back to camp and enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the shores of Hazel creek or a hike up Sugar fork to another backcountry cemetery towards Picken’s Gap.

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