For some, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are vacation go-tos because of their family-friendly attractions, range of restaurants, outlet shops, and beautiful mountain cabins. But for many, the Smokies is a top destination because of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the U.S. It brings in millions of visitors a year for its incredible mountain scenery: rolling hills, verdant valleys, fields of wildflowers, quiet mountain streams, families of black bears, and trees that transform throughout the year.
It’s no surprise, then, that it’s a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Gorgeous scenery in the Great Smoky Mountains mixes with mild weather to make hiking in the Smokies ideal. And whether you’re making a long backpacking trip into the mountains or just going on a short hike, it’s important to be prepared. You could go to town gearing up for backpacking in the mountains, but we’ll keep it simple here – basic hiking essentials for days on the trails in the Smokies. Here are our top # pieces of hiking gear every hiker should own (and a few extras).
A reusable water bottle.
Skip the plastic water bottles and go green by investing in a reusable water bottle for hikes. Insulated bottles are great for keeping water icy cold all day, but reusable bottles like Nalgene are lighter weight.
Comfortable & durable hiking shoes.
Nothing can ruin a hike faster than aching feet. If you’ll be doing any amount of hiking, invest in some comfortable hiking shoes. There are lots of options, from boots to trail running shoes that fit closer to a sneaker.
A good pair of socks.
Along with a comfortable pair of shoes that hold up on the trails, get a good pair of socks. Ankle socks are fine, but socks that wear higher on the leg will be better at keeping out rocks, dirt, and debris you come across on the trail.
A light jacket.
Weather changes quickly in the Smokies, and temperatures in the sun and shade vary greatly. Light layers are the best way to dress for hiking, so you can easily add to or take away from what you’re wearing. Invest in a nice light jacket that’ll stand the test of time.
A small pack.
Hiking in the Smokies (unless you’re attempting to conquer the Appalachian Trail) doesn’t necessarily require a huge backpack. Find a small pack that can carry your snacks, water bottle, map, first-aid kit, and light jacket. You don’t have to go top-of-the-line, but a good quality bag is nice if you’re planning several hikes.
A first-aid kit.
You don’t have to go all out with this – a few simple items will suffice. Antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, bandages, gauze pads, hand sanitizer, a knife, and a wrap for sprains is a good start.
Again, you don’t have to spend a lot for this one, but it’s a good item to have on hand. Whether you choose a flashlight or a headlamp, be sure you have some type of light just in case your hike goes longer than planned.
WHERE TO GEAR UP IN THE SMOKIES
Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) | 1130 Parkway | Gatlinburg, TN
Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the NOC is a huge outdoor store with everything you need for outdoor adventures in the Smokies. Top brands like Columbia, Patagonia, MSR, Osprey, Mountain Hardware, Chaco, and The North Face are just a few among the many brands to check out here. Find your perfect pack, pick up hiking poles, grab a water bottle, dress for the trails, and try on shoes in their 18,000-square-foot space. There is even a 1,000-square-foot space devoted to The North Face – The North Face Summit Shop – with gear, shoes, jackets, apparel, and more.
The Day Hiker | 634 Parkway #1 | The Village Shops| Gatlinburg, TN
The Village Shops in the heart of Gatlinburg are a must-stop when you’re in the Smokies. An old-world feel blends with a great mix of shops, offering everything from toys and donuts to art and accessories. The Day Hiker is the place for hiking gear, from packs, hats, and maps to hiking poles, t-shirts, and gadgets.
GSM Outfitters | 3275 Wears Valley Rd | Sevierville, TN
Gear up at GSM Outfitters, with Keen hiking boots, Chaco sandals, Hydro Flask water bottles, Eno hammocks, clothing, hiking gear, accessories, and more. You’ll find all you need for hiking the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains, and they can give you tips about hiking in the area!