Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hiking Tips For Mid - Late Fall In GSMNP

Check the Weather

There are no shortage of good online sources for mountain weather and road conditions.
Current weather forecasts for the park are available by phone at (865) 436-1200 extension 630 or online from the National Weather Service:

This is me at Mt.LeConte on October 1st
September through mid-November: Clear skies and cooler weather signal the onset of the fall color season. Warm days alternate with cool nights. Daytime highs are usually in the 70s and 80s during September, falling to the 50s and 60s in early November. The first frosts often occur in late September. By November, the lows are usually near freezing. This is the driest period of the year with only occasional rain showers. In the higher elevations, snow is a possibility by mid October although it has snowed October 1st.

Primary roads such as US-441 (Newfound Gap Road), Little River Road, and the Cades Cove Loop Road are open year round, weather permitting. Click for information about temporary weather and construction related road closures of these roads.

 Choose Your Destinations Wisely

Many trails will have new snow, and the snow level will continue to drop as autumn goes on. Check for recent trip reports from other hikers to confirm your chosen trail is snow-free. It's also a good idea to call ahead to local ranger stations for conditions.

Always let Someone Know Where You Will Be Going

Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return (and call them when you do return!). You can find a trip plan form here to print, fill out and leave behind with someone you know before your next hike. If your destination changes, follow up and let someone know. Hiking with a companion is always a good choice this time of year.

Pack Wisely

They're called the Ten Essentials, and all hikers should carry them year round, but they are even more essential as the weather becomes colder and more unpredictable.
The Ten Essentials include a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing, firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and a flashlight.
Some of these are extra important for fall and winter hiking, and there are a few extras to carry as well:

Adequate extra clothing - Pack plenty of layers made of materials such as wool or polypropolene that wick sweat and moisture away from your body.
Headlamp or flashlight (and extra batteries) - This tool is especially important in the winter, since days are short and night comes quickly.

Plenty of extra food - When it is cold, you burn more calories, so bring along extra food and keep your energy level high.

Plenty of water - You may not feel as thirsty as you do when it is warm, but it is just as important to keep hydrated by drinking often.

Emergency shelter and/or sleeping bag - Seriously consider carrying these in case you have to spend a night out there. They could save your life.

Portable shovel - Going where there is snow? A shovel is a critically important winter survival tool, which will assist you in digging snow caves in which you can survive a bitter, cold night. And, it's nearly impossible to dig someone out of an avalanche without a shovel.

Use Common Sense

Getting late in the afternoon? Is snow starting to fall in earnest? Is the trail hard to follow, or does it pass by a steep avalanche slope? As tempting as it may be to push on to your destination, know when to turn back. Attaining a summit or making it to a lake isn't worth risking a night out in the cold or getting lost in a white-out.
Please use common sense out there. You can always return another day.

File a Trip Report

This is the time of year when Trip Reports are so important and helpful, both for your own planning and for those who are planning a hike later. Please return after your hike and share your experiences and the conditions. Even a brief report about where the snow level is can be of great assistance to other hikers.


  1. Thanks for the blog. We are gonna make a run at LeConte on Thanksgiving, weather permitting. Quick question: where do we find/file trip reports?

    1. Well you can at any ranger station but honestly most people just let relatives know where you are going , the trail you are hiking on, your destination ,trail your coming back on and the estimated time that you will be back down plus one hour ( this way if something comes up or your just enjoying yourself no gets worried ) And remember always come prepared and hiking in late fall/winter -- Cotton KIlls ( never wear cotton )