A view in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Photo by Zoë Symon

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Quarter Trail Update: Let it Snow (Zoë's AT Hike Part 4)

This post was originally written for The Trek during my 2016 Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Since I was so terrible about updating my Trek blog, I published one massive update (in multiple parts) that covered the first 550 miles of my hike. This is the second part of that update.

Zoë Symon       Trip Report       01/13/2020

Zoë Symon

Trip Report

01/13/2020

Originally written for The Trek. See the original post here


The first snow

As we spent time lounging at the NOC, the weather worsened. It started to drizzle the day we left, and by that evening, it was snowing. It’s good that shelters are so warm when they’re packed full of people! We met a whole new crew of people that evening who we’ve continued to see on the trail since.

A snow-covered trail winds through a forest also covered in snow.

A snow-covered trail.
Photo by Zoë Symon

The next day was a day of beautiful weather. Walking through the snowy forest was a new and incredible experience for me, one that I definitely enjoyed. With the weather picking back up again, the snow melted pretty fast, just in time for us to reach Fontana and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Smokies

After spending the night in Fontana, we hitched back to the trail to do the short section to the park’s entrance. The hike up to elevation was intense, especially with a fresh resupply, but at the top we were treated to a climb up a fire tower and great views all around.

We must have been hiking through the smokies during a spring break week, because all the shelters were packed. It definitely kept the shelters warmer, but it also meant that some people who would have been too many in the shelter had to disregard park regulations and tent in the vicinity.

A golden light filters through trees onto a trail through the forest.

A rare moment of light in the Smokies.
Photo by Zoë Symon

The Smokies were beautiful. We had misty, damp weather almost every day, but it leant a depth to the scenery that was mesmerizing. The beautiful sights like Charlie’s Bunion and Clingman’s Dome were too many to count. I was sad to leave the park and descend back to a part of the trail closer to civilization.

However, even after leaving the Smokies, the landmarks and views continued to be incredible. We got to Max Patch a couple days later and were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset (with trail magic), and a good sunrise the next morning.

After Max Patch, I was incredibly lucky and got the chance to relax, slackpack, and cook and eat delicious food in Hot Springs, thanks to the welcoming family of one of my fellow hikers. There was a hot tub, a soft bed, and multiple home-cooked meals.

The next days brought a hilarious and brief stop at a new hiker hostel called Hiker Paradise, a cold stay at a shelter with a beautiful location, and a descent off the mountain into Erwin, TN.

A group of hikers and their gear sit in a meadow.

When hikers find sunshine.
Photo by Zoë Symon


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Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the US. Its path takes you from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

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2200 mi (3540 km)      $59.99 full guide

Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
Photo by Zoë Symon

Pennsylvania, Appalachian Trail
Photo by Zoë Symon

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the oldest National Scenic Trails in the US. Its path takes you from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

2200 mi (3540 km)

$59.99 full guide

Learn more

Get our trail guide for this area!

About the Author

A woman wearing glasses sits in front of a bamboo grove.

Zoë Symon

Zoë grew up in North Carolina and first heard of the Appalachian Trail during her time in college. In 2016, she took a leave of absence from her job and thru-hiked the trail. This adventure fostered her love for the outdoors and for hiking. Currently, she explores the public lands of Oregon. In 2017 she joined the team at Atlas Guides as Creative Director. She spends her days improving experiences for all our users.