Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park




About the Authors


Liz Etnier


Mike Etnier


Spring Wildflower Hikes in the Smokies


Gregory Bald




Schoolhouse Gap


Chestnut Top


Defeat Ridge


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Recent Hikes



Spence FieldOctober 3 – Several of us hiked up to Spence Field via Lead Cove and Bote Mountain trails. The hike is 10 miles roundtrip. You can find directions and a hike description in my Day Hiker’s Guide.


East Tennessee has had very little rain for the past 5 months, and it was evident on the hike with all the rhododendrons curled and drooping (see photo), and the ground dusty and dry. It was a sunny, warm day when we started out, but by the time we hiked the 4.7 miles up to the Appalachian Trail, it had clouded over and started to sprinkle. The rain was welcome, but the wind picked up, and we were cold when we sat on Spence Field eating our lunch. The bald has grown over a lot since I was first up there in 1997. At that time, it was quite large, and there were good views down to Fontana Reservoir from anywhere on it.


Now, there was just one spot between the grown up trees where we could see the lake. The foliage was just beginning to turn, and we saw some beautiful reds on the sourwood and red maples trees.


We also saw purple swallowtails everywhere, and their brilliant turquoise spots on the underside of their wings were beautiful as they reflected the light.

They seemed to be attracted to the goldenrod.


After we had lunch and relaxed on the bald, we hiked over to see the new renovated Spence Field shelter on the AT. The addition of skylights and seating areas outside have greatly improved the shelters, and hopefully made them less attractive to visiting bears.