My hiking bucket list is very long. It’s such a cool feeling to be able to mark a hike off that list, every once in a while. Last April I did just that, by hiking to Charlies Bunion via Appalachian Trail. My first hike in the Smoky Mountains was amazing. The views were stunning, the trail a mixture of challenging and gradual grades. Meeting AT thru hikers who I just wanted to sit and chat with for a while, because it felt so interesting to be able to hear some of their stories. I mean who doesn’t want to go hiking for 5-7 months, 2190 miles along the Appalachian Trail? Well, I’d love to try it anyway!
Located near Gatlinburg, TN, we started at Newfound Gap and proceeded on the AT. The weather was pretty perfect overall. Low 60’s and a bit windy at first, but after hiking up a bit, it warmed up nicely. This hike covers 8.1 miles round trip. It starts off with a gradual ascent of about 300′ in the first mile. You climb to 6222′ and then descend to 5565′ at Charlies Bunion. The gradual elevation was a nice change from the steeper hikes I had been doing recently. Working our way up, we would come up on some clearings and the views of the Smoky Mountains were breathtaking.
We made our way to the Icewater Spring Shelter and then began our descent to Charlies Bunion. As we descended, I kept a mental note of what we were going down. What hikes down, must hike back up. “This will be fun coming back up,” I thought to myself. This part of the trail was much more moist with hardly any sunlight streaming through. It became a bit more chilly, until the trail popped us back out into the sun once again.
We arrived at Charlies Bunion, and I couldn’t help but just stand there looking in awe at the most incredible views. Beautiful rolling mountains as far as you could see. Absolutely stunning. Crawling up to the top of the bunion, I felt this incredible sense of peace. I could have stayed there for hours, basking in the beauty and serenity of this amazing place. But this is a very popular hike, and there were many others waiting their turn to get up there, so I crawled back down and we had a short lunch off to the side as we gazed out at this magnificent view.
We headed back, knowing we had some steep hiking to get done. The most strenuous part of the trail was upon us and it seemed to never end, but we made it back up to the shelter, then headed on back to the trailhead.
My first hike in the Smoky Mountains, will always be one of my favorites.