Within this magnificent setting, the Park Service offers two types of backpacking opportunities for hikers, equestrians, and fishermen. There are 88 backcountry camp sites and 15 backcountry shelters. Backcountry camping is free of charge but requires a backcountry permit.
|A typical backcountry camp site|
|The pulley system for hanging food bags.|
Backcountry campsites are typical of campsites in many other parks around the country. They consist of a water source, a fire ring, and a relatively flat place to pitch a tent. If you are lucky, there may be a log and a flat rock near the fire ring to facilitate cooking. At every backcountry campsite and shelter, there has been the installation of the backpackers most appreciated apparatus—the pulley system from which to hang your food bag. Few places offer this convenience. Our hats go off and our hearts go out to the ones responsible. No more hunting for the perfect tree limb and no more shoulder injuries trying to throw a rope.
|Derrick Knob Shelter|
The backcountry shelters are primarily located along the Appalachian Trail, with a few others scattered about the Park at popular destination sites. In the past, these structures were damp, dark, dreary places. Many of the shelters were built by CCC workers in the 30s and 40s. They consisted of either a stone or log three-sided structure with a sleeping platform and stone fireplace. Due to an increasing bear problem, the park service attached chain link fencing across the open side of the shelter. In recent years the park service with the help of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club and other volunteers, has begun renovating the shelters. Leaking roofs have been replaced with skylights, general repairs made to the exterior structures and fireplaces, sleeping platforms have been redone, porches have been extended giving more “living” space inside the shelter, and cooking shelves and benches have been installed. These once dark, dreary places are now light, comfortable, and cozy places to enjoy a night in the backcountry.