We like to encourage our runners to get out and enjoy the area where we hold our races, so we designate certain challenging and iconic activities in the park to be a part of our official club hikes and trifecta!
We have two hikes designated for the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon: Charlie's Bunion and Mt. Leconte.
What do I get? Any runners that take the challenge and complete one of the designated hikes within 72 hours of running the race will officially join the club, get their pictures published on our website, plus receive a commemorative medallion! All you have to do is take a picture of yourself at the designated location which includes:
These hikes are meant to be difficult and they can sometimes be dangerous. If you choose to attempt any of these hikes, you need to take them seriously. Please bring lots of water (more than you think you need), and bear spray.
Charlie’s Bunion Trail is an 8 mile round-trip hike along the Appalachian Trail! The hike starts at the Newfound Gap parking lot and begins climbing through a shady forest. You’ll get some mountain views as you climb through the trees. At about 2 miles the trail gets steeper, but your views start to get more dramatic. At 3 miles you’ll descend through a gully to Masa Knobb. The trail narrows as you finish the hike and reach Charlie’s Bunion!
If you need to refill your water at Icewater Spring, make sure you have a purification system to sterilize the water. Climbing around Charlies Bunion can be dangerous, so be careful exploring the area.
Where do I take my picture? Take your picture at Charlie’s Bunion (mile 4 of the hike). Don’t forget your bib and finisher medal!
Alum Cave Trail is a difficult 11 mile round-trip hike to Mt. LeConte, the third highest peak in the Smokies! The trail starts at the Alum Cave Trailhead. As you hike, you’ll see a lot of rock formations. Around mile 2 you’ll start getting some really good mountain views. At mile 2.2 you’ll see Alum Cave (which is actually a concave bluff). Not too long after you’ll have to navigate some narrow ledges a small waterfalls. Don’t worry! There are cable hand rails along the trail, but please be careful! You’ll reach LeConte Lodge at about mile 5, but the peak won’t be for another half mile.
Trail Closure: This trail is under some restoration and will be CLOSED MONDAY-THURSDAY. If you’re interested in completing this hike, you’ll need to do it Saturday after the race, or Sunday.
Where do I take my picture? Take your picture at the highest point (High Top) at Mt. LeConte. You’ll know you’ve reached the highest point on the mountain when you reach the large cairn just off the main trail on your right. Don’t forget your bib and finisher medal!
Our race trifectas are comprised of 3 different activities. The Trifecta is meant to be challenging, but less strenuous than our club hikes. These are iconic activities inside the park that should be experienced, but are doable with children. The 3 activities that makeup the Great Smoky Moutains Half Marathon Trifecta are:
You must complete all 3 in order to complete the Trifecta. Same rules apply: take your picture at each of the 3 with your bib and finisher medal and send them to us 72 hours after finishing the race. Those who complete the Trifecta will get their pictures published on our website, plus receive a commemorative pin!
Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. It offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen, and sightings of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals are also possible. An 11-mile, oneway loop road circles the cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace.
Laurel Branch and the 80-foot high Laurel Falls are named for mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub which blooms along the trail and near the falls in May. The waterfall consists of an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway which crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park and parking at the trailhead is limited
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 ft) and Mt. Craig (6,647 ft), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep 1/2 mile walk to the tower at the top. **CHANGE - It was recently announced that Clingmans Dome will be closed for refurbishment. You can still access the parking area, however, which has an impressive overlook. You may take your trifecta photo there.
Chimney Tops an intermediate 2 mile hike through the park to the base of Chimney Tops rock. The challenging part is the scramble up the rock to the top of Chimney Tops! Please be careful as you climb this last part of the hike, but believe us, the view at the top is worth it! The hike starts at the Chimney Tops Trail Trailhead and is about 4.2 miles round trip.