Clubs & Trifecta
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 three hikes designated for the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon: Charlie's Bunion, Mt. Leconte, and Chimney Tops.
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, and receive a commemorative medallion! All you have to do is take a picture of yourself at the designated location which includes:
- A clear view of your face
- Your bib with bib numbers clearly visable
- Your finisher medal in plain view
- Clear background showing where you are
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!
Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular hikes along Newfound Gap Road. The trail owes much of its popularity to its relatively short length, and its outstanding panoramic views from the pinnacles. Its length, less than 2 miles, however, makes for a very steep hike - so much so that many hikers don’t even reach the top. The first half of the trail is relatively tame. However, to reach the summit, hikers have to climb more than 960 feet over the course of the last mile! The trail passes several beautiful cascading streams. Be careful and don’t attempt to hike in wet conditions, the rocks can become very slippery.
Note: Chimney Tops trail has reopened since the closure in 2016. However, the last scramble to the summit remains closed due to fire damage. If you do this hike please do not go beyond any trail closures.
Where do I take my picture? At the end of the slightly less-than 2 mile hike, you will reach a newly developed observation point which is about a quarter-mile below the real summit. This is where you can take your photo. Don’t forget your bib and finisher medal!
Great Smoky Mountains Trifecta
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:
- Cades Cove
- Laurel Falls
- Clingman's Dome
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.