Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon & 5K
Townsend, TN | Sep. 11-12, 2020
- Half Marathon
- Black Bear Double
Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon
Start: 7:00 am in Townsend, TN
End: No later than 11:00am
This is a 13.1 mi course in Townsend, TN, United States. The route has a total ascent of 727.48 ft and has a maximum elevation of 1,156.23 ft.
This will be an "open course" meaning there will be cars on the road as well as runners. There are sections on main roads where traffic may be heavy. These spots on the course could get a little crowded.
The course will be well marked but it is your responsibility to stay to the right when running with traffic and be courteous and mindful of cars and other runners. DO NOT step off the course into traffic, you will be disqualified. We want you to stay safe. Be courteous.
The course is only slightly uphill so there should be plenty of time for walkers.
All runners will have 4 hours to finish the race. That is an 18-minute mile - plenty of time for walkers! If at anytime we deem it unsafe and need to pull a runner off the course we would hope for understanding and immediate cooperation. Failure to comply will result in being banned from future events.
Our course record holders receive a FREE RACE ENTRY every year that their time remains the course record! The current course record holders are:
Male Overall: Glen Burkhardt 1:09:11 (2019)
Female Overall: Janelle Harrison 1:30:00 (2017)
Male Masters: Chris White 1:23:17 (2019)
Female Masters: Joanna White 1:38:14 (2019)
Great Smoky Mountains 5K
The 5K course is going to be in Townsend, TN, on the Townsend Historical Trail. The race will finish in front of the Tally Ho Inn. Check out the course and elevation map below. Start time is 6:30pm sharp!
*Please note: Because a portion of the 5K runs through a grass field and the other portion is on a running path, strollers are not allowed in the 5K in order to alleviate congestion.
**2020 Course TBD**
The Great Smoky Mountains 5K is a popular race event which has made for a crowded path during the race the past couple of years. We are looking for an alternative 5K course to alleviate congestion. Stay tuned for course updates.
Fun Run Option
The pricing below reflects the timed race but you can save $5 by registering for the "Fun Run"! You’ll get the same shirt and finisher medal, but you will not be timed for the awards. 5K registration is available at the race expo until 5:00 pm.
There will be one aid station on the course near the halfway point (mile 1.5). The aid station will have water, Gnarly, and bathrooms. Like the half marathon, the 5K race will be cup-free!
Our course record holders receive a FREE RACE ENTRY every year that their time remains the course record! The current course record holders are:
Male Overall: Christopher Raydor 16:50 (2018)
Female Overall: Amber Reece-Young 20:33 (2018)
Male Masters: Benjamin Collins 10:52 (2019)
Female Masters: Melissa Lange 23:27 (2019)
Black Bear Double
Race Days: September 11 & 12, 2020
Location: Townsend, TN
What you get: Black Bear Double registration includes the following:
Black Bear Double medal and swag cannot be bought, it must be earned!
Just running each individual race does not qualify you for the double medal. You must register for the Black Bear Double specifically.
Need to upgrade to the Black Bear Double?
Bib & Packet Pickup
When you register, we'll ask you to indicate when you plan to pick up your bib. If you plans change, don’t worry about it. We only ask to help us plan in terms of numbers.
Your choices to pick up your packet are:
Option #1: Race Expo (recommended)
We’ll have our race expo on September 11th in Townsend, TN at the Tally Ho Inn. The expo will start at 1pm! Vendors will be there until 6pm, but you'll be able to pick up your bib until 7pm.
Please plan on coming and spending some time at the expo. We’ll also have our merchandise tent set up, so be sure to stop by and say hi!
Option #2: Race Morning (not recommended)
We will provide limited race morning packet pickup. The race starts very early, so having to worry about getting your bib on race morning will only add unneeded stress to your life. But we know sometimes it just can't be avoided. If it can be avoided, please do not pick your packet up the morning of the race.
Bib pickup on race morning will be right next to the starting line. Be sure to pick up your bib before 6:00am. The race starts promptly at 7:00 am.
Option #3: Shipped To You (US residents only)
There is a cost of $20 if you want to have your bib and shirt mailed to you. We do this as a convenience for runners not wanting to drive to Townsend early. This option is only available BEFORE the final price jump.
Refunds: Once your package is shipped, you are officially checked in to the race and no longer qualify for our refund, deferment, or transfer options.
Bring Your Own Bag
In our ongoing effort to eliminate waste during our races, our expos are bagless events. We encourage you to #BYOBag to hold your bib, race shirt, and any goodies you pick up from the race expo!
If you're unhappy with the fit of your race shirt, or were unable to order the size you wanted, we will have a shirt exchange available at the finish line on race day. Please note that sizes and quantity will be limited.
We want to help you make the most out of your vacation. Below we will post links to some of our sponsors as well as general information.
Two good sources for your stay are the Peaceful Smokies website and the NPS website. Also be sure to check the Smoky Mountains page to learn more about park activities. We’ll be updating the information below over the next several months.
There are lots of different ways to get to our host town Townsend, TN, so we’ve listed some general directions for driving and flying.
Your best bet will be to fly into McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS). Several major airlines fly here, and it’s only a 30 minute drive to Townsend. They also have on-site car rental available, as well as taxis and shuttles so it’s your most convenient option.
More information about McGhee Tyson Airport
From the airport, you’ll head south on US-129 to Maryville. In Maryville, you’ll take US-321 going northeast to Townsend.
From the South
Depending on where you are coming from in the southern U.S., you’ll take either I-59 or I-75 headed north. I-59 connects with I-24 east, which connects with I-75. Once you are headed north on I-75 you’ll take US-321 going northeast to Townsend.
From the North
From the northern U.S., take either I-81 or I-75 south to Knoxville, TN. In Knoxville you’ll get on US-129 to Maryville. In Maryville, you’ll take US-321 going northeast to Townsend.
From the West
Take I-40 East and exit at MM 376B to I-140 E (towards Maryville). Then take exit 11A to US-129. You’ll follow signs through Alcoa (TN), and Maryville to US-321 northeast to Townsend.
From the East
You’ll take I-40 west to get to Townsend. Take US-411 to US-321 to Townsend.
However, if you’re willing to add about 20 minutes to your drive, you can finish the trip to Townsend with a scenic route through the Smoky Mountains. You’ll stay on US-74 and follow signs for Atlanta and then take US-441 to Townsend.
We recommend staying in Townsend, TN. but Gatlinburg (45 min. drive) has lots of options as well. Two good sources for you as you search for lodging are the Peaceful Smokies website and the NPS website.
Additional Hotel Options
We've partnered with Booking.com to search for the best hotel options in the area. Check them out below!
Parking & Shuttles
We will have plenty of parking to accommodate all of our runners. There will be no parking at the start line. All parking will be at the finish line:
Runners will be shuttled to the start line. Shuttles will load and leave from 5:20 am - 6:00 am. There will be no shuttles after the race.
*NOTE: The Finish line parking area will open at 4:30 am on race morning.
If you are dropping a runner off, please enter the parking area and drop your runner off in the designated drop-off area at the Heritage High School (3741 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN). The drop-off is for quick unloading only and is not for parking. To avoid any traffic jams from runners being dropped off, please drop-off your runner and then exit the parking area.
4:30 am – Finish line parking area opens
5:00 am – Start line bib pickup begins
5:20 am – First shuttle departs for start line
5:30 am – First prize raffle (every 5 minutes)
6:30 am – Last call for bib pickup / Pacers line up
6:45 am – Runners line up / Last call for gear check
6:55 am – National Anthem
7:00 am – RACE STARTS!
7:14 am – Sunrise
9:45 am – Awards Ceremony
Club Hikes & 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 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, and receive a commemorative medallion! All you have to do is submit a picture of yourself at the designated location which includes:
- A clear view of your face
- Your bib with bib numbers clearly visible
- 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 Mountains 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 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.
Past Race Results & Photos
You can view race results from past races below:
2019 Great Smoky Mountain Half Results | 5K Results
2018 Great Smoky Mountain Half Results | 5K Results
2017 Great Smoky Mountain Half Results | 5K Results
2016 Great Smoky Mountain Half Results | 5K Results
If you see that you placed, but didn't stick around for the awards ceremony, no worries! You can request to have your place medal shipped to you!
If you have questions about your placement or results, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Race photos are available the Friday following the week of the race. We will send out an email when they're posted to the album as well as place the link below. This year we are offering race photos FREE to all our runners!
Award Ceremony Photos
Award ceremony photos are posted within a week of the race. You can find a link to the award ceremony photos below:
Share your experiences with us!
Be sure to use #GSMHalf in any photos you post from the race or your adventures exploring the park so we can share in the fun with you!
Exclusive Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon merchandise is available in our online store.