Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon & 5K

Townsend, TN  |  Sep. 10-11, 2021

Course Information

  • Half Marathon
  • 5K
  • Black Bear Double

Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon

Date: September 11, 2021
Start: 7:00 am in Maryville, TN
End: 11:00 am in Townsend, TN

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.

Time limit
All runners will have 4 hours to finish the race from the time you cross the starting line. That is an 18-minute mile - plenty of time for walkers! That means, if your wave begins at 8:30am, you will have until 12:30pm to complete the race. 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.

Course Records
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: Katie Taylor  1:21:51 (2020)
Male Masters:
Chris White  1:21:52 (2020)
Female Masters: 
Shanda Warren  1:31:21 (2019)

Staggered Start
A wave start will help us organize the staggered start and prevent overcrowding on the course. When you receive your bib, look at the colored dot at the top (or you can look it up below) to determine which wave you are in. The chart below shows what time you need to be parked and loaded onto the race shuttle for Saturday's race. 

Type in your name to look up your registration.
The color of your wave will be listed next to Corral.

Half Marathon Staggered Start Schedule

Please be parked no later than the time listed for your wave color. We ask for your patience while loading shuttles, as they will be operating at half capacity to help space everyone out. The shuttle ride will take approx. 20 min. If you need to change your wave (i.e. to run with your friends/ride) you may do so. There is no need to notify race staff. Otherwise, please stick to your scheduled time.

Last minute bib pickup, gear check, toilets, hot chocolate and coffee will be at the start line. Please maintain6 ft. of distance with others around you as you get ready to start your race. The first group will start their race at 7:00 am with a rolling start. Shuttles will continue to arrive and unload runners at the start line approx. every 20 minutes. Runners may begin their race when ready, with the last wave starting at 8:30 am. Due to the staggered start, please note that masters, overall, and age groups are all based on chip time.

Black Bear Double logo

Need to upgrade to the Black bear Double?

Upgrading an existing registration to a Double or Quad package is treated as a transfer and can be completed via Run Signup

It's easy!
>> Log into your Run Signup Account                                              >> Go to "Profile"                                                      >> Click "Manage Registration"
>> Click "Transfer Event" on the top menu bar

>> Click "Start Transfer"
>> Choose your Event  
>> Continue and complete your registration!

*if you deferred into this race or transferred from another race your race credit will be $0 and we will need to help you upgrade your event. Contact us at

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.

Registration includes, a bib, race guide, race shirt, a hydrapouch (if chosen), a finishers medal and a finisher's food box.

Your choices to pick up your packet are:

Option #1: Drive-thru Bib Pickup (recommended)

We’ll have our dr                       ive-thru bib pickup on September 10th in Townsend, TN, at the Talley Ho Inn. You will be able to pick up your bib between 10am and 6pm.

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 as soon as you arrive at the start line. The first wave of 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.

Other Details

Bring Your Own Bag

In our ongoing effort to eliminate waste during our events, our expos are bagless. We encourage you to #BYOBag to hold your bib, race shirt, and any goodies you pick up from the race expo! Since this year is a drive-thru bib pickup, you can keep everything in your car as you collect your race items.

Race Shirts

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.

Travel Information

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. 

Get to know Townsend, the park, and other areas near the race!

Getting Here

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.

Directions to Bib Pickup

>>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 to search for the best hotel options in the area. Check them out below! Logo


Race Day

Parking & Shuttles

We will have plenty of parking to accommodate all of our runners. There will be no parking at the start line- runners will need to take the race shuttle or be dropped off 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 - 7:30 am. There will be no shuttles after the race.

*NOTE: The Finish line parking area will open at 4:50 am on race morning.

Runner Drop-off

If you are dropping a runner off, please enter the parking area behind the school and drop your runner off in the designated drop-off area at the Heritage High School (3741 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN). The best approach to the back of the school is via Tuckaleechee Pike. 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.

Schedule Breakdown

4:50 am – Finish line parking area opens
5:20 am – First shuttle departs for start line
5:30 am – Start line bib pickup begins
6:30 am – Pacers line up
6:45 am – Runners line up
6:55 am – National Anthem
7:00 am – RACE STARTS! New waves will begin the race as they arrive to the start lines on the shuttles.
7:17 am – Sunrise
8:30 am – Last wave begins race

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!

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.

We are phasing out our Club and Trifecta hikes after the 2021 year! You can find all the Club and Trifecta hikes included as part of the Grand Teton Explorer Club activities list.

Log any of these Club Hikes in the Spark Challenges app within 7 days of the end of the race and you'll still receive a club hike medallion. Completing the the Trifecta activites in the app earns you an official Trifecta pin!

You can still snap a photo and share it with us on social by using #GSMHalf. We love to see our runners out in the wild!

Bunion Club

Charlies Bunion Protrusion Club Hike

Bunion Club Hike Medallion

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.

LeConte Club

Clifftops LeConte Club Hike

Leconte Club Hike Medallion

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.

Chimney Club

Chimney Tops Club Hike

Chimney Club Hike Medallion

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.

Great Smoky Mountains Trifecta

Great Smoky Mtns. Trifecta Pin

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:

  1. Cades Cove
  2. Laurel Falls
  3. Clingman's Dome

You must complete all 3 in order to complete the Trifecta. Simply join the Great Smoky Mountain Explorer Club in the Spark Challnges app, complete your hikes, and log them in the app! You'll automatically receive your pin in the mail.

Cades Cove

Cades Cove

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 Falls

Laurel Falls

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.

Clingman's Dome

Clingmans Dome

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

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


Race Photos
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!

Race Merchandise

Exclusive Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon merchandise is available in our online store.

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