The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Big South Fork National Recreation Area are two great adventure travel destinations that tempt Chicago adventurers despite the long drives. In previous articles I outlined several reasons to hike in the Big South Fork over the Great Smoky Mountains.
This was not because I prefer the Big South Fork, but I wanted to give readers something to think about. In this article I will play devil’s advocate with myself and take a reverse stance and give some reasons why the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a better destination despite a longer drive.
5. Elevation – Although the ruggedness of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains makes it a difficult place to hike, there are several advantages here. I pulled three ticks off of me in the Big South Fork. Due to the higher eleveations and the subsequent lower temperatures the Smoky Mountains are relatively bug free most of the year. The lower temperatures also makes the Smokies more pleasant to hike in.
4. Stunning scenery – The Big South Fork has some incredible views, but some of the vistas in the Great Smoky Mountains are just amazing. The Smoky Mountains also have more streams cascading down from the higher elevations, which are just spectacular.
3. Wildlife – The Big South Fork allows hunting at certain times of the year, so the animals there have a healthy fear of humans. The Great Smoky Mountains does not so some animals have lost their fear. This can sometimes lead to unfortunate confrontations; however, for those that love to view wildlife, there is more of a chance to see exciting animals in the Great Smoky Mountains.
2. Cost – The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the few parks where it is free not only to enter, but also free to backcountry camp. The Big South Fork costs $5.00 for a backcountry permit per person.
1. Trails and shelters – The Big South Fork has 150 miles of trails in the park, so there are plenty of backpacking opportunities. The Great Smoky Mountains has the Appalachian Trail, which is the most prestigious trail in the United States. Backcountry shelters line the Appalachian Trail and there are a few off the trail as well where the Big South Fork only has primitive camping locations.
To get to the Great Smoky Mountains from Chicago one can either fly into Tyson Mcghee Airport, which is conveniently located to the mountains on U.S. 129 and then rent a car or drive ten hours. If driving from Chicago follow these directions.
View Larger Map
Subscribe to my articles with the button at the top of this page. Examiner does not share or sell your email address and there is no spam. Other e-follow options are listed below. Just click on the icons and they will take you there.
Traveling Ted on Facebook
Ted Nelson was recently named one of the top 101 Adventure Travel twitterers on twitter. http://abroadening.com/161 Click on the icon below to follow me there.