That is where John and I went this past weekend. And that would be NORAD as in the North Oaken Regional Academy of
The parking area for the Chimney Tops trail in the Smokies is right near one of my very favorite road signs ever.
This time we got to the trail head nice and early (at about 7:30am) so we were the first car in the parking area. (By the time we got back from the hike, the parking area was completely full and there were lots of cars parked along the sides of the road nearby.)
The Chimney Tops isn’t the longest trail, as it is just over 5 miles roundtrip, but there is a heck of a lot of elevation change packed in those miles. Let’s just say that you start out in a bit of a valley and go up and up and up until you are on the bare rock ridge high above said valley.
It is one of our favorite trails.
The park service has done a lot of work improving this trail since we were here last. The drainage is better, so it is not nearly as slick as it used to be. And in a lot of the “more challenging sections” they have added in steps.
The stairs are not there to coddle you. (Well, okay, they coddle you a little…) You need the stairs. This is a pretty steep section.
You could really tell the parts of the trail that the park service had not yet gotten around to improving.
The views at the top are spectacular, because you are right out on a rock outcropping on the ridge, high above the rest of the world. We have sat on the top before and watched hawks flying below us.
The trail ends on a spire of rock, and to get to the very end of the trail you need to scramble up a fairly steep rock face to the flat section right at the top. The rock was pretty slick that morning, so we didn’t go quite all of the way to the top, and contented ourselves with reaching a nice little seat about 20 feet or so from the summit.
Great views. You are on top of the world.